broken trust


a repostnativelandnow
James Warren – James Warren is/was a journalist who worked for the Chicago Tribune, writes columns for the New York Times and Business Week and is a political analyst for MSNBC.

First posted on Jun 7 2010, 12:21 PM ET |

Mistreatment of Indians is America’s Original Sin, and the narrative is consistent.
They lose their land, get portrayed as caricatures of social maladies, and are ripped off by the likes of Jack Abramoff.
So it’s no surprise that a tale with a very different ending, namely the righting of a horrible wrong affecting 500,000 Native Americans, proceeds with virtually no notice.Indeed, you’d think that even Tea Party diehards should rally to this cause, given their anti-government and pro-property rights passion. They might even want to pay homage to the intrepid female accountant-turned-banker, who inspired one of the most fiercely litigated disputes against the federal government in history. But they likely won’t. Who will? Not even many Indians believe that belated fairness is now on the way, given more than a century of government abuse and deceit whose undisputed facts strain credulity.
The facts are these: Following the House’s approval, the Senate is considering whether to approve a $3.4 billion settlement of a 15-year-old lawsuit, alleging the government illegally withheld more than $150 billion from Indians whose lands were taken in the 1880s to lease to oil, timber, minerals and other companies for a fee. Back then, the government started breaking up reservations, accumulating over 100 million acres, giving individual Indians 80 to 160 acres each, and taking legal title to properties placed in one of two trusts.
The Indians were given beneficial ownership but the government managed the land, believing Indians couldn’t handle their affairs. With leases for oil wells in Oklahoma, resorts in Palm Springs, and rights-of-ways for roads in Scottsdale, Arizona, some descendants of original owners receive six- and even seven-figure sums annually. But the prototypical beneficiary, now poised to share in the settlement, is a poor Dakotan who struggles to afford propane to heat his quarters and has been receiving as little as $20 a year.   More than $400 million a year is collected from Indian lands and paid into U.S. Treasury account 14X6039.The story turns on theft and incompetence by the Interior and Treasury Departments, with culprits including Interior’s Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA) and the same Minerals Management Service now at the center of the BP oil spill fiasco.

Over the past 100 years, government record systems lost track of more than 40 million acres and who owns them. The records simply vanished. Meanwhile, documents were lost in fires and floods, buried in salt mines or found in an Albuquerque storage facility covered by rat feces and a deadly Hantavirus. Government officials exploited computer systems with no audit trails to turn Indian proceeds into slush funds but maintain plausible deniability.The lack of accountability is confirmed in the government’s own reports and testimony dating to the early 20th century. Conclusions of “fraud,” “corruption,” “institutional incompetence,” “deficiencies in accounting,” “the accounts lack credibility,” “multifaceted monster,” “organizational nightmare,” “dismal history of inaction,” “criminal negligence,” and “sorry history of department mismanagement,” are found regularly between 1915 and the present.  Congress ordered an accounting in 1994 but interior secretaries in both the Clinton and George W. Bush administrations were held in civil contempt for not forking over records. District Judge Royce Lamberth, a Texas Republican nominated by President Reagan who oversaw the case for a decade, called the whole matter “government irresponsibility in its purest form.”I sat in Lamberth’s courtroom in 1999 when Interior Secretary Bruce Babbitt both lost his cool and conceded that the government couldn’t provide accurate cash balances of most accounts and that “the fiduciary obligation of the United States is not being fulfilled.” But the dispute would not end, as the Clinton and Bush administrations fought unceasing adverse rulings in a case inspiring 3,600 separate court filings and 80 published decisions. No single case, including the antitrust action against Microsoft, has been as heavily litigated and defended by the government, say lawyers.The government’s chief nemesis has been Elouise Cobell, a member of the Blackfeet Nation in Montana, the accountant-turned-banker who in 1987 started Blackfeet National Bank, the first national bank on a reservation. With a very small team of attorneys led by a Washington banking specialist, Dennis Gingold, her suit has inspired 3,600 court filings and 80 published decisions. Not even the antirust action against Microsoft was as heavily litigated by the government.The historic resistance melded with an unsympathetic appeals court often overruling the dispute’s two trial judges. It ordered removal of Lamberth, now the district court’s chief judge, due to harsh language toward the government. Last year, it threw out a ruling by District Judge James Robertson, Lamberth’s successor, that the Indians were owed $476 million, a pittance compared to the reduced, $48 billion they were seeking by then. Presidential candidates Barack Obama and John McCain both urged settlement during the 2008 campaign.

A resolute Judge Robertson then hauled Interior Secretary Ken Salazar and plaintiffs into his chambers last year. He made clear to one and all that, in light of the latest appeals court ruling, both sides had the choice between spending maybe another 10 years in court or trying to finally settle. The initial atmosphere was not necessarily conducive to harmony. Career government employees in the Interior, Justice and Treasury departments felt burned after years of being belittled by both the plaintiffs and Judge Lamberth. Meanwhile, the plaintiffs had minimal trust in the government. But political appointees in the Obama administration, including Salazar and Attorney General Eric Holder, took their cue from President Obama’s own support of a settlement. Dozens of meetings ensued, with the many prickly issues including how far back in time one would go to try to determine who should benefit.

Ultimately, Judge Robertson prodded what, given all the legal setbacks, is an impressive $3.4 billion deal announced in December. Ironically, before the recent congressional recess, the House approved the deal and Robertson announced his retirement, meaning District Judge Thomas Hogan becomes the third, and hopefully final, arbiter in the case. He would oversee a so-called “fairness hearing” in which objections can be raised.

There is inherent complexity in wrapping up. If the Senate approves, there will be a media campaign throughout Indian Country, including direct mail, newspaper and broadcast public service advertisements. Garden City Group of Melville, New York, which handled the major class action against Enron, will be claims administrator. It will get computer lists from the Interior Department, with the account information of perhaps 500,000 Indians and then doublecheck names and addresses. How good are the records? Nobody is really sure.

The $3.4 billion will be placed in a still-to-be-selected bank and $1.4 billion will go to individuals, mostly in the form of checks ranging from $500 to $1,500. A small group, such as members of the Osage tribe who benefit from huge Oklahoma oil revenues, will get far more, based on a formula incorporating their 10 highest years of income between 1985 and 2009. As important, $2 billion will be used to buy trust land from Indian owners at fair market prices, with the government finally returning the land to tribes. Nobody can be forced to sell. As for the winning lawyers, their take is capped at $100 million, actually low by class-action standards, though Republican Sen. John Barrasso of Wyoming, an orthopedic surgeon, has groused about the fees.

The fairness hearing will be interesting since many Indians have a hard time believing they’re not still being shafted. “This proposed settlement fixes nothing, the U.S. won by legal weaseling,” writes a member of the Upper Midwest’s Prairie Band Potawatomi tribe on a message board. He’s not alone. Like a family victimized by homicide, Indians may never experience enough healing to truly recover. But, finally, as hard as it is for them to believe, there really may be some justice.

 There were many responses to this article written by Mr. Warren; but the one response I had to add is…below ~ Nativegrl77
Thoms M. Wabnum
My article was reference in yours.
This is the complete article as posted in other websites. Thank you for posting it.
First, I would like to thank Ms. Cobell for the strength and courage to fight the U.S. on our behalf for the past 13 years.
This proposed settlement fixes nothing, the U.S. won by legal weaseling.
This lawsuit maybe settled but the mismanagement and corruption continues. The centuries old broken government trust is still broken. The IIM accounts are still not reconciled. to death, this settlement adds another one.
If all Individual Indian lands are bought off and transferred over to tribal trust property, the same historical broken trust is there not to protect it or improve it. The same slumlord mentality, scalawag management and Judge Roy Bean justice prevails all because we are Native Americans.
The U.S. did send a message to Indians in Cobell. They will extend Indian claims in courts indefinitely until the claimants die, exhaust funding and cave into perennial stonewalling.
The historical damage done to Native people, their land and money goes unchecked and without consequence. Not one employee faced criminal charges, was removed or fired for deliberately wasting billions in taxpayer’s dollars in cover up schemes. The U.S. won’t even apologize for inflicting termination and terrorism on the people they are legally bound to protect. At least, Canada and Australia apologized to the Natives of their countries.
After the starting Judge and court appointed investigators proved that DOI/BIA/OST wasted billions of dollars trying to fix the broken trust they too were removed from the case. The U.S. were found in contempt of court for lying to a federal judge, filing false reform reports, destroying records and for 13 years of federal failure. Honest American federal employees who reported such fraud, waste and abuse termed “whistleblowers” were also squeezed out of service and replaced with puppets.
“On June 20, 1867, Congress established the Indian Peace Commission to negotiate peace with Plains Indian tribes who were warring with the United States. The official report of the Commission to the President of the United States, dated January 7, 1868, describe detailed histories of the causes of the Indian Wars including: numerous social and legal injustices to Indians, repeated violations of numerous Treaties, acts of corruption by many of the local agents, and culpability of Congress itself for failing to fulfill certain legal obligations. The report asserts that the Indian Wars were completely preventable had the United States government and its representatives acted with legal and moral honesty in dealing with the Indians.”
In short, this 1867 Commission also “recommended that the intercourse laws with Indian Tribes be thoroughly revised.” This sounds like trust reform to me.
Second, “But it is insisted that the present Indian service is corrupt, and this change should be made to get rid of the dishonest. That there are many bad men connected with the service cannot be denied. The records are abundant to show that gents have pocketed the funds appropriated by the government and driven the Indians to starvation.” And still today, the U.S. Courts, it’s investigators, GAO and OIG all exposed corrupt employees in Indian Affairs.
Third, “That Congress pass an act fixing a day (not later than the 1st of February, 1869) when the offices of all superintendents, agents, and special agents shall be vacated. Such persons as have proved themselves competent and faithful may be reappointed. Those who have proved unfit will find themselves removed without an opportunity to divert attention from their own unworthiness by provisions of party zeal.”
This 1867 Commission told the President how to get rid of corrupt employees and even today it has not been done. Why?
Fourth, “We, therefore, recommend that Indian affairs be committed to an independent bureau or department. Whether the head of the department should be made a member of the President’s cabinet is a matter for the discretion of Congress and yourself, and may be as well settled without any suggestions from us.” This 1867 Commission told the President that there should be a Department of Indian Affairs separate from the Department of Interior.
Two other recommendations by this 1867 Commission talked about State encroachment on tribal sovereignty and shady traders.”
In 1973, Senator James Abourezk introduced Senate Joint Resolution No. 133 to establish a Federal commission to review all aspects of policy, law, and administration relating to affairs of the United States with American Indian tribes and people. The Senate and the House of Representatives both adopted S.J. Res. 133 and on January 2, 1975, the Resolution was signed into law by the President, thus establishing the American Indian Policy Review Commission [Public Law 93-580]. There are other Commissions in 1928, 1934 and 1992.
But after 141 years and Commissions, this proposed settlement still does not protect our land, money, fleecing or our natural resources and culture but promotes tribal sovereignty erosion and U.S. failure to enforce treaty rights and their federal trust responsibilities according to their own U.S. Constitution and Congressional obligations.
The U.S. can send a man to the Moon and maybe Mars, travel to the bottom of the deepest Ocean, fight wars on opposite side of the world, clone animals but cannot fix the broken trust problem with Indian services.
If the U.S. initially worked with earnest and full trust with Native Nations using their own money plus the promised federal appropriations, there would not be a financial burden on either party, national dishonesty or worldwide disgrace of American ideals.
It has been settled for me to forget all that happened within DOI and accept the $1,500.00 minus reserves/taxes (unknown amount) and attorney fee’s (unknown amount) as if nothing happened.
Thomas M. Wabnum
Prairie Band Potawatomi
Former Tribal Councilperson
Viet Nam Veteran
IIM Accountholder
BIA/OST retired

This is America … time to face the changes needed to reflect words in the Constitution or are they just words?


 Just another rant …On Jan 21 we all saw posts on social media cheering for America’s new president and had to respond.

I admit trump won the Electoral vote but he did not win the Popular Vote which is more important to most Americans who believe in one person one vote.  Obviously,  America seemed stunned at how election 2016 turned out and though there was talk about the electoral vote and how changes to the caucus, delegate rules, and processes, which have been a subject of debate for years- republicans are feeling themselves and doing little on all levels least we talk about the number of actual Sessions held in Congress.

Unfortunately, the electoral process not only gave us trump; the trump Congress became what some call “something else” and they still don’t seem to care that worried or interested in much else other than getting lifetime judges appointed rather than preparing for another cyber attack, infrastructure, climate, fires, natural disasters or keeping the chaos down to a low roar let alone how to improve the caucus and delegate rules.

Ah… to be an American in this era of trump, who started his bid for president by shouting that Obama is not an American?  Yet, If you follow trump’s rise, and I do not use that word loosely,  we are definitely still hearing folks comparing him to Hitler, maybe Mussolini, while seemingly supporting white nationalists and or supremacists as well. Yes, some say he is acting a little like Napoleon, or dreams of being a king and yes it is all snarky … but ultimately nouns like authoritarian or a dictator are more likely the goal; none of which is accepted or the norm here in the US of A.  I voted for Hillary, supported her without question knowing what we had …it was a binary choice.  This man is NOT presidential material, cannot fix our problems alone, he is NOT our savior nor does he care about his constituents who sadly were/are misinformed in my opinion. Apparently, with the fear being tossed around his constituents are all too willing to be pushed and verbally shoved into whatever direction they need to change the balance of white V nonwhite America?

However, the change that is coming is one that will appear positive by all those in his camp and given the position of power the President has, #teamtrump can and will do anything they want.   The thing is, our end result seems to be headed in a negative direction.  Why do I say this, any person with so much power should know not to act out with revenge in your mind, he has a reputation, is called a narcissist in all its forms; so what we have had to experience for the last 2 years will not only impact Hillary voters but his constituents who continue to vote against their better interests, and as we witness all the rollbacks of the Obama legacy, his administrations reach will be long and global in ways that will take years to clean up or correct. I first posted this in 2017, Today the news is covering his comments at the UN Assembly, tariffs, his SCOTUS nomination and as we watch the stock market take a dive on numerous occasions; I continue to be reminded of the house of bush #financialcollapse of 2007 and hope for the best. We have heard trump disparage people of colour,women,lgbt,trans on the regular and is now moving to legislate what looks like hate. The trump government stated it was planning on making folks in the US eat from dry goods boxes while taking money from countries that need help to cope with drought, disease and health care issues that impact children and women etc. Do folks on the right even know that $15billion with a B cut in spending includes a $7billion of social services for children?

I believe in choice, so the effing idea that women should be punished for making decisions about her own body is crazy in itself but this man has just made it impossible for Americans to help women globally with the Reagan gag rule…Do they know the number of unsafe-abortions may increase certainly along with other reproductive issues women have and will most definitely continue-  in all probability, end up in a rise in the rate of mortality among women globally?

This man is a failing protectionist, acting like an isolationist with white nationalists seemingly standing side by side. History speaks to us rejecting this behavior so you have to wonder, will trump be the thing, that vehicle for women on both sides of the political aisle as well as race as a common denominator to vote out asap?! The poll numbers obviously suggest women see or are seeing that this man should not be in power but enormous numbers of women are marching not just in America but globally and while he is only talking to his constituents this carpetbagger can’t help but make all his speeches about him. He has stomped on our constitution already, broken what most will say are American values and while republicans wring their hands in joy, their corrupt behavior will show itself as some of our economist suggest could be another ride into another ditch with all the costs created by actions like moving the Israel embassy, repealing ACA just to name two lest we talk about block granting education ending Medicaid and increasing qualifiers reinstating others that restrict health care … this man is NOT the savior but an emperor wannabe though he seems to act as if he was voted in as a king … hopefully, his voters will see the light in time.

People of colour feel our rights our bodies will now be targets and a threat while living as Americans depending upon what city is most likely to take his comments literally. If or will their social norms make them choose to act above the rule of law, least we talk about how folks interpret trump’s rhetoric and unfortunately will be spread as often as he holds rallies for the people to see him and how far his communication staff is willing to go and say whatever it takes to keep his followers.  Is it possible, is it apparent that this era of trump needed to happen to America …equality, freedom and the pursuit of happiness seemed to be sliding away …  hopefully not gone, just a wicked storm before the reboot to a better America …right?

On January 26,2017 when trump whipped his pen of revenge out and seemingly took America back to the dark ages in just a couple of minutes then moved on to other acts of hypocrisy on the regular

Our country is NOT moving toward a more perfect union but I believe that we must gain insight, become mindful, analyze all that must get done before election 2018; we need to be 2-4 steps ahead of the trump administration and while I completely disagree with a couple of pro-trump bloggers, one was kind enough to accept opposition comments. I also admitted I understand their point, said as much when we elected Obama and watched as the opposition party in congress pledged to do nothing … So, as bill after bill had some kind of stipulation or nasty pill /rider attached to it; no one addressed stagnant wages, 21st-century living, climate, renewables or jobs and while babies were/still are being killed by guns; infrastructure among other things were all put on hold unless and until republicans could get the trifecta to make change their way.  Thing is, they have done nothing to improve the status of Americans and our social programs like social security, Medicare and Medicaid —- which btw we all pay into are at risk in the hands of this government,  “affordable healthcare”  for regular folk is at risk … FACT!  and how ironic is it that congress enjoys good health care paid for by US taxpayers … yet, women seem to be wearing scarlet letters or phrase of #preexistingcondition

I say he is talking in code… Has anyone in the US of A thought we would have to deal with freedom of speech and or censorship on this level? The government of trump seems to want absolute power of the people or at least the press, control women, tell scientists that any and all information about climate has to pass a White House review panel before the public sees it or that a joint government/nonprofit summit can be and have been canceled by a President? This is offensive and should be considered inappropriate autocratic behavior imo.  The notion of being told to have babies let alone comply or be punished is insane, that the media needs to shut their mouths, torture works though it’s against the Geneva convention, that we should have taken the Iraqi oil or that nukes should be available to all while sidestepping the 1st Amendment … maybe a lot of other amendments as team trump hearkens back to a time when men(white mean) who governed considered themselves to be the only legitimate Americans and suffice it say there weren’t many amendments back then to protect what we now call folks in “protected classes”  So, I am resisting. I am not naive, but I am hoping that enough folks who usually sit on the sidelines will finally see through the bull before November 6th.

Thanks for letting me exercise the 1st amendment

and Vote for Biden 2020

Nativegrl77