Native American Agriculture Fund to Distribute $266 Million
Philanthropy News Digest | August 14, 2018
A decades-long battle to resolve claims that the U.S. Department of Agriculture systematically discriminated against Native American farmers and ranchers has come to an end with the establishment of a trust that will distribute $266 million from a 2010 civil rights settlement in which the U.S. government agreed to pay $680 million in damages for nearly twenty years of systematic discrimination in the awarding of farm loans. The Native American Agriculture Fund, the largest U.S. philanthropy focused exclusively on Native American farmers and ranchers, will redistribute funds left over from the class-action settlement after only about thirty-six hundred successful claims instead of the ten thousand anticipated were filed, leaving $380 million undisbursed. In 2014, the plaintiff's lawyers proposed that a foundation headed by Native leaders be established to re-grant the remaining $380 million instead of distributing it equally among Native American nonprofit organizations, as called for in the original settlement. In 2016, U.S. District Court Judge Emmet G. Sullivan approved an agreement to distribute an additional $76 million in cash and tax payments to the original claimants, award $38 million to nonprofit groups chosen by the plaintiffs' lawyers, and endow the trust with the remaining $265 million.