Founder of the Blackfeet National Bank, MSU honorary doctorate in 2002
Elouise Cobell (Niitsítapi Blackfoot Confederacy) was a tribal elder and activist, banker, rancher and lead plaintiff in the groundbreaking class-action suit Cobell v. Salazar (2009). This challenged the United States' mismanagement of trust funds belonging to more than 500,000 Native Americans. She pursued the suit from 1996, challenging the government to account for fees from resource leases. In 2010 the government approved a $3.4 billion settlement for the trust case. Major portions of the settlement were to partially compensate individual account holders, to buy back fractionated land interests and restore land to reservations. It also provided a $60 million scholarship fund for Native Americans and Alaskan Natives, named the Cobell Education Scholarship Fund in her honor. The settlement is the largest ever in a class-action against the federal government. Cobell also founded the Blackfeet National Bank, the first national bank located on an Indian reservation and owned by a Native American tribe. In 1997, Cobell won a MacArthur genius award for her work on the bank and Native financial literacy. She donated part of that money to support her class-action suit against the federal government. In 2016, President Barack Obama awarded Elouise the Presidential Medal of Freedom.
Elouise Cobell (Blackfeet) took the federal government to court for corruption and mismanagement of Native American resources and revenues – and won a $3.4 billion settlement in their favor.