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Cobell | Opinion
Johnny Flynn: Cheating Indians out of land, money


"Moses Bruno, my great-grandfather, was “given” eighty acres of land by the US government in 1887 when he was fourteen years old. The land was his anyway since it belonged to the Citizen Potawatomi tribe and Moses was a tribal member as were his parents, grandparents, children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren, including me.

When I was a kid I my grandpa used to tell stories about a horse named Champ. Champ was one of a matched set of plow horses my grandpa’s daddy bought when the family came into some oil money during the Great Depression, and therein is a tale of how to cheat Indians.

What pulls together the Cobell lawsuit, my great-grandfather Moses Bruno, and a horse named Champ is the fact they were all considered incompetent in the eyes of the US government. That’s right, a Blackfoot Indian banker with a college degree, a Potawatomi who was given his own land to become a farmer, and a plow horse named Champ are all incompetent to handle their own affairs according to the Bureau of Indian Affairs.

Eloise Cobell went off to college, came home to Montana, and eventually ended up as a banker. One day she went to the Bureau of Indian Affairs and tried to find out how much “Indian Money” she had in her individual trust fund account and was told that no one knew the amount, but to “trust” them, since they knew.

That was a lie."

Get the Story:
Johnny Flynn: Indians v. The US Department of the Interior, Or, The Horse Who Couldn’t Read (Religion Dispatches 12/11)

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Johnny Flynn: Terror torture and the Indian wars (5/26)