indianz.com your internet resource indianz.com on facebook indianz.com on twitter indianz.com on Google+ indianz.com on soundcloud
phone: 202 630 8439
Fredericks Peebles & Morgan LLP
Advertise on Indianz.Com
Home > News > Headlines

printer friendly version
Interior ordered to disclose trust fund failures
Wednesday, July 13, 2005

Indianz.Com Listening Lounge:
Note: The following files are in MP3 format.
Jim Cason - 47:30 - 8.15MB

Elouise Cobell - 42:04 - 7.22MB

C-SPAN Archive:
Note: You will need RealPlayer to view these video clips.
JimCason - 47:30

Elouise Cobell - 43:25
The federal government must inform hundreds of thousands of Indian beneficiaries across the country that it has utterly "failed" to carry out its trust responsibilities, a federal judge ruled on Tuesday.

Expressing frustration with the nine-year-old Cobell v. Norton case, U.S. District Judge Royce Lamberth warned in a 34-page decision that he would like the court "simply wash its hands" of the Interior Department's "iniquities once and for all." He said he has grown tired of waiting for the government to correct more than 100 years of mismanagement.

But Lamberth, an appointee of the late president Ronald Reagan, said he wasn't ready to give up just yet. "it would constitute an announcement that negligence and incompetence in government are beyond judicial remedy, that bureaucratic recalcitrance has outpaced and rendered obsolete our vaunted system of checks and balances, and that people are simply at the mercy of governmental whim with no chance for salvation," he wrote.

So in hopes of ensuring that Indian people receive justice -- if at all -- he ordered the government to inform upwards of 500,000 American Indians of their rights. "The notice requirement established by the court today represents a significant victory for the plaintiffs," he wrote. "For the first time in the history of this case, the majority of Indian beneficiaries will be aware of the lawsuit, the plaintiffs' efforts, and the danger involved in placing any further confidence in the Department of the Interior."

The notice must state that Interior has been ordered to provide each Individual Indian Money (IIM) beneficiary with an "accurate accounting" of his or her trust account but has yet to do so, Lamberth said in an accompanying order. Account holders must be told that information contained in the trust "may be unreliable," the order states.

The plaintiffs in the Cobell lawsuit, filed in June 1996, hailed the decision as a positve development. "This ruling is unprecedented and it is very, very helpful to Indian people," said Keith Harper, a Native American Rights Fund attorney. "It will ensure that Indian landowners will have basic and critical information about their lands."

The order comes just days after a senior Interior official disavowed any historic mismanagement of the trust. Jim Cason, the associate deputy secretary and acting Indian affairs assistant secretary, appeared on the C-SPAN program "Washington Journal" on July 6.

"We haven't found any systemic errors or faults in the system," Cason said. "We have found a few errors. They tend to be small. ... They're netting out pretty close to zero."

Cason said a settlement of $27.5 billion proposed by the plaintiffs recently was an unrealistic figure because there is no factual basis for it. He said there was no way Indian people could have been so uniformed about the handling of their land and trust assets over the past 100 years.

"There's no way you can actually get there logically," he said of the proposed settlement. "That defies reason. We haven't found the evidence of that in this particular issue."

Lamberth said the record proves otherwise. He noted that the trust was created in 1887 out of "greed for the land holdings of the tribes" and that the United States has continued to mistreat Native Americans.

"For those harboring hope that the stories of murder, dispossession, forced marches, assimilationist policy programs, and other incidents of cultural genocide against the Indians are merely the echoes of a horrible, bigoted government-past that has been sanitized by the good deeds of more recent history, this case serves as an appalling reminder of the evils that result when large numbers of the politically powerless are placed at the mercy of institutions engendered and controlled by a politically powerful few," he observed.

This long and sordid history is the subject of a Senate resolution that would apologize to Native peoples for the government's "depredations and ill-conceived policies." Although the measure doesn't mention the trust by name, it cites the General Allotment Act, broken treaties, armed conflicts, massacres, forced assimilation and other attempts to rid Native people of their way of life.

Elouise Cobell, a member of the Blackfeet Nation of Montana who is the lead plaintiff in the case, said an apology would be useless without action. "If the United States government wants to be serious about what they're doing to Native American people, then give us the accounting," she said on the C-SPAN program.

"That's all we're asking. We're asking for an accounting of our money that has been squandered away by we don't know who over the last 100-plus years," she said.

Court Decision:
Cobell v. Norton (July 12, 2005)

Relevant Documents: Trust Reform and Cobell Settlement Workgroup Principles for Legislation (June 2005)

Relevant Links:
Indian Trust: Cobell v. Norton - http://www.indiantrust.com
Cobell v. Norton, Department of Justice - http://www.usdoj.gov/civil/cases/cobell/index.htm
National Congress of American Indians - http://www.ncai.org
Intertribal Trust Fund Monitoring Association - http://www.itmatrustfunds.org

Related Stories:
Elouise Cobell: Principles put trust back into trust fund (07/07)
Cobell and Cason to appear on C-SPAN program (7/6)
Cobell calls for settlement of trust fund lawsuit (7/5)
Editorial: Resolution of trust fund debacle needed (7/5)
Editorial: Abramoff scandal can't compare to trust (6/30)
Opinion: Downfall of Indians traced to Army, BIA (6/28)
Pombo supports settlement of Cobell trust fund case (6/27)
Harjo: Tribes lobby to fleece their own people (6/24)
Editorial: Congress should settle trust fund (6/24)
Editorial: Trust fund a 'national embarassment' (6/22)
Indian Country united on trust reform solutions (6/21)
Trust workgroup to outline Cobell settlement goals (6/17)
Echohawk optimistic on settlement of Cobell case (06/03)
Final trust reform meeting held in North Dakota (6/3)
UTTC hosts meeting on trust reform legislation (6/1)
House panel acts to restore Bush budget cuts (05/05)
NCAI and ITMA hold second trust reform meeting (05/04)
Bush administration won't give up fight on Cobell (03/18)
McCain weighs GAO probe of Indian trust debacle (03/10)
McCain lays out Indian agenda for 109th Congress (3/7)
Norton won't testify on trust fund retaliation (2/28)
Bush official won't accept claims of trust mismanagement (02/17)
Appeals court won't hold back Lamberth on trust reform (12/13)
Appeals court supports Lamberth's authority on IT (12/06)
Lamberth critical of Norton's 'bad faith' on trust fund (10/25)
Interior denies attempt to halt trust fund payments (10/05)
Bush administration challenges trust fund ruling (09/16)
Appeals court takes on Cobell trust fund case (9/15)
Lamberth exchanges harsh words with Cobell critic (08/02)
Bush administration calls for end to Cobell case (04/09)
Cobell trust fund suit mediators announced (4/6)
DOI's Internet connection shut down for third time (03/16)
Lamberth defends special master against attack (03/16)
Anderson praises Cobell suit in NCAI speech (2/25)
Tribes still frustrated on trust reform (11/20)
Bush officials blasted by tribal leaders (11/19)
Cobell plaintiffs disputing trust fund rider (11/17)
Daschle criticizes 'shameful' rider in DOI budget bill (11/04)
Norton welcomes time-out in Cobell trust fund case (11/4)
Bush official balks at large settlement for Cobell (7/10)

Copyright 2000-2005 Indianz.Com
More headlines...
Stay Connected:
On Facebook

On Twitter

On Google+

On SoundCloud
Local Links:
Federal Register | Indian Gaming | Jobs & Notices | In The Hoop | Message Board
Latest News:
Supreme Court puts an end to another tribal jurisdiction dispute (6/28)
Native women hail Supreme Court decision on domestic violence (6/28)
Navajo Nation leaders reflect on historic Supreme Court session (6/28)
Lakota Country Times: Runners take 500-mile Black Hills journey (6/28)
Mark Trahant: Navajo Republican drops out of race for Congress (6/28)
Brandon Ecoffey: Oglala Sioux Tribe must update its constitution (6/28)
Editorial: Lakota treaty council supported work at Wounded Knee (6/28)
Alex Jacobs: Our elected leaders do little to address gun violence (6/28)
St. Croix Chippewa Tribe ousts 10 people from rolls amid debate (6/28)
Film exposes police harassment of Mashpee Wampanoag Tribe (6/28)
Northern Arapaho Tribe asserts more control over health system (6/28)
Trump rehashes 'Pocahontas' slur as Warren hits road for Clinton (6/28)
Schaghticoke Tribal Nation still fighting for recognition and casino (6/28)
Mashpee Wampanoag Tribe casino foes lose big source of funding (6/28)
Big Sandy Rancheria remains optimistic on plan for second casino (6/28)
Little River Band credited with sharing $30.4M in casino revenues (6/28)
Editorial: Let's leave gaming to tribes and kill Arkansas casino bid (6/28)
Supreme Court deals setback to tribes in labor sovereignty dispute (6/27)
Washington tribes win major fishing rights decision at appeals court (6/27)
Shinnecock Nation hits the end of the line with ancestral land claim (6/27)
Supreme Court won't hear Pauma Band compact negotiation case (6/27)
Witness list for Senate Indian Affairs Committee hearing on 3 bills (6/27)
Lakota Country Times: Teams compete for Indian horse relay title (6/27)
Native Sun News: Rebuilding the Lakota Nation through education (6/27)
Vi Waln: Don't be afraid to come pray with your Lakota relatives (6/27)
Clara Caufield: Out fishing on the Upper Boulder River in Montana (6/27)
Opinion: Supreme Court exposes Indian people to federal powers (6/27)
Anonymous: Fighting back against victimization in Indian Country (6/27)
Michael Sandoval: San Felipe Pueblo respects rights of neighbors (6/27)
Andre Cramblit: Fond memories of growing up with Muhammad Ali (6/27)
Linda Greenhouse: Supreme Court goes silent in high-profile case (6/27)
Partial land-into-trust fix being watched by non-Indian interests (6/27)
Omaha Tribe cooperates with federal investigation into payments (6/27)
Northwest tribes take a stand against oil terminal in Washington (6/27)
Indigenous Digital Archive Project wins grant for online database (6/27)
Donald Trump fares poorly against Hillary Clinton in national poll (6/27)
Senate provision targeted tribes with commercial gaming plans (6/27)
Poarch Creeks in deal to acquire commercial casino in Louisiana (6/27)
Kootenai Tribe hopes to lure Canadian customers back to casino (6/27)
Tribes rest easy as Supreme Court wraps up a surprising session (6/24)
Tribes in northern California take action to protect salmon runs (6/24)
Aaron Payment re-elected as chairman of Sault Ste. Marie Tribe (6/24)
Gun Lake Tribe hosts annual Sweet Grass Moon Powwow in July (6/24)
Native Sun News: First Native hockey referee 'Butchy' passes on (6/24)
Delphine Red Shirt: Lakota people denied voting rights on our land (6/24)
Ruth Hopkins: Saving sacred Bear Butte from a massive biker bar (6/24)
more headlines...

Home | Arts & Entertainment | Business | Canada | Cobell Lawsuit | Education | Environment | Federal Recognition | Federal Register | Forum | Health | Humor | Indian Gaming | Indian Trust | Jack Abramoff Scandal | Jobs & Notices | Law | National | News | Opinion | Politics | Sports | Technology | World

Indianz.Com Terms of Service | Indianz.Com Privacy Policy
About Indianz.Com | Advertise on Indianz.Com

Indianz.Com is a product of Noble Savage Media, LLC and Ho-Chunk, Inc.