$188 million settlement calls for reinforcement on Yakama Nation

$188 million settlement calls for reinforcement on Yakama Nation

TOPPENISH, Wash. -- A massive settlement was distributed to the Yakama Nation just a couple of weeks ago. $188 million carved up to all the members. A lot of people say they're scared for their safety because of it. KIMA looked at the efforts to protect them.

It was like winning the lottery. Every registered member of the Yakama Nation got a check for $17,000.

The windfall was a long-awaited payment under the Salazar Agreement. The feds mismanaged accounts for the Yakama Nation, resulting in this settlement. 

The Nation knew a sudden influx of money could have all kinds of effects.

"We are very concerned for our membership,” said Tribal Council Member Harry Smiskin.

One of the first steps was to amp up the police presence on tribal land.

"Have you seen increased patrols?” asked KIMA.

"Definitely,” replied Mary-Lee Jones.

Mary-Lee Jones lives on the reservation with her three children.

Since the money was released nearly two weeks ago, she's noticed a change not only in patrols, but in behavior.

"As far as like the physical violence, yea I've seen that and heard about that and that's you know, terrifying,” said Jones.

Jones says she doesn't go out alone, and not after dark.

The Yakama Nation now has 12 officers on patrol instead of just two. Staff is scheduled round the clock.

"With all of these measurements you're taking, why so drastic?” asked KIMA.

"We have heard of other Indian reservation throughout the United States that experienced Salazar settlements or settlements with the federal government. Unfortunately the tribal members of those affected reservations become victims of crime,” said Smiskin.

Smiskin says Nation members were also given financial education on how to handle and protect a sudden windfall.

They hope it will be enough to keep things peaceful on the reservation.

"I just have to know where my children are and where the elders are. So mainly it's just checking in on them frequently,” said Jones.

Last year, the Colville Tribe received its share of the settlement. It came with a spike in crime of nearly 40-percent.

Tribal council doesn't have a plan for how long the added officers will be in place. They're expected to stay until the threat dissipates.