Elouise Cobell's strength of character
yielded accountability

The Seattle Times
October 18, 2011

Cancer has claimed the life of Elouise Cobell, who challenged the U.S. government's handling of Native American trust accounts. Her diagnosis and death came within months of the settlement.

The passage of a genuine American hero shines a light on a word that is in fashion these days: account-ability. Elouise Cobell of Montana's Blackfeet Tribe persevered to bring a measure of financial justice to 500,000 Native Americans.

Cobell, who died Sunday of complications from cancer, led a 16-year campaign to hold the U.S. government accountable for a century of incompetent, indifferent and corrupt management of trust accounts for the proceeds of natural resources taken from Indian lands. Cobell and four others first filed suit against the federal government in 1996. She became the public face and conscience of a campaign waged in and out of court.

In the words of the old hymn, "save us from weak resignation to the things we deplore," Cobell's spirit was resolute. Her efforts were acclaimed along the way, but she never lost sight of the goal.

A settlement was approved by a federal judge in June. She had been diagnosed with cancer only weeks before.

Services are scheduled Saturday in Browning, Mont. She will be buried on the family's Blacktail Ranch. Her courage and tenacity set an example for others in pursuit of accountability — seeking to unravel and reconcile epic economic injustices.