PEMBROKE — Some local American Indian farmers and ranchers are receiving almost $2 million in payments in a settlement with the U.S. government.
On Friday, 19 American Indian farmers and ranchers from Robeson County each received settlement checks of $50,000 from the Keepseagle v. Vislack discrimination case. The national class action suit between American Indians and the U.S. Department of Agriculture has been settled at a cost of $760 million and payments are finally reaching those eligible for compensation.
The lawsuit claimed that the U.S. Department of Agriculture discriminated against American Indians by denying them access to credit in the USDA Farm Program. The suit also claimed that the USDA denied thousands of American Indian farmers and ranchers the same opportunities to get farm loans or farm services that were given to white farmers and ranchers.
According to plaintiffs in the case, the USDA didn’t do outreach to American Indian farmers and ranchers to provide them with the technical assistance they needed to prepare applications for loans or loan services.
Beverly Collins-Hall, with American Indian Mothers Inc., said that those county residents receiving settlements on Friday received help in filing their applications from that organization. Each will receive $50,000, she said.
“Two million is a lot of money coming into this county,” said Hall. “Some of those receiving settlement checks have never seen as much as $50,000 at one time.”
The checks were presented to the recipients by Rosalind Gray, an attorney for the American Indian Mothers, Friday morning during a gathering at the North Carolina Indian Cultural Center, just outside of Pembroke.
Hall said that she has been working with the USDA for several years on issues related to American Indians.
Reach staff writer Bob Shiles at 910-272-6117 or firstname.lastname@example.org.