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Navajos in Utah fight state over trust mismanagement

More than 9,000 Navajos are part of a class action lawsuit that accuses the state of Utah of mismanaging their oil royalties.

In 1933, Congress created the Utah Navajo Trust Fund. It is unique in that the state was deemed the trustee-delegate for oil pumped from Navajo land.

According to the law, 37.5 percent of royalties are supposed to go to Utah Navajos. But a 1991 report from the state found gross mismanagement. Some people were later indicted for misusing the trust fund.

The lawsuit asks the state to account for the trust or pay back $150 million said to have been squandered. A federal judge ruled that the case could go forward, rejecting the state's attempt to impose a statute of limitations on its liability.

The state is appealing the ruling. An assistant attorney general said the state needs to know how far back to go to settle the case. But a lawyer for the Navajos says the state is unwilling to write a check.

Get the Story:
Oil drilling leaves holes for Navajos (The Salt Lake Tribune 3/6)

Related Stories:
Federal judge advances Navajo trust fund lawsuit (1/12)
Navajo trust fund case moves forward (6/11)