Saying the United States was finally righting old wrongs, President Obama signed legislation Wednesday settling two class-action discrimination suits filed by American Indians and black farmers, awarding them $4.6 billion.
Obama said the new law "isn't simply a matter of making amends; it's about reaffirming our values on which this nation was founded: the principles of fairness and equality and opportunity."
The black farmers' component stems from a lawsuit settled in 1999 and involves allegations of widespread discrimination by the Agriculture Department in awarding loans and other aid. The new law provides $1.2 billion to farmers who were denied payments in the earlier case because they missed deadlines for filing.
The agreement for Indian tribes is tied to a suit filed 15 years ago. Some 300,000 Native Americans say they were cheated out of royalties overseen by the Interior Department for oil, gas, grazing and timber rights. The new law also settles four disputes over water rights in Arizona, New Mexico and Montana.
Given the lengthy procedures involved, plaintiffs are not expected to receive their compensation until August 2011, the Washington Post