indianz.com your internet resource indianz.com on facebook indianz.com on twitter indianz.com on Google+
ph: 202 630 8439
Native American Bank - Native people investing in Native communities
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:
Just Joking: Humor from National Congress of American Indians (3/2)
Native Sun News: Northern Cheyenne family celebrates history (3/2)
Doug George-Kanentiio: Native snipers among world's deadliest (3/2)
Omaha Tribe welcomes denial of rehearing in boundary lawsuit (3/2)
Supreme Court won't hear Stockbridge-Munsee Band land claim (3/2)
Indian tobacco company rebuffed in another dispute with state (3/2)
Jodi Gillette: Administration making progress in Indian Country (3/2)
Kevin Abourezk: Leaders of Winnebago Tribe face recall attempt (3/2)
Aaron Schutt: Alaska Native role in FCC's auction benefits public (3/2)
Steven Newcomb: NMAI should help expose Indian law's bigotry (3/2)
Dina Gilio-Whitaker: Native sovereignty in a race-based society (3/2)
David Wilkins: Tap into the knowledge and power of our nations (3/2)
Opinion: Native women won't feel safe without action in Canada (3/2)
Indian families in South Dakota battle to keep children at home (3/2)
Marijuana presented as another opportunity for Indian Country (3/2)
Lac Vieux Desert Band relies on revenue from lending business (3/2)
Leader of Kiowa Tribe challenges BIA's intervention in election (3/2)
Cherokee Nation mourns loss of respected journalist John Shurr (3/2)
Pechanga Band to reclaim ancestors and artifacts from military (3/2)
Travel: Ancient culture continues on Hopi Reservation in Arizona (3/2)
Saginaw Chippewa Tribe banishes two women after drug arrest (3/2)
Joseph Webster: Tribes assert sovereignty over Class II gaming (3/2)
Tohono O'odham Nation spends $200M on first phase of casino (3/2)
New Mexico lawmakers advance new Class III gaming compact (3/2)
Fort Sill Apache Tribe in court for gaming compact in New Mexico (3/2)
MGM on track to complete $1.2B casino near US Capitol next year (3/2)
Wrapup from National Congress of American Indians DC meeting (2/27)
Native Sun News: Rapid City leader calls for tax on alcohol sales (2/27)
Mark Trahant: Beautiful trend emerges with power of Native vote (2/27)
Ivan Star: Lakota traditional history tells the true untold stories (2/27)
Audio: House Appropriations Committee hearing on BIA budget (2/27)
Senate Indian Affairs Committee to hold hearing on irrigation bill (2/27)
National Indian Gaming Commission choice gets another hearing (2/27)
Kevin Abourezk: Omaha language advocate passes on at age 58 (2/27)
Gyasi Ross: Yawna Allen shares her Native and African ancestry (2/27)
Frank Hopper: Alaska Native Brotherhood was about resistance (2/27)
Stanley Heller: Don't forget the Sand Creek Massacre in Colorado (2/27)
Cherokee Nation chief faces at least four challengers in election (2/27)
BIA and DOJ seek to mediate Cayuga Nation leadership dispute (2/27)
Non-Indians guilty for hunting incidents on Montana reservation (2/27)
Man from Te-Moak Tribe pleads guilty to voluntary manslaughter (2/27)
Administrator for Alaska tribe cuts her position out of the budget (2/27)
Opinion: Find common ground on Indian mascots in Connecticut (2/27)
Hannahville Indian Community starts $8M casino expansion work (2/27)
Wilton Rancheria still waiting for BIA movement on casino project (2/27)
Lytton Band paid $4.6M to use land as parking for Class II facility (2/27)
Opinion: Menominee Nation might turn to tokers instead of poker (2/27)
Opinion: Poarch Creeks come with slot machines and marijuana (2/27)
Updates from National Congress of American Indians meet in DC (2/26)
Native Sun News: Rosebud Sioux Tribe leader sidelined by council (2/26)
James Giago Davies: Native activism must embrace all relations (2/26)
Donna Ennis: Obama budget supports tribal self-determination (2/26)
Rich Winter: Let's keep Lakota Nation Invitational in Rapid City (2/26)
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.