BROWNING, Mont. – Elouise Cobell was remembered on Saturday as a warrior whose compassion and grit drove her to dedicate the last 16 years of her life to holding the U.S. government accountable for billions lost or stolen from her fellow Native Americans.
Friends, family and American Indian leaders gathered in the Browning High School gymnasium on the Blackfeet Indian Reservation for a funeral Mass for Cobell, who died last Sunday of cancer. She was 65.
“She proved that with hard work and determination, the impossible is possible,” Cobell’s friend, Zita Bremmer, told the crowd of more than 400.
Larry Echo Hawk, the Interior Department’s assistant secretary for Indian affairs, read a letter from Interior Secretary Ken Salazar that said Cobell was “a significant force for change.” Her work in bringing about a $3.4 billion settlement for hundreds of thousands of American Indians honorably resolves something that has weighed on the American conscience for more than a century, Echo Hawk said.
After the service, a burial was held at her family’s ranch 26 miles south of Browning.