indianz.com your internet resource indianz.com on facebook indianz.com on twitter indianz.com on Google+
ph: 202 630 8439   fax: 202 318 2182
Falmouth Institute Online Training
Advertise on Indianz.Com
Home > News > Headlines
Print   Subscribe
Osage Nation wins major trust fund ruling
Monday, September 25, 2006

The Osage Nation hailed victory on Friday after a federal judge ruled the tribe is owed potentially billions for the mismanagement of trust assets.

The tribe's reservation, created by an act of Congress in 1906, has been one of the top oil-producing regions in the nation. But tribal members who share ownership in mineral rights say up to $2.5 billion was squandered by the Bureau of Indian Affairs.

In a 61-page decision released Thursday afternoon, a judge in Washington, D.C. largely agreed. Judge Emily C. Hewitt of the U.S. Court of Federal Claims said the federal government breached its fiduciary duties to the tribe and its members, known as headright owners.

"[T]he court finds that the Osage Tribe is entitled to compensation for the following breaches of defendant's fiduciary duties," Hewitt wrote, outlining five specific breaches: failure to collect royalties based on the highest offered price; failure to collect full royalties during price controls; failure to deposit trust funds promptly due to an unreasonable failure to certify a federal depositary; failure to maintain appropriate cash balances; and failure to obtain investment yields in accordance with law.

Hewitt ordered the tribe and the Department of Justice to "jointly calculate" a damage award by November 2. If they can't agree, the two parties can submit their own figures, the ruling stated.

Back in Oklahoma, tribal leaders celebrated after learning of the decision. "This finding is a long time in coming," Chief Jim Gray said in a statement.

"The Osage Nation government filed this case six years ago, and our people and the shareholders in the royalties of the Osage Mineral Estate have waited for justice for many years, just as American Indians across the country have been waiting for justice in their trust cases for many years," Gray said.

The Osage claim is separate from the more than two dozen trust fund lawsuits that have been filed by tribes. It's also different from the Cobell lawsuit over Individual Indian Money (IIM) accounts.

But many of the underlying issues are the same. Tribes and individual Indians say the federal government has failed to live up to its duties as a trustee for more than 100 years.

The Clinton and Bush administrations have rejected the allegations and have attempted to have the lawsuits thrown out of court. The campaign ramped up during the Bush administration, which took two significant tribal trust cases to the U.S. Supreme Court and has appealed every single adverse ruling in the Cobell case.

In almost every respect, the government has lost on legal grounds. The courts have consistently ruled that tribes and individual Indians are entitled to an accounting of "all funds" in their accounts.

The Osages have won a series of crucial rulings before the Court of Claims. Hewitt has rejected attempts to deny the tribe an accounting all the way back to 1906, the year the mineral trust was created.

The Osages, like other tribes, were presented with a "reconciliation" report by the former Arthur Andersen accounting firm. The report stated that the BIA couldn't account for at least $791,046.37 in trust funds covering the period 1972 to 1992.

The actual figure would be much higher, based on the inception of the trust in 1960 and the interest owed on improperly handled trust funds. Gray, however, said it would be "irresponsible" to speculate on the exact amount until the court can hold further proceedings.

Hewitt has been handling several trust fund cases. One of the most notable involves the Eastern Shoshone Tribe and the Northern Arapaho Tribe, both of Wyoming. Hewitt has ruled in the tribes' favor several times, resulting in the return of millions.

In February, Hewitt ruled in favor of four Chippewa tribes who say the government mismanaged a $52 million trust fund. Their case was filed 14 years ago.

Court Decision:
Nation v. US (September 21, 2006)

Earlier Decision:
Osage Nation v. US (July 28, 2003)

Related Documents:
S.1857 | Senate Report 107-138 | Senate Testimony | House Debate

Relevant Links:
Osage Nation - http://www.osagetribe.com

Related Stories:
Osage Nation trust suit survives first test (07/31)
Judge upholds ongoing trust relationship (04/29)
Bush strategy assumes no trust mismanagement (11/05)
Andersen reports cited in tribal trust cases (08/12)
Norton handed worst nightmare (7/25)
Trust accounting looms for tribes (3/20)
Bush administration bets on accounting (3/18)
GAO: Full reconciliation impossible (2/8)

Copyright 2000-2006 Indianz.Com
More headlines...
Local Links:
Federal Register | Indian Gaming | Jobs & Notices | In The Hoop | Message Board
Latest News:
Native Sun News: Guilty verdict in death of Lower Brule boy (4/17)
Native Sun News: Paper brings home four first place awards (4/17)
Panel to look into death of pregnant Indian woman in Mexico (4/17)
Opinion: Poarch Creeks qualify for Class III gaming in Florida (4/17)
Native Sun News: Little Shell Tribe gets closer to recognition (4/16)
Native Sun News: Pine Ridge fighter prepares for next match (4/16)
Letter from Cobell attorneys on second settlement payment (4/16)
Cobell settlement administrator responds to payment delay (4/16)
Secretary Jewell to deliver commencement address at SIPI (4/16)
First member of Pascua Yaqui Tribe signs to play basketball (4/16)
Navajo Code Talker Samuel Smith passes away at age of 88 (4/16)
Dean Chavers: Indian journalism owes big debt to Tim Giago (4/16)
Nicholet Deschine: KTNN accepts 'hush money' for racial slur (4/16)
Jack Duran: Grindstone Rancheria finally gets a seat at table (4/16)
Dry Creek Rancheria to hold disenrollment hearings this week (4/16)
Hate group plans to protest at Alaska Native Heritage Center (4/16)
Colorado House passes bill to expand Indian tuition program (4/16)
Ute Tribe signs five-year agreement with University of Utah (4/16)
Mississippi Choctaws on track to open health facility in 2015 (4/16)
Judges from Turtle Mountain Band threatened with removal (4/16)
City in New York to drop legal battles against Oneida Nation (4/16)
Quinault Nation to reopen lake on reservation to non-Indians (4/16)
Virginia tribes question interpretation of treaty fishing rights (4/16)
Lawsuit claims remains were removed for Jamul Band casino (4/16)
Mescalero Apache Tribe completes refinancing of casino debt (4/16)
Cherokee Nation Council passes gaming regulation measure (4/16)
Mashantucket Tribe working on casino deal in Massachusetts (4/16)
Opinion: Another futile lawsuit against Poarch Creek casinos (4/16)
Native Sun News: Tribes benefit from $5.15B uranium cleanup (4/15)
Clara Caufield: Northern Cheyenne Tribe marks return of chief (4/15)
DOI extends $1.2M in offers to Makah Reservation landowners (4/15)
Senate Indian Affairs Committee listening session in Montana (4/15)
Ernie Stevens: NIGA won't support racist depictions of Natives (4/15)
Navajo casino enterprise wasn't told of NFL team involvement (4/15)
Steven Newcomb: Scientists lay claim to Kumeyaay ancestors (4/15)
Opinion: Judge delivered 'remarkable opinion' in Cobell lawsuit (4/15)
Umatilla player Shoni Schimmel drafted by Atlanta WNBA team (4/15)
Fort Sill Apache Tribe wins recognition in New Mexico homeland (4/15)
CNN Series: Best places to experience Native American culture (4/15)
Lummi Nation argues for treaty fishing rights in disputed areas (4/15)
Blackfeet Nation heads into election season amid ongoing feud (4/15)
School district on Fort Peck Reservation to redraw voting areas (4/15)
Ojibwe man from Canada charged for possession of wild animals (4/15)
Navajo Technical University creates bachelor's degree program (4/15)
Opinion: Ignorance abounds in dealings with indigenous people (4/15)
more headlines...

Home | Arts & Entertainment | Business | Canada | Cobell Lawsuit | Education | Environment | Federal Recognition | 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.