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Opinion
Mark Trahant: It's time for the U.S. to keep its word


"How good is the United States at keeping its word?

That simple question is the premise behind a complicated lawsuit that has been moving slowly through the courts for a decade.

"In the latter part of the nineteenth century, the United States took title to Indian lands as trustee for individual Indians, thereby assuming a fiduciary obligation to hundreds of thousands of Indians," wrote judges for the U.S. Federal Circuit Court of Appeals.

But what if the trustee has no idea how the assets of a trust have been managed for, say, two centuries? Or on top of that the trustee lost records, failed to balance accounts or converted assets to government use?

The answer would be clear if this were normal trust litigation -- the trustee would be on the hook for everything. But this case involves the United States and nothing is clear."

Get the Story:
Mark Trahant: U.S. should act like a trustee (The Seattle Post-Intelligencer 7/16)

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