Tester Announces Elouise Cobell Honored with Presidential Medal of Freedom
Blackfeet Trailblazer Receives Nationâ??s Highest Civilian Honor
(U.S. Senate)-Senator Jon Tester today announced that Elouise Cobell has been recognized with the Presidential Medal of Freedom.
Tester recommended Cobell earlier this year to receive the nation’s highest civilian honor for her leadership and fight for justice for Native American families.
“Elouise Cobell was a champion for change and a fierce advocate for Native American families,” Tester said. “Elouise has now joined some of the most influential Americans in our nation’s history by receiving the Presidential Medal of Freedom, and her legacy is guaranteed to live on for generations to come.”
Cobell’s case against the federal government was settled in 2009, thirteen years after it was originally filed in U.S. District Court. Cobell passed away just two years later in 2011. Tester attended her funeral.
The first distribution of Cobell payments was made to Native American families in 2013. Additional payments through the Department of the Interior’s Land Buy-Back Program are ongoing, and to date, over $900 million in payments through the Buy-Back Program have been made to tens of thousands of Native American landowners for selling their fractional interests in land to their respective tribe.
As Treasurer of the Blackfeet Nation, Cobell also founded the first tribally-owned national bank located on an Indian reservation. The Blackfeet National Bank is now the Native American Bank and provides access to capital and financial services to more than 20 tribes across the nation.
The Presidential Medal of Freedom is the highest civilian award that can be presented by the United States. According to the White House, the award may be presented “to any person who has made an especially meritorious contribution to the security or national interests of the United States, or world peace, or cultural or other significant public or private endeavors.”
In 2008, Tester recommended Crow tribal historian and veteran Joe Medicine Crow for the Presidential Medal of Freedom. He was honored by President Obama in August of 2009.