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
Indian Law Online Master Degree
Advertise on Indianz.Com
Home > News > Headlines

printer friendly version
Inouye criticizes attempts to change trust relationship
Wednesday, March 3, 2004

Tribes should be wary of proposals that aim to redefine the federal government's trust responsibilities, a leading Indian Country advocate said last week.

In a speech to the National Congress of American Indians, Sen. Daniel Inouye (D-Hawaii) warned of a "very fancy deal" being advanced by the Bush administration. "When you hear it for the first time you're gonna say, 'My that's great,'" he said.

Inouye, who is stepping down as vice-chairman of the Senate Indian Affairs Committee later this year, was referring to efforts to develop individual agreements for every tribe. He said it was natural for every sovereign tribe to think of its relationship with the federal government as unique.

"You're proud of your sovereignty," he told tribal leaders. "Why not have the U.S. government have 556 separate agreements?"

But he said the the proposal would create inequities in Indian Country. Tribes with great resources would hire lobbyists and lawyers to create the best deal for them, he said, leaving behind others that are not so fortunate.

"But they are your brothers and sisters, and they have no resources to hire these expensive lawyers to negotiate for them," Inouye said.

The World War II combat veteran and third senior-most member in the Senate also warned that the government would engage in a divide-and-conquer strategy. He said officials would "pick the weakest tribe, run all over them and make a deal with them. And that will be the standard for the rest of Indian Country."

"Now if they dealt with the most powerful and the wealthiest Indian nation and came up with one agreement that's good, then they can make that the standard for everyone else," he continued. "But you know very well it's not going to happen that way. Your people have dealt with the government of the U.S. long enough."

"Watch out for that one. It sounds good but it's got a lot of danger in that," he concluded.

The proposal has come up as Congress debates how to fix the trust system but also for the federal recognition of various tribes and Native Hawaiians. In testimony to Congress, government officials, Interior Secretary Gale Norton, have said a so-called "trust instrument" would clarify the federal government's responsibilities to a particular tribe, as well as address other issues including jurisdiction, taxation and land use.

The idea has its roots in something tribal leaders advanced during talks with federal officials in 2002. At the time, tribes sought a "restatement" of the trust responsibility in order to clarify questions that arose in two U.S. Supreme Court cases.

But the tribal proposal differed in a significant ways from what is now being advanced by the administration. Tribes based their idea on the common law of trust that has been affirmed in various court decisions, including one of the Supreme Court cases at issue. Tribes also envisioned a single standard.

In contrast, government officials say they will only look to the common law if nothing else exists. A trust instrument for each tribe, if successful, would end up supplanting the common law.

The restatement proposal was the breaking point in talks between tribes and the government. Administration officials, particularly those at the Department of Justice, rejected it because tribes sought to make all the trust duties legally enforceable.

During the Clinton administration, the Department of Interior developed a set of trust principles based on the common law. But none are encoded in law.

The extent of the government's trust duties will heat up again this year as the Bush administration turns to Congress for help in resolving the Cobell lawsuit over Individual Indian Money (IIM) accounts. In budget documents and in public statements, Interior officials say Congress will have to fashion a solution because a federal judge has ordered an accounting of IIM assets that they claim will cost upwards of $12 billionn.

Over the objections of the Cobell plaintiffs, tribes and a number of lawmakers, Republicans inserted a provision to delay the accounting. The "time out" will expire by the end of this year.

The plaintiffs and Interior officials are currently in talks about potential mediation of the long-running case.

Relevant Links:
Indian Trust: Cobell v. Norton - http://www.indiantrust.com
Indian Trust, Department of Interior - http://www.doi.gov/indiantrust

Related Stories:
Editorial: Reform DOI, not the trust responsibility (11/26)
Tribes and Bush administration still apart on trust (11/20)
GOP votes in House beat challenges to trust fund rider (10/31)
Court opens window for Navajo Nation trust suit (10/27)
Judge advances suit over royalty mismanagement (10/03)
Osage Nation trust suit survives first test (07/31)
Court opens window for Navajo Nation trust suit (10/27)
Cobell sees positive in Supreme Court rulings (03/17)
Effects of Supreme Court decision debated (03/07)
Supreme Court upholds common law trust claim (3/5)
High court ruling makes 'passive' trustee of U.S. (3/5)
A mixed bag for Indian trust (3/5)
Swimmer can't recall Navajo involvement (02/13)
Panel predicts Apache victory (12/4)

Copyright 2000-2004 Indianz.Com
More headlines...
Stay Connected:
Local Links:
Federal Register | Indian Gaming | Jobs & Notices | In The Hoop | Message Board
Latest News:
Tim Giago: An independent candidate awakens 'Party' zombies (9/22)
Mark Trahant: Huge crowd turns out for People's Climate March (9/22)
Doug George-Kanentiio: All children are gifts from the Creator (9/22)
Native Sun News: Native women take stand against violence (9/22)
Clara Caufield: Northern Cheyenne Tribe heads into election (9/22)
Navajo Nation to announce trust fund settlement this Friday (9/22)
S.E. Ruckman: A remarkable day with arrival of Cobell checks (9/22)
Jon Tester: Bill protects Special Diabetes Program for Indians (9/22)
Ron Allen: Jamestown S'Klallam Tribe keeps workers engaged (9/22)
Dante Desiderio: Working together to address tribal tax issue (9/22)
Vena A-dae Romero: Asserting sovereignty through our food (9/22)
Mark Rogers: Leadership in Native America is at a crossroads (9/22)
Dave Lundgren: BIA must take a closer look at rights-of-way (9/22)
Peter d'Errico: Video uses humor to battle racist NFL mascot (9/22)
Opinion: Racist sports mascots preserve 'imaginary' Indians (9/22)
Justice Sotomayor studied Indian law after joining top court (9/22)
House subcommittee holds hearing on bill for Hualapai Tribe (9/22)
Colville Tribes participate in repatriation ceremony in Canada (9/22)
Shinnecock Nation tightens regulation of tobacco businesses (9/22)
Forest County Potawatomi Tribe won't share casino revenue (9/22)
Coeur d'Alene Tribe can't offer poker games pending appeal (9/22)
Lytton Band might purchase property next to gaming facility (9/22)
Nottawaseppi Huron Band reopens casino after electrical fire (9/22)
Guilty verdict in robbery of Saginaw Chippewa casino winner (9/22)
Editorial: Poarch Creek gaming deal deserves consideration (9/22)
Native Sun News: Tribes united against Keystone XL Pipeline (9/19)
Regina Brave: The earth that once was will soon be no more (9/19)
Chelsey Luger and Gyasi Ross: A conversation about suicide (9/19)
Cobell settlement checks being cashed across Indian Country (9/19)
Congress passes measure for tribal general welfare programs (9/19)
Native Sun News: US Senate candidates debate Native issues (9/18)
Cobell settlement checks landing in Indian Country mailboxes (9/18)
Sen. Walsh welcomes arrival of last Cobell settlement payout (9/18)
Rep. Daines praises House action on tribal general welfare bill (9/18)
Winnebago attorney joins BIA as a deputy assistant secretary (9/18)
NWIFC schedules briefing on 'Treaty Rights 101' on Capitol Hill (9/18)
Norbert Hill: It's past time to drop the Washington NFL mascot (9/18)
Peter d'Errico: Connecting mascots to racism and termination (9/18)
Opinion: Eliminating NFL team's racist mascot is just the start (9/18)
Student newspaper punished over refusal to print the R-word (9/18)
Officer investigated for 'drunk uneducated animals' comment (9/18)
9th Circuit rules against Chemehuevi Tribe in land deed case (9/18)
Mashable: Oglala Sioux man still pushing MazaCoin currency (9/18)
City won't allow vote on Tohono O'odham Nation casino plan (9/18)
9th Circuit poses tough questions in Big Lagoon casino case (9/18)
North Fork Rancheria banks on voter approval of casino deal (9/18)
KBIC judge dismisses lawsuit challenging plan for new casino (9/18)
Oneida Nation concerned about location of commercial casino (9/18)
Mashantucket Tribe's gaming executive to resign next month (9/18)
Column: Time for Mohegan Tribe to show its hand over casino (9/18)
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.