indianz.com your internet resource indianz.com on facebook indianz.com on twitter indianz.com on Google+
ph: 202 630 8439
Indian Law Online Master Degree - University of Tulsa College of Law
Advertise on Indianz.Com
Home > News > Headlines

Printer friendly version
Land ownership records in disarray, says witness
MONDAY, MAY 5, 2003

A full historical accounting of the Indian trust is impossible without keeping track of all the land that has fallen in and out of Indian ownership, a former Department of Interior official testified on Friday.

Paul Homan, who served as special trustee during the Clinton administration, returned to the stand for the second day of the trust fund trial. He said the Bush administration's proposal for the accounting fails to verify ownership records that are notoriously inaccurate.

"You really must start with the surveying of the land," Homan told the court.

The federal government created the Individual Indian Money (IIM) trust in 1887 by allotting tracts of land to individual tribal members. In the fifty years that followed, 90 million acres fell out of Indian hands, due to land sales, questionable deals and outright theft.

But there has never been an attempt to determine whether the 11 million acres currently held in trust for individual Indians is correct, Homan said. A huge backlog of probates, increasing fractionation and inadequate records compound the problem, he said.

"No one really knows who owns anything," he testified.

One Bureau of Indian Affairs system, Homan recalled of his tenure in government, showed that an Indian beneficiary in Montana owned just one tract of land. But another system showed the same person owning dozens more and no attempt was made to reconcile the difference, he said.

The dismal state of affairs that Homan depicted prompted U.S. District Judge Royce Lamberth to make an inquiry of the Department of Justice. "If I could find out how [the land] is listed today," he stated, "that would tell me if anything has happened in the last six years."

In January, Secretary of Interior Gale Norton submitted an historical accounting plan for the IIM trust that would take five years to complete and cost an estimated $335 million. It would combine a transaction-by-transaction analysis with statistical sampling to examine the money in each account going as far back as 1938.

But Norton's Office of Historical Trust Accounting (OHTA) doesn't intent to examine the land -- or corpus -- of the trust.

"It does not go back to inception and it doesn't go back to the corpus," said Homan.

The plaintiffs have proposed an alternate accounting plan that employs a computer-based Geographic Information System (GIS) to map Indian lands. They want the court to use this model to determine the extent of historical land sales. About 40 million acres of individually-held land is unaccounted for, they believe.

The BIA has more than 60 different land ownership systems, according to the Department of Interior's recent "as-is" study. Some are paper-based while others are computer-based. Each was developed independently, often to meet the needs of a particular tribe or reservation.

The Trust Asset and Accounting Management System (TAAMS) was designed to replace these "legacy" systems but it has been deemed a failure.

Homan is to return to the stand today to wrap up his testimony for the plaintiffs. He will then be cross-examined by the Department of Justice.

Homan was appointed by President Clinton to serve as the first special trustee, a post created by Congress in the wake of reports and investigations that documented widespread trust management failures at the Interior. He resigned in 1999 after tussling with then-Secretary Bruce Babbitt over the direction of trust reform.

His replacement, Tom Slonaker, joined the Interior in June 2000 and was forced out last July after disagreeing with the Bush administration on a number of issues, including the historical accounting. He testified for the plaintiffs in Norton's contempt trial but is not slated to appear for this trial.

Relevant Documents:
DOI: Historical Accounting Plan | DOI: Fiduciary Obligations Compliance Plan | Plaintiffs: Remedial Plan | Plaintiffs: Reform Order

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:
Norton given 'flunking grade' on trust reform (5/4)
Cobell launches next phase of trust case (5/1)
Judge affirms full IIM accounting (4/29)
Court hears Norton's trust fund appeal (4/25)
Activity in Cobell case keeps everyone busy (4/23)
DOI concealed TAAMS problems from court (4/22)
On trust reform, BIA and OST battled till the end (4/22)
Norton gets another day in court (4/21)
Bush administration turns to Congress on trust (04/04)
Judge authorizes release of trust fund report (03/26)
Appropriators question historical accounting plan (03/13)
On accounting, Norton find her magic date (03/12)
Pressure stirs to settle trust fund lawsuit (02/27)
Spending bill keeps provisions affecting Cobell (02/14)
Norton's plan faces court scrutiny (1/27)
Tribes debate response to trust reform plans (01/13)
Trust programs see historic increase (2/4)
Standards guide reform effort (1/8)
What happened to all the land? (1/8)
Cobell trust reform plans filed (1/7)
Norton to fight IIM accounting (1/7)
Norton won't account for assets (1/6)
Lamberth slams claimed accounting (12/23)
Tribes opposing trust fund settlement bill (11/13)
Judge rejects Norton's 'absurd' accounting claim (09/23)
Funding battle underlies trust obligations (7/19)
Interior budget bill generates strong debate (7/17)
Opposition to trust fund bill mounts (7/15)
Norton delivers accounting plan (7/5)
House bill cuts trust fund accounting (6/28)

Copyright © Indianz.Com
More headlines...
Stay Connected:

Local Links:
Federal Register | Indian Gaming | Jobs & Notices | In The Hoop | Message Board
Latest News:
White House to host first-ever Native youth conference on July 9 (4/24)
Native Sun News: Northern Cheyenne Tribe fires casino manager (4/24)
Lakota Country Times: Timothy Standing Soldier passes on at 54 (4/24)
Mark Trahant: Invest in our Native youth for long-term success (4/24)
James Giago Davies: True believerism and comic book solutions (4/24)
Brandon Ecoffey: Oglala Sioux Tribe must act on legal marijuana (4/24)
Ed Rice: Cleveland team comes up with excuse for racist mascot (4/24)
White House Blog: Recognizing tribal Climate Action Champions (4/24)
House subcommittee looks at poor conditions at Indian schools (4/24)
Navajo actress was put in darker makeup for Adam Sandler film (4/24)
Eastern Cherokee group plans lawsuit over tribal council raises (4/24)
Column: Commission takes on truth and reconciliation in Maine (4/24)
Senate votes to confirm Loretta Lynch as next attorney general (4/24)
ICT interview with confirmed NIGC Chairman Jonodev Chaudhuri (4/24)
Dave Palermo: Tribes in California assert right to Internet poker (4/24)
Pokagon Band casino remains a concern for Indiana lawmakers (4/24)
Pojoaque Pueblo places casino manager on administrative leave (4/24)
White Earth Nation promotes tribal members in casino positions (4/24)
Native Sun News: Oglala Sioux student vies for Miss Indian World (4/23)
Lakota Country Times: Tribal citizens named to education board (4/23)
Ivan Star: Struggling with the warrior heritage in Indian Country (4/23)
Dana Lone Elk: Lakota people still carry on fight of Crazy Horse (4/23)
Senate Indian Affairs Committee passes bill to renew NAHASDA (4/23)
BIA faces fire over latest reforms to federal recognition process (4/23)
Opinion: First Lady brings truth with remarks about Native youth (4/23)
Incoming leader of Navajo Nation stresses importance of youth (4/23)
Native actors storm off set of Adam Sandler film in New Mexico (4/23)
Marijuana seen as new frontier in tribal economic development (4/23)
Senate approves anti-trafficking measure with tribal provisions (4/23)
Interview with Gyasi Ross about spoken word release Isskootsik (4/23)
Blackfeet Nation launches campaign to ban drilling at sacred site (4/23)
Cherokee Nation celebrates births of first calves from bison herd (4/23)
Burns Paiute Tribe investigates fire that destroyed two bulidings (4/23)
Kaibab Paiute Tribe welcomes designation as 1st dark sky nation (4/23)
University of Minnesota sees surge in Native student enrollment (4/23)
Editorial: Minnesota tribes work together to address treaty rights (4/23)
Editorial: Maine governor fails to treat sovereign tribes as equals (4/23)
Brazil to host inaugural World Indigenous Games this September (4/23)
Prairie Band Potawatomi Nation probes woman's death at casino (4/23)
Tohono O'odham Nation vows defense for off-reservation casino (4/23)
Seminole Tribe talks with lawmakers about Class III casino deal (4/23)
Editorial: State needs assurances from Quapaw Tribe on gaming (4/23)
Native Sun News: Tribes take DOI to task over grizzly bear policy (4/22)
Native Sun News: Lakota rodeo legend Howard Hunter passes on (4/22)
Bill John Baker: Cherokee Nation language programs are working (4/22)
White House Blog: Improving the lives of Native American youth (4/22)
Bob Gough: Indigenous people most affected by climate change (4/22)
Duane Champagne: Indigenous accommodation for colonialism (4/22)
Audio from Senate Indian Affairs Committee on transportation (4/22)
Navajo Nation voters choose Russell Begaye as next president (4/22)
Appeals court sides with Indian inmate in religious rights case (4/22)
Kashia Band interested in timber not marijuana on new lands (4/22)
Kaw Nation to return to ancestral land in Kansas for ceremony (4/22)
Moapa Band to host Further Future music festival next month (4/22)
Lower Elwha Klallam Tribe runs into opposition to fish hatchery (4/22)
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.