Elouise Cobell, the Blackfeet woman who spearheaded a lawsuit alleging rampant federal mismanagement of Indian trust funds, would have been 74-years-old Tuesday.
The lawsuit she championed ended with a $3.4 billion settlement, providing money for an Indian education scholarship fund and a land trust program.
Cobell was a rancher who helped found Native American Bank.
In 2015, Gov. Steve Bullock issued a proclamation recognizing November 5 as Elouise Cobell Day.
University of Montana student Joseph Grady says Cobell, "Stood up for indigenous identity and Native American people."
Grady is UM’s Student Diversity Coordinator. During the university’s Indigenous People’s Day celebration last month, Grady described Cobell as a woman, "certainly worth honoring."
"Native American people and indigenous people across the lands, including the Hawaiian Islands and in Mexico, have literally given up everything so that this space around us can exist. It’s not always come voluntarily. Elouise Cobell made a little bit of headway in that conversation. She stands as a champion in that regard, where she fought for Native American people and won some reparations."
In 2016 President Barack Obama awarded Cobell the Presidential Medal of Freedom, which is the nation’s highest civilian honor.
She died in 2011 due to complications from cancer.