US Owes Native Americans Millions: Supreme Court
It underpaid Navajos, other tribes for years of services
By Matt Cantor, Newser User
Posted Jun 19, 2012 3:47 PM CDT
Updated Jun 19, 2012 4:21 PM CDT
A young Navajo performs a traditional dance performance in Gallup, New Mexico.   (Getty Images)

(Newser) – The US owes Native American tribes big after underpaying them for public services between 1994 and 2001, the Supreme Court has ruled. The decision could mean millions of dollars for Navajo and other tribes. Federal law says the US must reimburse Native Americans for the cost of running programs such as education, security, and environmental protection, the BBC reports. But the feds paid only 77% to 92% of those costs during the period in question.

"The government was obligated to pay the tribes' contract support costs in full," the court held, adding that the tribes aren't responsible for congressional spending ceilings that prevented full payments. The decision marks a big success for the tribes, and could have a broader impact among government contractors, suggesting that officials can't simply refuse to pay when money is short.