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

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 - http://www.osagetribe.com

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:
Tribes rest easy as Supreme Court wraps up a surprising session (6/24)
Tribes in northern California take action to protect salmon runs (6/24)
Aaron Payment re-elected as chairman of Sault Ste. Marie Tribe (6/24)
Gun Lake Tribe hosts annual Sweet Grass Moon Powwow in July (6/24)
Native Sun News: First Native hockey referee 'Butchy' passes on (6/24)
Delphine Red Shirt: Lakota people denied voting rights on our land (6/24)
Ruth Hopkins: Saving sacred Bear Butte from a massive biker bar (6/24)
Terese Mailhot: Becoming a better ally after the Orlando shooting (6/24)
April Youpee-Roll: Elizabeth Warren owes more to Indian Country (6/24)
Another land-into-trust fix reportedly being drafted in the Senate (6/24)
Federal charges filed in kidnapping of girl on Fort Peck Reservation (6/24)
Non-Indian charged for trespassing at Nambe Pueblo in New Mexico (6/24)
St. Croix Chippewa Tribe warned not to launch marijuana operation (6/24)
Eastern Shawnee Tribe breaks ground on $34M expansion at casino (6/24)
Non-Indian gaming firm loses challenge to law for new tribal casino (6/24)
Grand Ronde Tribes to finish demolition work at site of old racetrack (6/24)
Supreme Court deadlocks in closely-watched tribal jurisdiction case (6/23)
Matthew Fletcher: 'Huge win' for Mississippi Choctaw court system (6/23)
Native American Basketball Invitational draws top talent to Arizona (6/23)
Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe almost done with long-awaited theater (6/23)
Susanville Rancheria thanks lawmakers for help with land-into-trust (6/23)
Senate Committee on Indian Affairs schedules hearing on three bills (6/23)
Supreme Court backs affirmative action policy in long-running case (6/23)
Native Sun News: Senate committee takes on Indian Health Service (6/23)
Mark Trahant: A Republican plan to terminate Indian Health Service (6/23)
James Giago Davies: Welfare for corporations but nothing for tribes (6/23)
Peter d'Errico: Justice Clarence Thomas critiques federal Indian law (6/23)
Two charged for beating and setting woman from Crow Tribe on fire (6/23)
White House defends fracking regulation imposed on Indian lands (6/23)
Mescalero Apache woman hosts fundraiser for Miss United States (6/23)
Standing Rock Sioux Tribe to collect sales tax on entire reservation (6/23)
Seneca-Cayuga Nation ordered to conduct another council election (6/23)
Poarch Creek land-into-trust bill could help casino effort in Florida (6/23)
Cherokee Nation enters deal to run commercial casino in Arkansas (6/23)
Tohono O'odham Nation told to turn over casino-related documents (6/23)
Senate Indian Affairs Committee debates marijuana & sovereignty (6/22)
Major trust reform bill supported by Indian Country signed into law (6/22)
President Obama signs land-into-trust bill for Susanville Rancheria (6/22)
Chairman Jim Boyd from Colville Tribes passes away at age of 60 (6/22)
Tribes take more control of their land with HEARTH Act regulations (6/22)
Shakopee Mdewakanton Sioux Community adds another 128 acres (6/22)
Lakota Country Times: Pine Ridge Reservation graduates celebrate (6/22)
Native Sun News: Year of Reconciliation sees another anniversary (6/22)
Former Fond du Lac Band chairman Peter Defoe passes on at 77 (6/22)
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.