Published: Jul 15, 2011 8:32 PM EDT
Updated: Jul 15, 2011 7:32 PM EDT

BILLINGS, Mont. (AP) - American Indian leaders are calling for a new era in their relations with federal agencies in the wake of the government's recent $3.4 billion settlement for decades of mismanaging Indian lands.

Representatives of Rocky Mountain and Great Plains tribes met with Interior Secretary Ken Salazar Friday in Billings. The event kicked off a series of consultations planned across the country in coming months to decide how settlement money will be distributed.

The focus is on $1.9 billion slated to consolidate tribal ownership of lands that have been "fractionated" over generations. Often, hundreds of people, even thousands, share ownership of individual parcels of Indian land.

Salazar says centuries of strained relations with tribes would take time to overcome. But he said the Obama administration is committed to that goal.

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