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Colvilles dicker over settlement

TOPPENISH, Wash. - Plans to disburse only 20 percent of a $193 million federal settlement directly to members of the Colville Tribes isn’t sitting well with some members.

Joanne Sanchez, a member of the Confederated Tribes of the Colville Reservation who lives in Moxee, said she wants to see 50 percent of the settlement dispersed immediately to members of the tribe, and has already gathered 1,020 signatures on a petition she plans to present to the Colville Business Council next week.

She expects more signatures will be gathered at a 6 p.m. meeting on Wednesday in the Eagle Seelatsee Auditorium at the Yakama Nation agency in Toppenish, across from Legends Casino.

The meeting is also a candidates forum for tribal members running for the Colville Business Council on June 16.

The settlement, finalized last month, makes up for mismanagement of timberland and rangeland on the Colville Indian Reservation by the federal Bureau of Indian Affairs. It is part of a $1 billion settlement with 41 American Indian tribes.

The tribal council later announced it would disburse 20 percent of the funds directly to tribal members, and had not yet decided whether that money would be dispersed over time, or in one lump sum.

The remaining 80 percent would go toward restoring tribal forests, rangelands and natural resources, the tribe said.

Sanchez said many members, including herself, don’t trust how the tribal council will spend that money.

She said tribal members still want to know what happened to one-third of a settlement over Wells Dam several years ago. “They say they’re going to start this and that, but the council goes on these extravagant trips. They travel all over,” she said.

She said some tribal members, meanwhile, are in desperate need of money to live. “Unemployment is really bad on the reservation since the mill got shut down. And now there’s no extension on unemployment,” she said.

Sanchez said in addition to Wednesday’s meeting, she is planning a rally at Colville Tribal headquarters in Nespelem at 1 p.m. on Friday, when she also hopes to present the petitions to the council.