Shawnee Tribe files lawsuit against U.S. Treasury Dept., Dept. of Interior

Lawsuit alleges department used incorrect population data for tribe

OTTAWA COUNTY, Okla. – Native American Tribal Nations have been waiting for a while on funds to help with pandemic relief.

“I think the delay has had a lot of impacts. But Native Americans are used to delays from federal assistance,” says Chairman of the Quapaw Nation Business Committee.

8 billion dollars in relief funding was set aside from the CARES Act back in March f0r federally recognized Native-American Tribes. But those funds have just recently been dispersed to tribes in Northeast Oklahoma.

“There was litigation from some Alaskan corporations that slowed it down. And, you know, it’s very typical of the federal government. They don’t really understand tribes as well as you would think they would,” says Berrey.

In early May, around 4.8 Billion of that was freed up.

And recently, the Quapaw Nation received around 10 million in funds. Around 4 million of that will go directly to the five thousand members of the tribe.

“I think it’ll help tremendously,” says Berrey. “And with this rise in spikes in our area, we wanted to reserve some in case there was another need.”

But members of the Shawnee Tribe are still waiting. The Shawnee Tribe has filed a lawsuit against the U.S. Department of the Treasury and the U.S. Department of Interior, saying they Shawnee Tribe and other tribes didn’t receive the correct amount of funding.

According to court documents, The Shawnee Tribe alleges they have more than three thousand members in the tribe — and provided an accurate population count.

But, the treasury department instead used data from HUD — which showed the tribe has zero members because the tribe doesn’t participate in the HUD program. So, the tribe received the minimum payment from the CARES Act, which was 100-thousand dollars.

In a statement sent to KOAM, Shawnee Tribal Chief Ben Barnes says:

“The unexpected decision by the U.S. Treasury Department to allocate CARE dollars to Tribal Nations based on Indian Housing Block Grant rather than tribal population is patently unfair to several Tribes including the Shawnee Tribe. The change in the method of calculation, led to our Tribe receiving the minimum distribution of $100,000. The amount is gravely inadequate to relieve our citizens from the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic. While the filing of a lawsuit is never the preferred course and given the terrible injustice against our Tribe, in this instance, it is the only option available to us. We will pursue this with intense purpose on behalf of Shawnee citizens.”

On May 29th, Senator Tom Udall, and other Democratic members of the Senate, requested additional information from the U.S. Department of Treasury about the distribution formula the department used – citing concerns from Tribal nations as the reason for the inquiry.

Shawnee Tribe Complaint