Law | Trust

Judge issues decisions in two Quapaw breach of trust cases





Judge Thomas Wheeler of the U.S. Court of Federal Claims issued decisions in two breach of trust lawsuits involving the Quapaw Tribe of Oklahoma.

Wheeler dismissed two of three major claims in the case that was filed by the tribe. He ruled that the tribe waited too long to sue over a 40-acre parcel that was transferred to the Catholic Church in 1908.

"At that point, plaintiff knew or should have known that it had been divested of the land, thereby triggering the statute of limitations on their claim," Wheeler wrote. The land was placed back in trust in the 1980s but the tribe didn't raise the issue until September 2012, he added.

On another claim, Wheeler said the tribe waited too long to sue over the mismanagement of its natural resources. The reservation is home to the Tar Creek Superfund site, where millions of tons of mine waste remain.

"Plaintiff has been aware of the degradation and the absence of leases on the land since at least 1983, when the land was designated as the Tar Creek Superfund Site," Wheeler wrote.

The one major claim that was left intact was the one regarding a historical accounting. As part of a settlement with the Bush administration in 2004, the tribe prepared an analysis of its trust funds and Wheeler refused to dismiss the matter.

"The final accounting process would surely be a hollow exercise if the government could obtain a dismissal of trust fund loss claims merely by demonstrating that it has no records of funds the government itself was entrusted to deposit and maintain for the benefit of the tribe," Wheeler wrote.

The second case was filed by individual members of the tribe. Wheeler dismissed one claim affecting mismanagement of trust assets and another one involving the Cobell settlement but left intact most of the other claims in the suit.

Turtle Talk has posted documents from Quapaw Tribe v. US and Goodeagle v. US.

Get the Story:
Claims Over Superfund Tribal Land Deemed Late (Courthouse News Service 7/18)

Court of Claims Decisions:
Quapaw Tribe v. US (July 16, 2013)
Goodeagle v. US (July 16, 2013)

Relevant Documents:
DRAFT: Quapaw-DOI Settlement (December 2003)

Related Stories:
Quapaw Tribe expects long fight on trust management case (04/02)
Quapaw Tribe seeks $175M in trust mismanagement lawsuit (3/26)
House approves bill to help Quapaw Tribe resolve trust dispute (12/20)
Quapaw Tribe seeks help from Congress in settling trust lawsuit (6/1)