Jodi Rave: Interior mum on class action tribal suit

"The head of the Interior Department will be forced in 2007 to balance two major class-action lawsuits - one involving billions of dollars owed to a half-million individual Native landowners, and now a trust fund suit that includes more than 250 tribes.

The Native American Rights Fund, a nonprofit law firm in Boulder, Colo., announced Wednesday the latest class-action filing in federal district court in Washington, D.C. The tribal trust fund suit seeks full and complete accountings from the Interior Department on tribal accounts worth an estimated $200 billion.

For tribes, Nez Perce vs. Interior Secretary Dirk Kempthorne, is almost two centuries overdue.

�This lawsuit is a reflection of a huge historical problem with the federal government's mismanagement of tribal trust accounts,� said Nez Perce Tribal Chairwoman Rebecca Miles. �We have tried to work with the agencies and we have tried to work with Congress. Our hope now is with the courts. We are pleased to step forward with NARF in leading this fight for Indian justice.�

For the Interior Department, the new suit nearly mirrors the decade-old Elouise Cobell vs. Kempthorne suit, which seeks a historical accounting of the individual trust fund money accounts managed by the department. Former Interior Secretary Gale Norton said the Cobell suit consumed the majority of her time in office.

Meanwhile, the department has nothing to say about the latest suit. �Our policy is we don't discuss pending litigation,� Interior spokesman Shane Wolf said Thursday. �That's the answer you'll get every time there's pending litigation.�"

Get the Story:
Jodi Rave: Firm files suit over tribal trust funds (The Missoulian 1/5)

NARF Complaint:
Nez Perce Tribe v. Kempthorne (December 28, 2006)

DOJ Letter:
Opposition to Extending Statute of Limitations (December 2005)

Statute of Limitations Bill:
S.1892 | H.R.4292 | Congressional Budget Office Cost Estimate

Relevant Links:
Native American Rights Fund -
Indian Trust: Cobell v. Kempthorne -

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