The Keepseagle v. Vilsack class action made history in 2010 when Indian farmers and ranchers were awarded $680 million in damages and $80 million in debt relief for decades of harsh discrimination by the USDA’s Farm Loan Program. Now we have an opportunity to make history again – this time by using unclaimed settlement funds to create the largest endowed foundation in United States history dedicated to assisting current and future generations of farmers and ranchers throughout Indian Country.
While no one had anticipated that $380 million would remain unclaimed – and many factors played into this, including the deaths of potential claimants during the time it took to settle the case, the lack of initial documentation by the USDA, and, finally, general skepticism of the government by many – the scope of the remaining funds may well be the best thing to come out of this historic settlement.
Keepseagle class representatives unanimously agreed that using the funds to endow a large, well-managed foundation would be the best use of the funds that remained unclaimed by class members. Such a foundation would have a far more profound and greater long-term impact than dispersing the funds all at once to multiple organizations. Instead, funds from the approximately $30 million in investment earnings this independent foundation is expected to generate each year could be used to make annual grants to multiple qualified organizations into the indefinite future.