America ReFramed

100 Years: One Woman's Fight for Justice

Season 06  Episode 4

Elouise Cobell is a little known hero whose relentless pursuit of justice led her to find remedy for over half a million Native American account holders whose funds were held by the U.S. government in trust for a century. 

Cobell founded the Blackfeet National Bank, the only tribal-owned bank in the nation. As an advocate for Native American financial self-determination and independence, she conducted her own investigation and uncovered longstanding abuses, mismanagement, denial and betrayal in the Bureau of Indian Affairs. Specifically, she identified billions of dollars that were supposed to go to individual Native Americans. 

Thus, in 1996, Elouise Cobell became the lead plaintiff in a lawsuit alleging the U.S. government’s failure to pass on to Native American landowners monies they had earned through oil, timber and mineral leases that were negotiated and administered by federal agencies. When she received $500,000 in connection with a MacArthur “Genius” Award, she used her grant money to pay lawyers and continue the fight. As the national spokesperson for Native American trust funds, Elouise led one of the largest and longest class action lawsuits in U.S. history. 100 YEARS: ONE WOMAN'S FIGHT FOR JUSTICE is the compelling story of Elouise Cobell, a petite Blackfeet warrior from Montana, the great granddaughter of the legendary, Mountain Chief, and how she prevailed.