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
Kill The Tobacco Master Settlement Agreement
Advertise on Indianz.Com
Home > News > Headlines

Printer friendly version
Conference offers avenues to uphold trust relationship
TUESDAY, APRIL 15, 2003

Tribal governments shouldn't rely on the courts to reinforce the federal trust relationship, Indian law practitioners advised at a conference last week.

Tribes can't depend on the Supreme Court because it has become increasingly negative to their rights, experts said at the Federal Bar Association's annual Indian law gathering in Albuquerque, New Mexico. In the last 20 years, tribes have lost 80 percent of the cases before the high court, according to one recent study.

"Court decisions seem to be shaping the trust doctrine on ad-hoc basis," said Jeanette Wolfley, an attorney for the Shoshone-Bannock Tribes of Idaho(*).

Rather than allow the trend to continue, Wolfley offered another avenue: the executive branch. She cited two presidential executive orders, signed during the Clinton administration, that require consultation with tribal governments and set the framework for individualized federal-tribal agreements.

"It is a way," she told attendees, "of helping to resolve some of the trust failings of the agencies."

That isn't the only option available, noted Reid Peyton Chamber, a former government official now in private practice. Although he just argued a case before the Supreme Court -- last month's Inyo County v. Bishop Paiute Tribe -- he said Congress is the best bet for success.

"I think we need to go with our strongest suit," he said, citing a host of federal laws that have reinforced tribal rights and ongoing work to address recent negative court rulings.

Not everyone is willing to cut the court system out of the process. Nearly 20 tribes around the country have filed breach of trust claims, citing mishandling of their assets.

John Berrey, chairman of the Quapaw Tribe of Oklahoma, said his case establishes a $100 billion liability on the government. "My tribe has the largest Superfund site in the United States on its tribal land as a result of the Department of Interior's mismanagement of our natural resources," he told the conference.

But as a member of a tribal-federal committee that looked at the way several Interior agencies carry out their trust responsibilities, he advocated reform within the department to address long-standing problems. "The bad news is that they do a terrible job," but the good news is that the system can be fixed, he argued.

Keith Harper, a Native American Rights Fund (NARF) attorney representing 500,000 individual Indians in the landmark Cobell case, outlined a two-pronged approach. First, he called on a federal judge to take over the Individual Indian Money (IIM) trust, worth $300 million to $500 million in annual assets, until it is fixed.

Second, he said, Congress should enact legislation to develop trust standards, clarify a right to sue for breach of trust and create an independent oversight commission. Tribes asked for all three during talks with the Bush administration but were rebuffed.

"It's very unlikely" that the legislation would pass, he said. "If you need the Department of Interior's consent, it will not happen."

Kevin Gover, who served as assistant secretary for Indian affairs during the last three years of the Clinton administration, said current plans to reorganize the Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA) and the Office of Special Trustee (OST) are misguided. "I don't think the new administration is on the right track," he told attendees.

However, he too agreed that the BIA is the "only" agency that can reform itself -- as long as it has support from the legislative branch. "Congress is really the only one who can make change," he said.

*Ed. Note: Jeanette Wolfley is an attorney for the Shoshone-Bannock Tribes, not the Nez Perce Tribe as was previously stated.

Relevant Links:
Indian Trust, Department of Interior - http://www.doi.gov/indiantrust
Indian Trust: Cobell v. Norton - http://www.indiantrust.com
Cobell v. Norton, Department of Justice - http://www.usdoj.gov/civil/cases/cobell/index.htm
Trust Reform, NCAI - http://www.ncai.org/main/pages/
issues/other_issues/trust_reform.asp

Related Stories:
Indian Country takes on trust relationship debate (04/08)
Cobell sees positive in Supreme Court rulings (03/17)
Bush reorganization faces more obstacles (03/14)
Educators opposing BIA plans (3/11)
Norton says trust forced 'tough choices' in budget (02/12)
New Bush budget aims to improve trust fund (02/04)
McCain asked to halt BIA reorganization (01/16)
McCaleb approved reorganization in Nov. (1/13)
Tribes weigh reform plan response (1/13)
Additional DOI documents filed on Jan. 6 (1/10)
Treasury won't file trust reform plan (1/9)
Standards guide reform effort (1/8)
What happened to all the land? (1/8)
Congressman accuses Norton of 'stealth' moves (1/8)
Sioux chairman calls BIA talks a 'sham' (1/8)
Cobell trust reform plans filed (1/7)
Norton to fight IIM accounting (1/7)
DOI complains about consultation (1/7)
Swimmer picked as Indian trustee (1/6)
Norton won't account for assets (1/6)
McCaleb learned about trust 'on the job' (12/23)
Tribes furious with Interior's reform push (12/20)
Deadline approaches on plans (12/19)
Tribes opposing BIA proposal (12/18)
'This is not son of BITAM' (12/17)
Tribes debate future of talks (12/17)

Copyright © 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: EPA hears Native views about uranium mining (5/27)
Renae Yellowhorse: Navajo Nation can't cede power to outsiders (5/27)
Donna Loring: Politicians circle the wagons around Maine tribes (5/27)
David Treuer: Andrew Jackson turned on Cherokee Nation allies (5/27)
NCAI responds to criticism from Rep. Young on land-into-trust (5/27)
Lawsuit challenges constitutionality of Indian Child Welfare Act (5/27)
Hopi Tribe seeks to prevent auction of sacred property in France (5/27)
Menominee Nation school sees dramatic rise in graduation rate (5/27)
Poarch Creeks planning family-friendly entertainment at project (5/27)
Coquille Tribe names executive at economic development entity (5/27)
Cherokee law students eager for summer work on Indian issues (5/27)
USDA sends $125K to Indian economic development corporation (5/27)
County by Pine Ridge Reservation receives justice service grant (5/27)
Rep. Ann Kirkpatrick to challenge Sen. John McCain in 2016 race (5/27)
Law Article: Indian inmate wins religious rights suit in Wisconsin (5/27)
Alaska Native corporation holds election for five seats on board (5/27)
Blood Tribe combats rise in abuse of extremely dangerous drug (5/27)
Supreme Court won't hear challenge to Graton Rancheria casino (5/27)
Kialegee Tribal Town given extension to respond in gaming case (5/27)
Quapaw Tribe looks to dispel concerns about casino in Arkansas (5/27)
Pokagon Band faces hurdles in plan to develop casino in Indiana (5/27)
California tribes still divided over efforts to legalize online poker (5/27)
Native Sun News: Northern Cheyenne Tribe tackles school truancy (5/26)
Mark Trahant: Native village secures return of ancestral territory (5/26)
Secretary Jewell leads delegation to Indian school in Oklahoma (5/26)
Updated witness list for SCIA hearing on economic development (5/26)
Senate Indian Affairs Committee schedules meeting and hearing (5/26)
Mary Ann Andreas: Candidates must keep informed about tribes (5/26)
Steve Russell: National sovereignty cannot cloak all evil conduct (5/26)
Gabriel Galanda: The tide is turning against tribal disenrollments (5/26)
Vince Two Eagles: Summertime means powwows and Sundances (5/26)
Boyd Cothran: America moves from Civil War to the Indian Wars (5/26)
Vivian Delgado: Native college graduates mark a rite of passage (5/26)
Blackfeet Nation adds 162 names to Montana veterans memorial (5/26)
Native women compete in first Miss Indigenous Ecuador contest (5/26)
Lower Brule Sioux Tribe asks BIA to inspect financial documents (5/26)
Maine tribes hold rally after withdrawing from state Legislature (5/26)
Chemehuevi Tribe to reopen elementary school on reservation (5/26)
Arguments heard in lawsuit over federal judge's racist e-mails (5/26)
Appropriations bill allows VA hospitals to recommend marijuana (5/26)
Editorial: Navajo Nation leader makes right call on Grand Canyon (5/26)
Opinion: Andrew Jackson led horrifying campaigns against tribes (5/26)
Cayuga Nation Leaders: Tribe hasn't authorized gaming facilities (5/26)
Pair last seen at San Pasqual casino found on nearby reservation (5/26)
Chukchansi Tribe remains in talks with NIGC for casino reopening (5/26)
Pala Band finishes $5.7M casino renovation in just a few months (5/26)
Leader of Sandia Pueblo accused of preventing arrest at casino (5/26)
Tim Giago: Boot camp etched forever into the minds of veterans (5/25)
Native Sun News: Newspaper comes home with 14 media awards (5/25)
Gyasi Ross: Martin Sensmeier lands role in major Hollywood film (5/25)
Andre Cramblit: Let's see some real Indian actors on the screen (5/25)
Steven Newcomb: U.S. perpetuates dominance over our nations (5/25)
Valerie Goodness: Don't ignore indigenous ecological knowledge (5/25)
Peter d'Errico: Lawmakers kill bill for indigenous rights in Canada (5/25)
Matthew Scraper: ICWA opponents wrong to cite blood quantum (5/25)
Judge at center of ICWA lawsuit in South Dakota stripped of title (5/25)
Native Sun News: Northern Cheyenne student receives top honor (5/22)
Lakota Country Times: Newspaper takes home a slew of awards (5/22)
James Davies: The new tactic is to pretend racism doesn't exist (5/22)
Thomas O'Rourke: Yurok Tribe is a leader in forest restoration (5/22)
Terese Marie Mailhot: Message to all young Native Americans (5/22)
Matt Remle: Tribal nations take a stand to protect Turtle Island (5/22)
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.