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
Print   Subscribe
Native Sun News: Cheyenne River landowners sue over flooding

Filed Under: Law | National | Trust
More on: cheyenne river sioux, missouri river, native sun news, south dakota
     

The following story was written and reported by Talli Nauman, Native Sun News Health & Environment Editor. All content © Native Sun News.


Oahe Landowners Association members gathered outside the federal courthouse in Sioux Falls after filing suit Oct. 15 for compensation on behalf of thousands who lost land to the Missouri River dam project over half a century ago. In front, plaintiff Raymond Handboy Sr. In back, left to right, plaintiffs’ attorney Judith Zeigler, Diane Booth, Marcella LeBeau, Tonya Davidson, Ria Ducheneaux and Randy Davidson. PHOTO COURTESY/MARVEL HANDBOY

Cheyenne River landowners seek compensation from US
Land flooded by Missouri River damming at center of lawsuit
By Talli Nauman
Native Sun News
Health & Environment Editor

SIOUX FALLS — The Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe’s Oahe Landowners Association filed a lawsuit against the United States on Oct. 15 seeking payment through a class action for private lands taken from Native Americans in the damming of the Missouri River in South Dakota 60 years ago.

“The plaintiffs have brought suit to obtain a declaration that the Individual landowners and their heirs are entitled to compensation for their land that was taken without just compensation, and an accounting to determine the amount of compensation owed,” states the complaint filed in South Dakota U.S. District Court in Sioux Falls.

The 12-year-old federal Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe Equitable Compensation Act provided $290.7 million plus $144 million in back interest to the tribe in recognition that “the federal government did not justify, or fairly compensate the tribe” for the Oahe Dam and Reservoir construction. The ensuing Tribal Equitable Compensation Act (TECA), which the tribal council promulgated with a 9-3 vote on March 9, excludes former landowners, heirs and off-reservation tribal members from eligibility for any further compensation.

Not content with the exclusion clause, members of the non-profit Oahe Landowners Association, established by the tribe with the money from the compensation act, filed the federal claim.

As many as 5,000 fee-land and Indian allotment owners and heirs may be joined to the class action, according to attorney Judith Zeigler.

It was filed on behalf of Cheyenne River Sioux tribal-member landowners in the names of some of the 24 surviving owners of the land taking and one heir: Casimir L. LeBeau, Clarence Mortenson, Raymond Charles Handboy Sr. and Freddie LeBeau.

“The Oahe Dam destroyed more Indian land than any other United States public works project,” the suit alleges. “Over 180 families — 30 percent of the tribal population — were forced to leave their homes and sever the profound cultural connection that they had to the land,” it states.

“The Secretary of the Interior distributed the interest on the trust funds established by the act to the tribe alone, even though nearly half the flooded lands belonged to the Individual Landowners.

“This distribution, and the failure of the defendant (U.S. government) to compensate the individual landowners and their heirs, breached the government’s fiduciary duty and trust obligations. Thus, the individual landowners remain unfairly compensated to this day despite express Congressional recognition that the previous compensation for this taking was grossly inadequate,” it argues.

The tribal resolution for distribution of the funds according to a Tribal Plan “contains no provision for payment to the individual landowners, despite repeated requests by the individual landowners that there be some provision for compensation to them and their heirs,” according to the lawsuit.

“Ostensibly in accordance with the act, which prohibits ‘per capita’ payments to tribal members, the Tribal Plan contains no provision assuring that individual landowners will receive a single cent of the trust fund distribution, even though the individual landowners owned 44 percent of the land that had been taken by the United States, which accounted for nearly 58 percent of the value lost,” the suit says.

The U.S. government is liable for the failure to compensate individual landowners because of its fiduciary duty as a trustee, implicit in the compensation act, it states.

It goes on to recount the legacy of forced relocation since Congress ratified the Flood Control Act of 1944, authorizing the Army Corps of Engineers to develop the Pick-Sloan Project for building six hydroelectric dams in the upper Missouri, including the Oahe Dam, which created one of the largest artificial reservoirs in the United States, stretching nearly from Pierre, S.D., to Bismarck, N.D.

Construction of the Oahe Dam required the Army Corps of Engineers to flood a vast amount of land, approximately 370,000 acres, in North and South Dakota. Over a quarter of this land, 104,492 acres, was owned by the tribe and the individual landowners. Of the 104,492 acres, approximately 46,275 acres consisted of allotted and deeded land held by the individuals. The flooding began in 1948.

Six years passed before any funds were appropriated to compensate for the land. In 1954, Congress authorized payments to the tribe and the individual landowners. “The amount paid, however, was long recognized as grossly disproportionate to the true value of the land taken,” the filing states.

The compensation act specifically notes that “the Oahe Dam and Reservoir project … severely damaged the economy of the tribe and members of the tribe by inundating the fertile, wooded bottom lands of the tribe along the Missouri River that constituted the most productive agricultural and pastoral lands of the tribe and the homeland of the members,” according to the complaint.

A U.S. Senate committee report states that 181 families, or 30 percent of the tribe’s population, were forced to relocate when the Oahe Dam was built. It also notes that “members lost 30,000 head of livestock,” and that this loss would not have happened if river bottom lands had been available to protect the animals.

The report also states that neither the tribe nor its members received the benefits of irrigation that others did as a result of the dam-building project.

The complaint calls for: an order certifying the named plaintiffs as representatives of classes consisting of the original owners of land that was taken by the federal government to construct the Oahe Dam and Lake Oahe, as well as the heirs of the original owners; a decree construing defendant’s trust obligations to plaintiffs and the members of the various classes, declaring that defendant has breached its trust obligations; an acknowledgement that failure to distribute monies from the trust fund to the individual landowners and their heirs is a breach of defendant’s common law fiduciary duty; a statement that defendant has not provided plaintiffs and members of the class with a full and complete accounting of their trust funds; an order to make an accounting of the trust funds owed to the individual landowners and their heirs; fees and costs; and “any such further relief the court deems just and equitable.”

(Contact Talli Nauman at talli.nauman@gmail.com)


Copyright © 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:
Dave Archambault: Why the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe is fighting (8/25)
Sen. Bernie Sanders joining opposition to Dakota Access Pipeline (8/25)
Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe chair dispels rumors about camp site (8/25)
Native Sun News: Thousands join pipeline resistance movement (8/25)
Lakota Country Times: Bill honors memory of Cheyenne woman (8/25)
John Yellow Bird Steele: A giant step forward with Black Elk Peak (8/25)
Dina Gilio-Whitaker: There's more than one path to reconciliation (8/25)
Spokane Tribe hit hard as blaze destroys homes on reservation (8/25)
Hopi Tribe struggling to address high levels of arsenic in water (8/25)
Osage Nation celebrates $74M purchase of ancestral territory (8/25)
Former Navajo Nation lawmakers sentenced over fund misuse (8/25)
Ute Tribe remains busy in court with appeal in contract dispute (8/25)
Mashpee Wampanoag Tribe hails bid to reconsider casino ruling (8/25)
Twenty-Nine Palms Band considers expansion project at casino (8/25)
Grand Traverse Band shares gaming funds with local community (8/25)
Standing Rock Sioux Tribe sees strong support at pipeline hearing (8/24)
Judge takes aim at Ute Tribe after being kicked off sovereignty suit (8/24)
Lakota Country Times: County seeks compensation for trust lands (8/24)
Native Sun News: Sage remains a special plant for Native peoples (8/24)
Jim Kent: Republicans in South Dakota whine about Black Elk Peak (8/24)
Matthew Fletcher: The Supreme Court and Indian Child Welfare Act (8/24)
Kayla DeVault: Navajo Nation must take a stand on Dakota Access (8/24)
Meskwaki author Ray Young Bear wins award for poetry collection (8/24)
Puyallup Tribe acquires golf course within reservation boundaries (8/24)
Pauma Band might finally see $33.6M payment from gaming case (8/24)
Oneida Nation sends even more gaming revenues to communities (8/24)
Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe seeks prayers ahead of pipeline hearing (8/23)
Second run scheduled to raise awareness of Gold King Mine disaster (8/23)
U.S. Sentencing Commission continues work of tribal advisory group (8/23)
Chemehuevi Tribe wins decision barring county from citing members (8/23)
Lakota Country Times: Oglala Sioux Tribe joins fight against pipeline (8/23)
Native Sun News: Mario Gonzales moves from ball court to law court (8/23)
Brandon Ecoffey: The Horse Nations prepare for battle over pipeline (8/23)
Steven Newcomb: Standing Rock Sioux Tribe challenges domination (8/23)
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.