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
Master of Jurisprudence in Indian Law - University of Tulsa College of Law
Advertise on Indianz.Com
Home > News > Headlines

printer friendly version
Rider halts court decision won by Indian account holders
Friday, October 24, 2003

In yet another attack on the Cobell v. Norton lawsuit, Congressional appropriators have unveiled legislation that stops the Department of Interior from performing a court-ordered accounting of the Indian trust.

Just three months after dropping their bid to end the lawsuit, a group of lawmakers is back with another attempt. Their action also comes less than a month after the plaintiffs in the landmark class action won a ruling affirming their rights to an accounting of at least $13 billion of their own money.

The new legislation, contained in the Interior's 2004 budget bill, prevents the Bush administration from abiding by that decision. It forbids the use of any federal funds to conduct the broad and far-reaching accounting dictated by U.S. District Judge Royce Lamberth until his September 25 order can be reviewed by the higher courts.

Secretary of Interior Gale Norton has not announced whether she will appeal Lamberth's ruling. At the time it was issued, a spokesperson only said the department was "reviewing the decision and the options for it."

But the rider is at odds with other legislative efforts to resolve the seven-year-old case. On Tuesday, Sens. Ben Nighthorse Campbell (R-Colo.) and Daniel Inouye (D-Hawaii), the leaders of the Senate Indian Affairs Committee introduced a bill that appropriates $40 million to clear up the balances in hundreds of thousands of Individual Indian Money (IIM) accounts. In July, Senate Minority Leader Tom Daschle (D-S.D.) proposed spending $10 billion to pay account holders.

And just last week, two of Indian Country's strongest advocates said they would oppose any rider "that would limit the full historical accounting of the individual Indian trust or otherwise diminish the rights of Indian trust beneficiaries." Reps. J.D. Hayworth (R-Ariz.) and Dale Kildee (D-Mich.), the co-chairs of the bipartisan Native American Caucus, said Lamberth's decision paved the way for a negotiated settlement.

"[I]t is now clear what the nature and scope of the IIM trust accounting is," they wrote on October 17 to the House Interior Appropriations subcommittee.

The rider, developed by that same subcommittee, undermines Indian rights and the entire judicial process, said Keith Harper, the Native American Rights Fund (NARF) lawyer handling the Cobell case. "We believe that this is unconstitutional," he said. "We would challenge it as such."

For three years in a row, the House subcommittee has drafted several anti-Cobell provisions. Some, like language allowing Interior to use taxpayer funds to pay for private law firms, have become law.

Other provisions, however, have been stripped from the Interior's budget bill in response to unanimous opposition from Indian Country and assistance by advocates in Congress. The latest was scuttled by Rep. Bill Pombo (R-Calif.), chairman of the House Resources Committee, which has jurisdiction over Indian issues.

Pombo is holding a field hearing in Billings, Montana, tomorrow on developing methods to settle the case. "If there is a legislative resolution, it will be done in this committee, and it will not be done in the appropriations committee," he declared at a Washington, D.C., hearing in July, drawing accolades from tribal leaders and the Cobell plaintiffs.

Lamberth's September 25 decision came after he heard testimony in Phase 1.5 of the case. Experts retained by the plaintiffs and the Department of Interior presented their competing strategies for clearing up the IIM account balances.

Lamberth largely sided with Interior on methodology. He said the department could move forward with its accounting plan, so long as it was completed by 2006 for most accounts and 2007 for large-dollar accounts.

But he rejected several limits the Bush administration sought to impose on the project in an effort to keep costs down. A broad accounting could end up costing as much as $2.4 billion, the Office of Historical Trust Accounting (OHTA) has estimated.

In their letter, Hayworth and Kildee said OHTA's proposed limits were "arbitrary." But to the lawmakers who control the government's purse strings, they were necessary in order to protect funding for other Indian programs.

Reps. Charles Taylor (R-N.C.) is the chairman and Norm Dicks (D-Wash.) is the ranking member of the subcommittee that puts together Interior's budget bill. They have used their positions of power to question the more than $700 million that Interior has spent on trust reform, and their latest rider was developed as part of a joint House-Senate conference committee working on a final version of the $20 billion package.

The final version is not yet ready but the rider was circulated to members of Congress starting on Wednesday. It states:
That nothing in the American Indian Trust Management Reform Act of 1994, Public Law 103-412, or in any other statute, and no principle of common law shall, be construed or applied, to require the Department of the Interior to commence or continue the historical accounting ordered by the District Court in Cobell v. Norton at the conclusion of Phase 1.5 of that proceeding, until any and all appellate review of Phase 1.5 orders has been completed.

The language is attached to the section of the bill for the Office of Special Trustee (OST). OST, headed by Bush appointee Ross Swimmer, requested $130 million in fiscal year 2004 to carry out various historical accounting activities for the IIM trust and for some tribal trust accounts.

According to a Congressional aide, the rider could be stricken from the budget bill before it sees a final vote. But lawmakers could also wage a battle on the House and Senate floor to remove it.

"We believe that there are many in Congress who understand the problem with this type of deep interference with the judicial process and an attempt to legislatively limit the enforcement rights of beneficiaries," said Harper. "We think that they will fight vigorously to support Indian Country."

DOI Budget Bills:
H.R.2691 | H.Rept.108-195 | S.1391 | S.Rept.108-89

Relevant Bills:
Campbell: Indian Money Account Claim Satisfaction Act of 2003 (S.1770) | Daschle: Indian Trust Payment Equity Act of 2003 (S.1540)

Congressional Native American Caucus Letter:
J.D. Hayworth/Dale Kildee (October 17, 2003)

Court Decisions:
Historical Accounting | Fixing the System | Structural Injunction

Relevant Links:
Indian Trust: Cobell v. Norton - http://www.indiantrust.com
Cobell v. Norton, Department of Justice - http://www.usdoj.gov/civil/cases/cobell/index.htm
Indian Trust, Department of Interior - http://www.doi.gov/indiantrust

Related Stories:
Bill targets Indian trust fund suit (10/22)
House chairman supports self-governance rider (10/14)
Self-governance tribes fear impact of reorganization (10/09)
Lamberth lays out future of Indian trust reform (09/26)
Court report finds undervaluation of Navajo lands (08/21)
Administration eyes consolidation of Indian appraisals (08/15)
Tally for private attorney fees in Cobell case rises (07/24)
Congress hacks Bush's accounting funds (7/16)
Swimmer partly right on trust fund rider (7/14)
Bush official balks at large settlement for Cobell (7/10)
On trust, lawmakers take Bush officials at face value (06/25)
Private attorneys reap benefits on Cobell case (06/24)
Norton offered settlement funds for IIM trust (6/20)
Lamberth criticizes interference with trust fund case (05/22)
Bush administration turns to Congress on trust (04/04)

Copyright � 2000-2003 Indianz.Com
More headlines...
Elders of Warm Springs Tribes protest plan to close resort
The Confederated Tribes of Warm Springs are planning to close a resort on the reservation and elders aren't happy about it.
Shingle Springs Band acquires 35.9 acres for $1.2 million
The Shingle Springs Band of Miwok Indians has acquired land near its reservation in northern California.
Aquinnah Wampanoag Tribe still working on casino after court victory
The Aquinnah Wampanoag Tribe hasn't opened a casino this summer as planned but gaming is still on the agenda.
Trump administration won't commit to permanent funding for tribal water rights
A tribal water rights fund is due to run out of money but the Trump administration isn't ready to support a permanent fix.
Federal authorities seized more than $1 million in property in Winnebago raid
The economic development arm of the Winnebago Tribe stands to lose more than $1 million in property thanks to the federal government.
Navajo Nation welcomes first Indigenous attorney general of Canada
Jody Wilson-Raybould, Canada's top legal official, is meeting with her counterpart on the Navajo Nation.
Red Lake Nation voters return Darrell Seki to chairman's post
Darrell Seki, Sr. will be serving a second term as chairman of the Red Lake Nation.
Rosebud Sioux Tribe expands economic development initiatives
Tribal economic independence is the long term goal of the Rosebud Economic Development Corporation.
Ivan Star Comes Out: Native people go without justice on their own lands
Officials in South Dakota are comfortable with ignoring Indian-White relations so they can look to their future without guilt.
'I never thought I would see her again': Children reunited with migrant family
A family fleeing gang violence in Honduras was separated at the U.S. border under the Trump administration's "zero tolerance" policy.
Muckleshoot Tribe debuts marijuana outlet with drive-through window
The Muckleshoot Tribe has joined the marijuana industry with a unique retail outlet.
Monument features the first female leader of Pamunkey Tribe
Cockacoeske united her fellow Indian nations and signed a key treaty during a time of great change.
La Jolla Band adds slot machines to trading post on reservation
The La Jolla Band of Luiseno Indians is finally getting back into the tribal gaming business.
Ponca Tribe negotiates casino agreement as construction and litigation continues
The Ponca Tribe is being welcomed by the host of its casino but other neighbors are resorting to litigation.
Outlook for tribal homelands remains bleak in the Trump era
Due to litigation, the Trump administration might be forced to do something unprecedented -- take a tribe's trust land out of trust.
Mark Charles: President Trump isn't the only thing wrong with America
The truth of the matter is that is our entire American colonial empire is naked.
'Trump picks Putin over America': Native candidates slam president's remarks
One Native Republican defended Donald Trump but other Native candidates were critical of the president's remarks about Russia.
'Blatant discrimination': Native voters face barriers at ballot box
Native Americans have been "systematically denied access to fair representation" as a result of persistent barriers to voting.
Native comedian confronts audiences with jokes about genocide
A citizen of the Pawnee Nation of Oklahoma, Howie Echo-Hawk has been making people laugh all his life.
'That's a big screwup': Federal agency exposed tribal sites in drilling report
Federal officials mistakenly published confidential information about cliff dwellings, spiritual structures, rock art and other Native sites in Utah.
'A tragic mistake': President Trump faces fire for remarks on Russia
President Donald Trump sparked immediate backlash for siding with Russia. But then he said he misspoke.
Senate Committee on Indian Affairs takes up three bills at hearing
Two bills addressing water rights and a third to repeal an outdated ban on alcohol distilleries are on the agenda.
Narragansett matriarch Eleanor Spears Dove prepares for big birthday
One of the oldest living citizens of the Narragansett Tribe, Eleanor Spears Dove, turns 100 on August 1.
Native Sun News Today: County looks at fugitives in Indian Country
Authorities in South Dakota say 22 percent of active felony warrants are for fugitives on four reservations.
Leanne Betasamosake Simpson: I am not afraid to be radical
The epic nature of settler colonialism requires radical responses.
'We will be waiting': Tribes remain opposed to Keystone XL Pipeline
Construction-related activities show the Keystone XL Pipeline is closer to becoming a reality despite opposition in Indian Country.
Navajo Nation offered up to $525 million in cash for gun company
The Navajo Nation offered to pay up to $525 million in cash for the Remington gun company but the offer was rejected.
Quapaw Tribe heads to polls as chairman challenged by failed Trump nominee
The chairman of the Quapaw Tribe is up for re-election and his opponent is an unlikely one.
Lenape Tribe seeks to reclaim site of historic school in Delaware
The Lenape Indian Tribe owns just a half-care of its homelands in present-day Delaware.
Flandreau Santee Sioux Tribe secures victory over state in tax dispute
The Flandreau Santee Sioux Tribe has once again emerged victorious in a taxation dispute in South Dakota.
Cherokee Nation and Quapaw Tribe spend big on casino push in Arkansas
The Cherokee Nation and the Quapaw Tribe have spent more than $1.2 million to boost gaming efforts in Arkansas.
Cowlitz Tribe offers treatment services for gambling addiction
The Cowlitz Tribe is offering treatment for gambling addiction with funding from its casino in Washington state.
Tribes face obstacles at troubled Indian Health Service facility
Three Sioux tribes are asserting self-determination in order to take care of their own people.
Gila River Indian Community sees movement on homelands legislation
A bill to help the Gila River Indian Community protect its homelands is slated for action on Capitol Hill.
'I knew I wasn't guilty': #NoDAPL activist acquitted in North Dakota
Micah Lott was accused of trespass and rioting at Standing Rock but the case was so weak that the judge cleared him.
Haida artist Michael Nicoll Yahgulanaas invents new genre
Haida traditions are an inspiration to contemporary artist Michael Nicoll Yahgulanaas, the inventor of a new graphic genre.
'You know, Andrew Jackson': Hearing scheduled into Trump reorganization
Key lawmakers are looking into the Trump administration's controversial reorganization amid ongoing complaints in Indian Country.
Native candidate for Congress draws attention of White House
One #NativeVote18 candidate in Kansas is facing the Trump machine while another has resurfaced in New Mexico.
Navajo Nation man still missing after more than two months
Billy Nez, Jr., was last seen by his sister on April 28. He turned 50 a week later.
Republicans seek to 'modernize' federal endangered species law
'Republicans are turning their back on the most vulnerable species in the country,' an environmentalist said.
'A war on the indigenous': Albert Bender on Trump's border policies
Donald Trump's inhuman campaign at the border amounts to a war against the Native people of this hemisphere.
Red Fawn Fallis sentenced to nearly five years for #NoDAPL incident
A non-fatal gun incident will keep Dakota Access Pipeline opponent Red Fawn Fallis in federal prison.
Top police official apologizes to Aboriginal peoples for 'pain and suffering'
Law enforcement helped remove indigenous children from their homes and have contributed to high rates of indigenous imprisonment.
'On the road to recovery': Sports betting raises concerns about addiction
An estimated 9 million Americans suffer from gambling addiction.
Another tribal recognition bill advances with Republican support
With little fanfare, another tribal recognition bill is advancing as a top Republican asserts authority over the politically-complex process.
Cherokee Nation acquires historic site by Trail of Tears landmark
The Cherokee Nation is protecting a historic site from development and rebuilding its land base in Oklahoma.

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.