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Trust
Opinion: A century of stalling on Indian trust


"Most low-income people have no assets, but many American Indians are land rich and dirt poor. Since their land holdings either contain resources, produce revenues from timber sales or gas/oil production, or are leased for farming or ranching, this is a curious anomaly. The explanation lies in the Allotment Act of 1887, which required revenues generated from Indian trust land to be managed by the federal government. Although the government has collected about $13 billion for people with Individual Indian Money accounts, it is unable to show how much it paid out to them. A bank without full accounting records would be shut down. A trustee pilfering private funds would be in jail. Congress has documented but ignored this scandal since 1915.

The century of stalling meant the money owed increased exponentially and no administration wants to pay the billions back on its watch. Thus, both the Clinton administration and the current Bush administration tried to derail the Indian trust fund lawsuit. A Jan. 26, 2004, editorial in The New York Times called the refusal to pay half a million Native Americans what is rightfully theirs �a continuing shame.� Compared to a scandal of comparable size such as Enron, the federal government�s egregious conduct has been hidden from the public."

Get the Story:
Mismanaged Indian trust is a scandal (The National Catholic Reporter 9/30)

Relevant Links:
Indian Trust: Cobell v. Norton - http://www.indiantrust.com
Office of Special Trustee - http://www.ost.doi.gov
Cobell v. Norton, Department of Justice - http://www.usdoj.gov/civil/cases/cobell/index.htm

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