your internet resource on facebook on twitter on Google+ on soundcloud
phone: 202 630 8439
Health Coverage for American Indians and Alaska Natives
Advertise on Indianz.Com
Home > News > Headlines

printer friendly version
Osage Nation trust suit survives first test
Thursday, July 31, 2003

A federal judge on Monday cleared the way for the Osage Nation of Oklahoma to pursue its $2.5 billion royalty mismanagement claim against the United States.

In a ruling with implications for other tribes, Judge Emily C. Hewitt of the U.S. Court of Claims said "all funds" belonging to the Osage tribe are held in trust. Government attorneys raised statute of limitation defenses and argued that the tribe couldn't represent the interests of tribal members who ultimately received the oil royalties.

"The responsibility of the government is to the tribal trust fund account," Hewitt wrote in the 10-page decision.

The Osage trust is unique in Indian Country because Congress passed a specific law creating the trust. Under the 1906 act, royalties from the tribe's mineral reservation are passed onto "headright" owners.

But the department's administration of the trust is common to other tribes. The funds are held in an account that the government is charged with managing.

And like other tribes, the Osage Nation received a reconciliation from Arthur Andersen, whose accounting business was disbanded after the firm was convicted of one count of obstruction of justice. Although the General Accounting Office (GAO) has cited numerous problems with the effort -- noting that a complete historical accounting is "impossible" -- the Bush administration takes the position that the reports constitute a type of accounting.

Hewitt did not rule that the Osage report is or isn't an accounting. But she rejected the government's argument that the tribe filed its case too late to seek an historical accounting back to 1906. Congress, she noted, has passed laws that give tribes more time to pursue breach of trust claims.

The Osage case was filed in March 2000, well within the 1999 date that has been imposed by legislation introduced by Sen. Ben Nighthorse Campbell (R-Colo.) and signed into law by President Bush. The bill was written in response to concerns by tribes that their Arthur Andersen reports would be used against them in court.

The Department of Justice has lived up to those fears, arguing that the standard six-year statute of limitations starts ticking when a tribe received its report. For example, since the Osage Nation received its report in 1996, the government first subtracts six years to hit 1990 then another six because the 1990 Department of Interior appropriations act includes language that helps tribes.

The government then asserts that all historical accounting claims prior to October 1, 1984, are time-barred. This is the same date that was cited in the the Cobell case, which concerns individual trust funds.

But so far, judges in the federal district court and the claims court have not been receptive to this line of thought, establishing precedents that are already being applied in trust cases. Hewitt, for example, referred to a decision in the Eastern Shoshone Tribe's case that rejected the government's statute of limitations defenses.

Campbell's legislation, enacted into law in March 2002, gives tribes until 2005 to file mismanagement suits. It encourages settlement of tribal claims.

For individual Indians, the government has never provided any type of reconciliation or accounting. In the Cobell case, U.S. District Judge Royce Lamberth has ruled that the statute of limitations doesn't start ticking until an accounting is provided, or until the government repudiates the trust.

Arthur Andersen was paid $12 million for its reconciliation project, which only looked at transactions from 1972 to 1992. The firm found that $2.4 billion was unsupported by any type of documentation whatsoever. This represented 14 percent of the total value of the transactions examined. An undisclosed dollar amount of transactions were never looked at.

Arthur Andersen's report to the Osage Nation stated that the tribe was not paid at least $791,046.37. The tribe alleges the actual figure owed is at least $2.5 billion.

Get the Decision:
Osage Nation v. U.S. (July 28, 2003)

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

Relevant Links:
Osage Nation -

Related Stories:
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 2000-2003 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:
Native Sun News: Tribal member speaks out against fracking (11/27)
Lakota Country Times: Rosebud mothers address meth issues (11/27)
Tim Giago: Walk a mile in the moccasins of Native Americans (11/27)
Vince Two Eagles: Focus on being thankful this holiday season (11/27)
Native Sun News: Keystone fighters celebrate permit's defeat (11/27)
Steven Newcomb: Even media treats our nations as 'nothing' (11/27)
Ray Cook: Thanksgiving flies in the face of original Americans (11/27)
Terese Mailhot: Racism prevails in American popular culture (11/27)
Ilya Somin: Persistent 'myth' justified taking of Indian lands (11/27)
Ak-Chin Indian Community sued for same-sex marriage ban (11/27)
Cahuilla Band celebrates new travel center at gaming facility (11/27)
Opinion: Don't break promise to Mashpee Wampanoag Tribe (11/27)
Native Sun News: Family questions FBI on reservation death (11/25)
Lakota Country Times: Rosebud students earn top scholarship (11/25)
Brandon Ecoffey: Making a difference for people on Pine Ridge (11/25)
Yurok Tribe: Mourning the passing of 'visionary' Troy Fletcher (11/25)
Ned Blackhawk: Supreme Court case jeopardizes tribal rights (11/25)
Steve Russell: The real origins of the world's terrorism crisis (11/25)
Ramona Peters: Sharing a Wampanoag story of Thanksgiving (11/25)
Yatibaey Evans: Let's all teach the truth about Native history (11/25)
Martie Simmons: Every Native parent dreads this time of year (11/25)
Eric Metaxas: The 'miracle' of Squanto and first Thanksgiving (11/25)
Presidential Medal of Freedom presented to late Billy Frank Jr (11/25)
Oneida Nation opens first branch location of tribal-owned bank (11/25)
Virginia tribes continue to pay tribute required by 1677 treaty (11/25)
Chukchansi Tribe reaches new agreement for shuttered casino (11/25)
Poarch Band to welcome visitors to $65M expansion at casino (11/25)
Stillaguamish Tribe debuts eatery and microbrewery at casino (11/25)
Connecticut tribes consider proposals for third gaming facilty (11/25)
Mark Pilarski: Why are games different at some tribal casinos? (11/25)
Tribes seek support for Native language instruction programs (11/24)
Rep. Mullin confirms divisions in Indian Country on Carcieri fix (11/24)
President Obama to award Medal of Freedom to Billy Frank Jr. (11/24)
Sault Tribe pushes for passage of Tribal Labor Sovereignty Act (11/24)
Lakota Country Times: Charles Trimble recognized for writings (11/24)
Native Sun News Editorial: Some new names in Indian Country (11/24)
Jim Kent: South Dakota lands in the news again for corruption (11/24)
John Yellowbird Steele: Bill tries to hijack recognition process (11/24)
Albert Bender: 'The Green Inferno' hits new low in racist films (11/24)
Peter d'Errico: Anti-Indian wars continue in US Supreme Court (11/24)
Anne Keala Kelly: US government wants to steal Hawaii again (11/24)
Counties ask Supreme Court to hear Ute Tribe boundary case (11/24)
Shinnecock Nation considers entering medical marijuana field (11/24)
USDA policy eases return of traditional food to tribal facilities (11/24)
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.