ELKO — Western Shoshone who qualify for claims money and were counting on payments this month will have to wait.
The U.S. Bureau of Indian Affairs has backed off the June 5 date given Western Shoshone and expects payments to go out by the end of September. The BIA originally said the final per capita distribution would happen by the end of December 2011.
“Our office is aware of this and working with the Bureau of Indian Affairs. It is our understanding that the final distribution is taking longer than initially indicated because of the large number of appeals pending,” Reid spokeswoman Kristen Orthman said Friday.
“However, Senator Reid is confident that the federal government will carry out its responsibilities to the Western Shoshone people,” she said.
Partial payments of more than $22,013, roughly 70 percent of what they will receive once the BIA sorts out appeals, have gone out to 3,187 Western Shoshone, according to the BIA website.
Others are waiting for the whole amount, estimated to be more than $30,000. Others are appealing rejections.
Those receiving the partial payments are those who filed applications during the original six-month window ending on Oct. 25, 2007, along with eligible elders 65 and older. The BIA update states that it has paid out more than $70 million so far.
The final deadline for applications from Western Shoshone was Aug. 2, 2010. They had to show they are one-quarter Western Shoshone to qualify for claims money. The BIA report states the agency received 9,612 applications and has reviewed them all.
The BIA determination is that 5,291 of those applying are eligible for the money, and the agency received 769 appeals. Of those, 564 still needed to be processed as of the May 7 update from the Phoenix office, and 431 appeals were pending a final decision.
The total to be distributed from the claims settlement was more than $188 million in the last available figure from more than a year ago.
Felix Ike, who was on a Western Shoshone steering committee working toward cash distribution, said it “has been a long, drawn-out process, a big, old fiasco.” He said Western Shoshone people are having problems getting answers out of the Phoenix BIA office that covers Nevada.
Elwood Mose of South Fork said he believes Sept. 30 is an optimistic date because of the appeals process, which the BIA had earlier extended. He believes January 2013 is more realistic.
“It’s like pushing an elephant,” Mose said.
The cash distribution stems from the bill former President George Bush signed into law in July 2004 authorizing the BIA to divide the claims money up among qualifying Western Shoshone individuals. Sen. Reid was a force behind the bill.