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Diane Fox on the Eloise Cobell Lawsuit

North Dakota Native American Essential Understanding number five is about tribal policies, treaties and sovereignty. It states, native people practice self-determination, developing tribal policies and practicing political activism. Despite a history of US policies and treaties that have often been detrimental, native people are members of sovereign nations that predate the US government.

In this episode of Dakota Datebook we'll listen to Diane Fox, enrolled member of the Mandan Hidatsa and Arikara Nation, talk about the Eloise Cobell lawsuit.

Diane Fox:
The other one that I will talk about in the tribal government is the Cobell lawsuit.

Sharla Steever:

Diane Fox:
The Eloise Cobell lawsuit. And I must have been 19 years old, and I remember getting an $800 check and I didn't know what it was about. And I remember my mom kind of talking to me about, at that time I wasn't really involved and I was going to college at the time and my mom's like, "You got this check. There's this big lawsuit that this woman went and did for all Native Americans. So if you're a part of one of those, you're going to get this." I just remember getting this $800 check and thinking, "Wow," because I was in school at the time, so it's like, "These are all the snacks that I can get with all this money and [inaudible] so I can go home."

But as I got older and start learning more about it, and then we do have a film that I also show them and she talks about it in there and they're like, "Oh, there she is, that's the woman that did that for us." And I said, "Yes, She fought and she won. And as a Native American woman, that's a big thing. And she fought for every one of you and every one of your ancestors for that."

Because it was wrong what they did to us. And she won it. She has now passed on and we talk a little bit about that too, but that is one of the big lawsuits that I... Cobell versus Norton. And what she did was she filed this lawsuit against the United States government to get back some of that land that was taken off, that compensation that was owed to us. And it wasn't specifically different areas as it was all areas, and it went on for a couple years and she didn't back down. She fought for everyone, like I said. Going back to sticking to the law part of it. I believe that's the reason why she won.

If you'd like to learn more about the North Dakota Native American essential understandings, and to listen to more Indigenous elder interviews, visit

Dakota Datebook: Teachings of Our Elders is produced with support from and in collaboration with the North Dakota Department of Public Instruction.

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