Elouise Cobell
HELENA, Montana (AP) - Elouise Cobell, whose 15-year fight to force the U.S. to account for more than a century of mismanaged Indian land royalties led to the largest government class-action settlement in the country's history, died Sunday. She was 65.

Cobell, a member of the Blackfeet tribe who was born with the name Little Bird Woman, died at a Great Falls hospital of complications from cancer, spokesman Bill McAllister said.

Cobell was the lead plaintiff in a lawsuit filed in 1996 claiming the government had misspent, lost or stolen billions of dollars meant for Native American land trust account holders dating back to the 1880s.

After years of legal wrangling, the two sides in 2009 agreed to settle for $3.4 billion. The beneficiaries are estimated to be about 500,000 people.

Asked what she wanted her legacy to be, she said she hoped she would inspire a new generation of Native Americans to fight for the rights of others and lift t heir community out of poverty.

"Maybe one of these days, they won't even think about me. They'll just keep going and say, 'This is because I did it,'" Cobell said. "I never started this case with any intentions of being a hero. I just wanted this case to give justice to people that didn't have it."

Cobell said she had heard stories since she was a child of how the government had shortchanged Native Americans with accounts for royalties from their land that was leased for resource development or farming.

Cobell said she became outraged when she actually started digging into how much money the government had squandered that belonged people who were living in dire poverty on the Blackfeet reservation in northwestern Montana.

She realized the amount mismanaged since the 1880s could be hundreds of billions of dollars. She said she tried for years working with two U.S. government administrations to resolve the dispute, then decided to sue with four other Nat ive Americans as plaintiffs when no progress was made.

The government dug in. Over the next 14 years, there were more than 3,600 court filings, 220 days of trial, 80 published court decisions and 10 appeals until the 2009 breakthrough.

Under the settlement, $1.4 billion would go to individual Indian account holders. Some $2 billion would be used by the government to buy up fractionated Indian lands from individual owners willing to sell, and then turn those lands over to tribes. Another $60 million would be used for a scholarship fund for young Indians.

Cobell spent the next year shuttling back and forth between her home to Washington, D.C., to lobby individual congressmen to approve the deal. She also logged thousands of miles traveling across Indian country to explain the deal to the potential beneficiaries.

She found unexpected resistance among some Native Americans. They questioned why it was so little, how much would be going to her and they attor neys or why it didn't include a more complete accounting of what happened to the money.

Congress approved the deal and President Barack Obama signed it in December of 2010, a year after it was first proposed. A federal judge approved the settlement in June, though there are still appeals of the settlement pending.

Cobell discovered she had cancer just a few weeks before the judge's approval in June. She traveled to the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota, for surgery.

Cobell was the great granddaughter of the famous leader Mountain Chief. She grew up with seven brothers and sisters on the Blackfeet reservation.

She was the Blackfeet nation's treasurer for 13 years, and in 1987 helped found the first U.S. bank to be owned by a tribe, the Blackfeet National Bank, which is now the Native American Bank.

Cobell was the executive director of the nonprofit Native American Community Development Corp., which promotes sustainable economic development in In dian Country.

She won a $300,000 "genius grant" from the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation in 1997 and used most of the money to help fund the lawsuit.

Cobell lived on a ranch with her husband Alvin. Her only son, Turk, lives in Las Vegas with his wife Bobbie and their children Olivia and Gabriella.

Copyright © 2011 The Associated Press
Published by Times-Standard on Oct. 17, 2011.
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108 Entries
It has been four years I love and miss you aunty. I hope you are having a good time in the big sky!
brooke longfox
November 6, 2015
Thank you Elouis, for all you have done for us Navajos too. May you rest in your father's loving hands forever in heaven. You have done so much for us here on mother earth. You are a beautiful woman with a big heart. Thank you holy spirit for putting all these a
holy people around her in heaven. God bless. Rena
April 18, 2014
Vanessa Demarce
December 21, 2012
Elouise, thank you for all you have done for the Natives of this country, You are a great person and will always be remembered and honored by all those lives you have touched.
Condolences to your family and friends
Karlene Faulkner
December 20, 2012
thank you Elouise for all you have done for indian country God bless you.Rest in peace.
lila st.claire
December 20, 2012
Thanks Elouise for what you have done for Indian Country. Your legacy will not be forgotten.
Delvin Cree
December 20, 2012
My condolences to Ms. Cobell's family and friends. I was privileged to work with her briefly several years ago at Native American Bank and am still in awe of her quiet intelligence and bravery in acting for what was right. It was a privilege to have known her, a great role model for all human beings.
Christine Manchester
December 4, 2011
Mrs Cobell you are an inspiration to me and many other Native Americans. I thank you for your determination. My your spirit be free. Member of Muscogee Tribe.
Kimberly Johnson
November 30, 2011
I has been a month and the tears still fall, I love you so much my loving auntie.
cher ketah
November 16, 2011
You were such an inspiration to me. You fought for Native American rights and won. You were a true warrior. Thank you so much Elouise. My condolences to your beautiful family.
Louise Doney
November 12, 2011
Our condolences to the family. Rest now.
Cheryl & Matt Benally-Morgan
November 4, 2011
Great native Spirit Woman, may your work inspire the Blackfoot tribe into the new century and prosperity!
Alex Seredin
October 23, 2011
Condolences to Elouise's family. Her courage and strength are examples to follow for those who are struggling for their lost rights. May her soul rest in peace.
Mona Seredin
October 23, 2011
I am sorry to hear of her passing. She has done alot for all Tribal Nations. I am glad to have followed her progress when she first went Washington, and without her, there would probably be a slow progress of her work. She will be missed, but not forgotten. RIP dear friend. Mitakoye Oyasin.
Dar Red Hawk
October 21, 2011
The Little Bird Woman whispered into the ear of the American Government to right a long time wrong, Then She flew away. Thank you. Your work here is done, find your little nest in heaven. Deena (sioux)
Deena Rosario
October 20, 2011
May the Creator bless you and your family in your time of need. Elouise was a True Lady Warrior standing up for her and countless other's rights. My deepest sympathy and May she rest in peace.
Malinda Notah
October 20, 2011
I am a spouse of a Chippewa tribe member of the Sault Ste. Marie tribe. We are sad to hear of Elouise's passing. She fought the great fight and the Great Spirit decided it was time for her to come home. We home her followers will continue to fight the fight for all Native Americans in the future and futures to come.
Pamela Matteson
October 20, 2011
What strength, courage and love she had for our nations to fight for what is ours. I am sorry that I didn't get to meet her. May she rest in peace. My condolences to her family.
Charlene Hawk
October 20, 2011
Maria Varela
October 20, 2011
May you forever soar with the Eagles and be with all the Native American leaders who have gone on.. Thank you so much what you did for our Native people.. May you find comfort and peace being with the Great Spirit...
Debi Benallie
October 20, 2011
Please accept my condolence. Life is so short, may you cherish your loving memories and find comfort in prayer to God, James 4:8.

October 20, 2011
My condolences to the family. Wow! I always wanted to meet her in person. She showed us what we can do for ourselves as native people if we wanted. RIP Elouise. Geri Agard, McLaughlin, SD
Geri Agard
October 20, 2011
October 20, 2011
Peace! another warrior has been called into eternal rest. With sympathy!
Bersy Pruitt
October 20, 2011
you did what a lot of us should have done, you had the strength and and determination. Rest in Peace Elouise!
Karen GreyEyes
October 19, 2011
May the God of all comfort grant your family peace at this time. (2Cor: 1:3,4)
Chris Williams
October 19, 2011
My condolences to the family of a great Lady Chief and Warrior. Her work is done and the ancestors have taken her home on the wings of the Eagle. May she stand strong and tall with the ancestors and continue to guide and protect all the twisted hairs dwelling with the braid of humanity.
Dolores Sneed
October 19, 2011
My condolences to the family of Elouise Cobell, with my deepest sympathy. I just registered on the IndianTrust site and hoping to see what comes of it. Regardless Mrs Cobell has brought to the attention-U.S. government of one of the many wrongs and injustices they have inflicted on the Native American and it will not go unheard, Thanks to her effort and endurance. RIP Mrs. Elouise Cobell. Betsy China(Southern Paiute) Cedar City, Utah.
October 19, 2011
May the 'God who gives peace' be with your family, and may it comfort you to know that he cares and intends to remedy all suffering.
October 19, 2011
My deepest sympathy to her family, friends and Tribe at Elouise's passing. I was fortunate to get to work with her (okay, more like work for her :) .) Her courage, sense of what is right, and tenacity will forever be inspiration to Indian people.
Jill Tompkins
October 19, 2011
My condolences to your family. My prayers are with you. I pray for this brave lady as she takes her place among our ancestors. Blessings to you and to yours. You will long be remembered for your courage!
BJ Tuininga
October 19, 2011
How comforting our Creator is to teach us how he views all people.
At this Peter opened his mouth and said: “For a certainty I perceive that God is not partial, but in every nation the man that fears him and works righteousness is acceptable to him."
My prayers are with you.
October 19, 2011
To the family of Elouise Cobell, my condolences for the loss of your beloved one. May the God of all comfort strengthen you at this difficult time. Erma L. Davis, Park Forest, IL.
October 19, 2011
What an amazing woman. Our thoughts & prayers go out to this family and all who cherished her.
Bikers For Bikers Foundation
Jeanie Hood-Carter
October 19, 2011
Please accept my sincere sympathy and prayers in the loss of such a brave woman.I am truly saddened in hearing of her passing-I wish I could have met her to thank her for what she has done for us and our descendents. She not only fought for us-she has taught us what courage really is.RIP,Ms.Cobell
Vivian Welliver
October 19, 2011
...and may your people never forget.
Al Rob
October 18, 2011
Your strength, courage, standing-for-relations . . . leave me an many others in awe, gratitude and provide deep lessons. Sending support, prayers and love to your family, to you beyond this earth level. THANK YOU, Sky & Oceans deep. ~ J.M. Hunt (mixed relations: blackfeet & british. All 1 )
JM Hunt
October 18, 2011
What an inspiration!
Louise Billiot
October 18, 2011
To the Cobell Family, my deepest sympathy
to all of you. She was grassroots person that got things done, and I admired her so much. She will always be a hero to me. Bless you all. Mary Black Elk, St. Paul, Minnesota.
October 18, 2011
Highly Condolenence and Comfort to the Cobell family. What a Remarkable, Courageous Individual that the Native Americans - Mountain Chief People were blessed with! Aho to Our Creator!!
Lisa Washington
October 18, 2011
I feel truly blessed to meet and speak personally with her when she spoke at Moorpark College several years ago. Such an inspiration in the justice fight for others. Sincere sympathies to her family. This world is a better place because of her and she was truly an inspiration to me.
Marlyn Sylva
October 18, 2011
Precious Little Bird Woman....you are a gift to the world. You have left a legacy of courage and justice for us to follow. Each of us is diminished by your passing. May you rest in peace, Little Bird Woman. May you and Wilma Mankiller watch over those of us still struggling. Peace and prayers.
Barbara Weller
October 18, 2011
I'm inspired by the bravery of your quest for justice! All of our Tribes mourn a great warrior! Our prayers go up for the Cobell family - thank you for sharing her with us.
Linda Big Soldier
October 18, 2011
To The Family of Ms Cobell., How Proud You All Are OF Her,.. She Is A Lady Warrior of our Time..The Battle OF Her Life Against Cancer Was Just To Much,Even For A Warrior...We As People Of The Indain Nation Are Sad Today.,Ms Cobell Help Us To Be Proud Native's In The Eyes Of Everyone..She Is Resting Now,.. God Bless Us All..~Thank You Ms Cobell And Family~ Rositta Howe
Rositta Howe
October 18, 2011
Blessings to the family of this woman. What a purpose she was born with and achieved for her people. What an inspiring legacy she leaves. May God have His hand upon those she helped and upon those who shall follow her mission. Praise be to God the Father for all he has done, is doing and will do for all Native people in this country...He blessed us with a great example of His love through Ms. Cobell.
Nixie Greene
October 18, 2011
October 18, 2011
October 18, 2011
My condolences to the Cobell family. It is a great loss to not only your family but to the whole Native American community. I appreciate all her hard work for the people. God rest your soul and bless you in the after life.
Eleanor Dailey
October 18, 2011
Rest in Peace Elouise ... you have a rare gift - a legacy of standing up against power and fighting for justice that extends beyond your mortal life ... thank you for your courage and persistence. You are a hero!
Earl Martin
October 18, 2011
"Farewell, dear voyageur -'twill not be long.Your work is done - now may peace rest with thee.Your kindly thoughs and deeds- they will live on.This is not death -'tis immortality."
Saja Rain
October 18, 2011
May God bless the family in this time of sorrow. Thank you Ms. Cobell for your hard work and travel; it means alot especially having a heart for elderly people. RIP
L Yazzie
October 18, 2011
I was fortunate enough to meet Elouise several years ago. She was a remarkable lady who gave her life so that others may survive.
Victoria Sherman
October 18, 2011
Elouise you lived your life, rest in peace, your reward is the higher creator upstairs, a job well done from Mr. & Mrs. Samuel & Malula Sandoval of Shiprock, New Mexico Navajo Nation.
October 18, 2011
October 18, 2011
What a wonderful lady and a great accomplishment. May family and friends be comforted my God who see your tears flow and pain of heart. For He is with those who are broken and heart and those who are crushed in spirit He saves.
Reed Family
October 18, 2011
When the Winter Time of Telling comes, may your story be added to the hearts of people everywhere. Safe journey. Native in Illinois
October 18, 2011
May your family be comforted by the great spirit! We are all touched by your courage to help us all as Indian people.
Thank you, you are appreciated!
Rachel Walkup
October 18, 2011
My deepest condolences to her family. I am a granddaughter of a Ute. I know very well her bravery and fortitude in that struggle. Well fought ! Well done!! May generations that follow remember her and follow in her footsteps to fight for right!
October 18, 2011
Rest in Peace and Thank you for all the hard work you have done for those in Indian Country.
Mato Luta
October 18, 2011
So sorry for the loss of such a powerful and courageous woman. Prayers going out to family and friends and the entire tribe. May the Creator comfort you all in this time of great loss.
Nadine Lewis
October 18, 2011
You were truly a brave woman.May you rest in peace. Native from NJ
October 18, 2011
I was so honored to have been able to meet you and so in awe of your quiet, gracious heroism. You will be missed.
Valerie Lee
October 18, 2011
God bless you and your loved ones. R.I.P.
Jane Dowling
October 18, 2011
My heart goes out to all Native Americans. We owe your people much more than what was paid. May God be with you all.
Bud Jurgens
October 18, 2011
Thank You, thank You for standing up for your Native People, may you continue to be an inspiration to thousands of Native Americans. May The Great Spirit comfort and guide your Family in this Their time of sorrow. 3fthrs
Tom Helsinger
October 18, 2011
"Little Bird Woman" fought for the people. She should be a symbol for us all in today's troubled world. The legend of "Little Bird Woman" and her fight for justice will be told by the people for ages to come. We shall not forget... Noah
October 18, 2011
To the Family of Elouise Cobell:
My sincere condolence to your family.
Mrs. Cobell was a true American hero which I will never forget.
Gold bless your family.
Anthony Hines
October 18, 2011
God Bless you Elouise Cobell, you have fought long and hard and now it time to rest. RIP, much condolences to your family from my family as well as other Native Americans that believed in you.
Native American
October 18, 2011
A great lady has died. I remember reading about this mismanagement of Native American funds. I felt nothing but outrage.

Condolences to her family and the Blackfeet Nation.

Micheline Neveux, Biddeford, ME
October 18, 2011
May God bless you and your family in this time of sorrow.
October 18, 2011
My sincere condolence to the Cobell family, you will truly be missed. May the God of tender mercies comfort the family
October 18, 2011
maureen o'brien
October 18, 2011
Thank you for being a Warrior for the people. We should all try to have courage in everything we do.
Mary Irving
October 18, 2011
My condolences to the family of Mrs. Cobell. She will be dearly missed. May the God of tender mercies comfort you at this time.
October 18, 2011
Many Blessings always be with all of the family at this time of your loss. She will never be forgotten and has done so much to help her people during her lifetime.
May the stars always be bright on her starpath now and foreverMay our Creator always be with her family and loved ones always, a friend, Phyllis Etherton
Phyllis Etherton
October 18, 2011
You are blessed and may you RIP
October 18, 2011
"Adversity has the effect of eliciting talents which, in prosperous instances would have lain dormant", thats what I think when I think of what Elouise did, walk in peace with all our ancestors they have taken you in thieir care; Wayne T. Mitchell, Penobscot Indian Nation
wayne T. Mitchell
October 18, 2011
What a warrior. Thank you, sister, for your tireless work on behalf of so many. Your family will miss you...all Native Americans will miss you.
October 17, 2011
Thank you for your hard work, dedication and willingness to bring some justice to we native people. There have been many who have gone on without receiving justice, but with your help some of us will receive the benefits of your work. Thank you from myself and from my mom who has gone on. She hoped for justice too.
October 17, 2011
Thank you for your hard work, dedication and willingness to bring some justice to we native people. There have been many who have gone on without receiving justice, but with your help some of us will receive the benefits of your work. Thank you from myself and from my mom who has gone on. She hoped for justice too.
Navajo Alottee
October 17, 2011
October 17, 2011
Elouise Cobell, Thank you for your courage and strength in showing us how much you believe in Native Americans.
Great Spirit, please welcome Elouise Cobell with open arms. may her soul fly high with our brother Hawk. Let her bring in first light and help the sunset each day. I also ask you, Great Spirit, please comfort and guide Elouise's family thru their time of need. Bless them all with care and love.
Thank you for listening Great Spirit.
Navajo Lady
October 17, 2011
Bless and thank you Ms. Cobell for the good fight. May your family know peace.
naomi h. Springfield , Ga.
Naomi H
October 17, 2011
will spires
October 17, 2011
So sorry to hear about Elouise's death, she is now with the Lord and all her people who passed before her. I did'nt know her but she sounds like a very brave and determined woman. My condolences to all her family.
Marian Ruiz
October 17, 2011
You will be in
our Thought
GodBless you
Our thoughts go with
your cherished loved
Victoria&Andrew VZj
October 17, 2011
Yellow Bird Woman,

Fly high, see the earth below...be content that your time here has made the grass greener, the air cleaner and the truth flow like the spring rivers; pure, clean and important for those down stream. Thank you.
D Verret
October 17, 2011
When you fight for what you believe in...it's not work...it is a journey. You are gone to a much better place but you definitely will not be forgotten. Rest now my sister, your work here is done.
Wanda Singing Wind Fortune
October 17, 2011
Rest in Peace
October 17, 2011
God will certainly bless this Native American woman who had so much courage, she never gave up; I agree with her, much is owed to the Native Americans. My sympathy to her family and friends. Blessings
Dorothy Morris
October 17, 2011
Wo-pi-la for all your endless work for your Native people. Rest in Peace! My sincere condolences to your family. You are truly a hero.
Phyllis Swift Hawk
October 17, 2011
Elouise Cobell - You walk among angels now. You have earned the respect of many, you have made history! As a Native American woman, you have cleared the path for many Native American women men to take what you have started and complete it. Wopila Tanka.
Chrysan Smallwood
October 17, 2011
I didnt get to personally thank you for helping so many people thru your hard fought battles with the government. My prayers for a good journey across the stars and for your loved ones you, thank you for caring when no one else did. Anpo Luta Win (South Dakota)
October 17, 2011
Let us all hope that the government honors the suit that this courages woman had won for her people. RIP Ms. Cobell, you're in a better place.
Jonathan Schmidt
October 17, 2011
take care, fly away
your Father waits for you
you were put here to help
the ones in need
some angels are here
and walk among us
we are blessed to be touched
by these angels
thank you for fighting to the end
your son will now carry
your heart with him
m k sam
October 17, 2011
Mrs. Elouise Cobell you have made HISTORY!!! What a blessing you are to the Native Americans we could have not done it without you...May God Bless you and your family...R.I.P.
Barb Amiotte
October 17, 2011
Your courage and compassion are a great example of what one person can do. May peace be with you. My deepest sympathy to your loved ones.
Kathleen Owen
October 17, 2011
Thank you for all your hard work, now it is time for you to rest. God be with your Family and Friends and Co-Workers. You will be surely missed in the Native Lands. - ee (Concho, Ok)
October 17, 2011
October 17, 2011
you fought a great battle for native americans everywhere. have admired your determination and bravery. you certainly earned a ribbon shirt. sorry to hear that you have left us.
October 17, 2011
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