Thursday, November 5 has been set aside by Governor Bullock as the annual Eloise Cobell Day, a day to honor the Blackfoot woman who brought the only successful class-action lawsuit against the U.S. government, for its gross mismanagement of trust lands over 100 years.

The meeting, held via ZOOM due to the COVID 19 pandemic, featured Dr. Brad Hall, UM Tribal Outreach Specialist, UM Professor Kathryn Shanley, Blackfoot Tribal College President Karla Bird and UM President Seth Bodnar.

Shanley spoke of the successful lawsuit brought by Cobell against the federal government.

“Eloise is most widely known for her unrelenting effort to see justice and proper accounting for more than 500,000 Native American people whose trust lands and accounts were egregiously mismanaged,” said Shanley. “The groundbreaking class action lawsuit Cobell vs. Salazar resulted in a $3.4 billion settlement in 2009.”

Shanley said Cobell’s main focus was funding education for Native American students.

“Her vision is perhaps most evident in her desire to see the monies gained in the settlement to enhance education by providing $60 million in scholarship funds for Native American and Alaska Natives, notably the largest class action settlement ever awarded against the US federal government. Cobell vs. Salazar also epitomizes Native American activist efforts and will impact many generations to come.”

Blackfoot Tribal College President Karla Bird explained why November 5 is now Eloise Cobell Day in Montana.

“Governor Bullock identified November 5 as Eloise Cobell Day and he recognized the contributions she made to not only indigenous communities, but also to the state of Montana, the United States of America, and you have to think about the indigenous communities worldwide, as well,” said Bird.

UM President Seth Bodnar provided his perspective on Eloise Cobell Day.

“Celebrating the life and work of Eloise Cobell reminds us also of not only the great work that that she did during her lifetime, but also of the important role that we must play each of us in continuing her legacy, her sacrifices, her courage, her strength,” said President Bodnar. “They inspire us to make good on our collective commitment to supporting Indigenous students, faculty and staff as they contribute to our community.”

There were additional presentations on ZOOM throughout the day to celebrate the heritage of Eloise Cobell.