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American Indian lawsuit settlement won't cover every member

GRAND FORKS -- The money from the new agreement announced Tuesday won't go to every enrolled member of an American Indian tribe in North Dakota and Minnesota.

Delvin Cree, a member of the Pembina Treaty committee of the Turtle Mountain Chippewa Reservation in Belcourt, N.D., said only certain enrolled members of that tribe will get money from the new agreement.

It perhaps is complicated more on the Turtle Mountain reservation because of its unique history, which includes not only Pembina Chippewa people but people with French descent and the Metis, a people of French and Indian mix who developed their own culture within the larger tribe.

Cree said there's an added wrinkle on Turtle Mountain: "There are two rolls," he said, explaining some are enrolled in the older Pembina Chippewa roll and others on the newer Turtle Mountain roll.

The history of the Turtle Mountain reservation also has some added twists, including tribal lands off the reservation, out in northwestern North Dakota near Trenton, in areas near Fort Totten, N.D., in northern South Dakota and in northeastern Montana, which were allotted to Turtle Mountain tribal members because there wasn't enough land on the reservation proper around Belcourt to go around more than a century ago.

It all dates back to 1904, when the McCumber Agreement was signed, Cree said.

And today, not every modern member of the Turtle Mountain Reservation has a stake in that 1904 agreement, Cree said.

In fact, he said the only plaintiffs in the Cobell lawsuit from Turtle Mountain who will benefit from it "will most likely be the enrolled members who have interest in lands in the state of Montana," Cree said.

He wasn't immediately certain how many people that involves.

But it's related to whether the enrolled members are "full-blood" members, or have French and/or Metis background, Cree said.

His family is one of the older ones who were part of the Red River Crossing Treaty that formed Turtle Mountain reservation, and he will benefit from the new agreement, Cree said.

And it's also related to the people already receiving some mineral rights leasing payments from petroleum development in western North Dakota, Cree said.