Archive for the ‘Indian trust funds’ Category

Indian Land Tenure Foundation ( marked the 125-year anniversary of the Dawes Act (General Allotment Act of 1887) by producing this “Matter of Honor” video you can view on the organization’s YouTube channel.

Courtesy of Indian Land Tenure Foundation

It’s a topic that incites much to think about these days, as the Cobell settlement is disputed in courts.

ILTF has an entire page dedicated to lands issue debates, including checker boarding, sacred sites, land management and legal and legislative issues.

Here’s the spot where ILTF explains how it’s helping to reverse the negative effects of the Dawes Act.

Jenna Cederberg

The four objectors to the historic Cobell land trust mismanagment settlement say they’re not backing down, even after their names and phones numbers were published in an open letter printed online and sent to thousands of plaintiffs prompted them to receive angry phones calls.

As Associated Press reporter Matt Volz reports, Carol Good Bear is one of the objectors that received a flood of angry phone calls.

    At first, the resident of New Town, N.D., hung up on the angry voices at the other end. After 15 calls, she unplugged her home phone and started screening her cellphone calls.

    She said she worries for her safety now that her address is in the hands of hundreds of thousands of people who might blame her for holding up their money.

    “To put my name out there for the public, I think that’s scary that these attorneys would use this tactic and intimidate me into dropping my appeal,” Good Bear said. “I don’t have protection. If somebody is upset about all this and comes at me with a gun, what am I supposed to do?”

The Cobell settlement was approved by the courts last fall after almost 16 years of court battles. Payments were scheduled to be send out in November before the objections were filed.

    The plaintiffs’ attorneys, led by Dennis Gingold of Washington, D.C., wrote in their letter that the “hopes and wishes of 500,000 individual Indians” had been delayed by those four people. If it wasn’t for them, the first payments would have been made before Thanksgiving, the letter said.

    “There is little doubt that they do not share the desires or care about the needs of the class, over 99.9 percent of whom support a prompt conclusion to this long-running, acrimonious case,” the attorneys wrote.

    The letter went on to list the names, phone numbers and addresses of Good Bear; Kimberly Craven of Boulder, Co.; Charles Colombe of Mission, S.D.; and Mary Lee Johns of Lincoln, Neb. The attorneys invited people to “ask them directly about their motives” and cautioned them to “please be civil in your communications.”

Jenna Cederberg

Elouise Cobell’s lawyers, who helped Indian Country win a landmark land trust settlement worth millions, continue to insist they deserve more than the agreed upon $99 million in legal fees.

According to The Blog of Legal Times, the attorneys say their push to get more money is fair, and is a concern of politicians, not those who may benefit from the suit.

    Last week, two Republicans members of the House, citing the Justice Department’s position on fees, introduced legislation to cap fees in Cobell v. Salazar at $50 million. A similar effort to cap the fees failed last year.

    “There is simply no question that members of both houses of Congress fully understood that there was no cap and that the court would decide the fee question consistent with controlling law,” (Kilpatrick Townsend & Stockton partner Keith Harper and Washington solo Dennis Gingold said) in the court papers. “Those who are feigning surprise know better or should know better.”

    Cobell’s lawyers said they accomplished for Native Americans what no other lawyer or government official ever had—meaningful reform in the management of Indian trust accounts. The $3.4 billion settlement announced in December 2009 resolves claims the government botched its handling of accounts for more than a century.

    . . .

    Harper and Gingold, who have both traveled in recent weeks to meet with potential beneficiaries, said the fee petition is not the hot topic. Potential class members want to know more about how to participate in the settlement, not how much the lawyers are getting paid, Harper said.

Jenna Cederberg

Information on how Native Americans in Montana can share in the recently approved $3.4 billion settlement of Indian Trust claims will be discussed at two newly-scheduled meetings in Montana next week, a new release from Elouise Cobell’s media director said.

On Tuesday, March 8, attorneys Bill Dorris and David Smith from the Kilpatrick Stockton law firm will discuss the settlement at 5 p.m. at the Browning High School Cafeteria, 105 Highway 89, in Browning.

At 5 p.m., on Wednesday, March 9, they will hold a meeting on Flathead Indian Reservation at the Johnny Arlee Victor Charlo Theater, building 83, 58138 Highway 93, in Pablo. This is on the Salish Kootenai College Campus.

Native Americans, whose families have individual Indian money trust accounts or who own individual Indian trust land, are welcome to attend these meetings regardless of their tribal affiliation and ask questions about the settlement.

Read the rest of this entry »

Elouise Cobell (AP)

Elouise Cobell (AP)

Elouise Cobell, lead plaintiff in the landmark class action $3.4 billion Indian trust case, uses her frequent Ask Elouise column to answer questions about the settlement, and updates people on the process that should eventually result in money for thousands of Native Americans.

The most recent Ask Elouise letter concerns last week’s failure by Congress to approve the $3.4 billion settlement reached last December.

The hopes of Cobell and her fellow plaintiffs in the case now rest on the lame-duck congressional session scheduled for after the Nov. 2 election. Cobell writes:

    Between now and October 15, I will consult with our attorneys and our champions in Congress to determine if (and how) our settlement legislation can be passed, as well as our options if we determine that there is no reasonable chance of passage.

The settlement has its own website, with a section for Frequently Asked Questions.

People with questions for the column can e-mail Cobell at, or send a letter to:

Ask Elouise
Cobell Settlement
PO Box 9577
Dublin, OH 43017-4877

Gwen Florio

The Senate adjourned Wednesday without giving the Obama administration the authority to settle a class-action lawsuit filed in 1996 by Elouise Cobell of Browning, Mont. The Associated Press has the details:

    The suit accuses the federal government of mismanaging billions of dollars held in trust for Indian landowners.

    The Senate will reconvene for a lame-duck session Nov. 15. Cobell says no decision has been made on whether to press for Senate approval in that session.

The lead plaintiffs’ attorney tells the wonderfully named BLT (Blog of the Legal Times) that they remain optimistic.

“We uniquely have bipartisan support in an environment where you don’t see that often,” Dennis Gingold tells Mike Scarcella.

The National Black Farmers Association wants a settlement order in a class-action suit involving black farmers considered separately from one issued in the Native American trust case known as Cobell.

John Boyd Jr.

John Boyd Jr.

John Boyd Jr., the group’s president, seeks a cloture vote on a standalone black farmers bill in the case known as Pigford II, according to a story in Indian Country Today by Rob Capriccioso.

“While there are lots of very important causes, the black farmers know that unless this bill is considered on its own merits other bills that have nothing to do with this issue – including the Cobell Native American trust fund case – may keep it from passing. Black farmers are dying, in fact another farmer active in the movement died this past week, and I can’t let politicians use other issues as excuses not to vote on justice for black farmers.”

But as Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid points out, “Many American Indians have been waiting; some have died waiting, for this settlement to be funded by this Congress. I support passing settlement funding that pays the plaintiffs in both the Pigford II and Cobell settlements. The plaintiffs in both cases know what it is like to suffer from ongoing wrongdoing and both sides deserve justice. Funding these settlements is something I have fought for over many months and I will continue to push for justice.”

Elouise Cobell

Elouise Cobell

Last year, hundreds of thousands of Native Americans were awarded a total of $3.4 billion when the Cobell v. Salazar case was settled. However, that settlement – like the one in Pigford II – needs congressional approval before anyone can receive money.

Elouise Cobell’s suit alleges that Native people were defrauded of millions of dollars, supposedly held in trust for them by the government, in royalties from resource development of their lands. Black farmers cheated by the USDA received $1 billion in Pigford I in the late 1990s; Pigford II would provide $1.2 billion more to resolve claims by others, Capriccioso writes.

Cobell lawyers didn’t comment on the suggestion, nor did the White House.

Gwen Florio

We in the news business are being deluged these days by reports of the imminent death of “paper” newspapers and the concurrent rush go digital in every format possible.

In the midst of all the wailing and gnashing of teeth is the Native Sun News in Rapid City, S.D., which debuted a year and a half ago as a defiantly paper newspaper and has stayed that way ever since. As publisher Tim Giago wrote about that decision:


    You won’t find us on the Internet. So many of my Indian readers do not have computers or do not even have access to them. Native Sun News will go back to the traditional way of providing news for Indian country. The paper will have serious news, but we will never abandon that Indian sense of humor that so many non-Indians accuse us of not having. You will be able to hold our newspaper in your hands, sip on a hot cup of coffee, and read the news you used to love to read in The Lakota Times and Indian Country Today.

The paper is especially tough on cases of alleged corruption.

Native Sun News is often the only news outlet to publicize cases like the one involving Donita King, whose story was featured in the July 21 issue. King, an enrolled member of the Assiniboine Sioux on the Fort Peck Reservation in northeastern Montana, says that she and her family have been fighting for years for the money due from her oil-rich allotments.

People are widely familiar with the issue of Native Americans being cheated out of royalties on their land allotments, thanks to the massive Cobell v. Salazar class-action suit against the Interior Department.

But as King tells Native Sun News managing editor Randall Howell, it’s not the U.S. government, but tribal officials, who have been cheating her family. King, who is legally blind, says the money due her family has instead been directed to fake accounts set up by powerful people in the tribe.

As Howell reports, “What started out as a ‘simple probate search’ more than two decades ago, after King’s father had died, has resulted in nearly 50 grand-jury indictments over allotment fraud.”

King, who is a descendant of Hunkpapa Sioux Chief Sitting Bull and who says the long fight has resulted in death threats to her and her family, calls the whole mess a “path of shame.”

And the only place you can read about it is the Native Sun News “The only Indian newspaper that cowboys can read, too!”). You can look at a reproduction of each week’s front page and read a column by Giago online every week at And, even though reading the entire newspaper defiantly remains a tactile experience, you can follow Native Sun News, and discussions about its stories, on both Facebook and Twitter.

Gwen Florio

The Washington Post takes the White House and Congress to task in an editorial about huge settlements in class-action cases involving Native Americans and black farmers.

As the editorial notes, in each case, whenever the plaintiffs think the settlements due them might actually arrive, another delay is imposed. The suit pertaining to black farmers was settled in 1999, the one involving Native Americans last year.

Each case involves injustices going back generations. The case filed by Elouise Cobell, who is Blackfeet from Browning, Mont., sought redress for hundreds of thousands of Native people cheated by the federal government out of royalties due them on their lands.

The latest delay pushes the deadline for the necessary congressional approval for the $3.4 billion Cobell v. Salazar settlement back to Oct. 15.

As the Post notes:

    African Americans and Native Americans have been the most persecuted and exploited groups in this nation’s history, and the settlements in question represent modest, but achievable, efforts to address discrete harms. The White House and Congress should work diligently to ensure that these most recent promises become reality.

Gwen Florio

Elouise Cobell and attorney David Smith explain details of the $3.4 billion Indian trust settlement at a public meeting held on the Salish and Kootenai College campus in Montana back in April. Approval of the settlement funding by Congress has been delayed, most recently in the Senate last week. “We need help in Congress,” she said then in a statement that still applies. (LINDA THOMPSON/Missoulian

Elouise Cobell and attorney David Smith explain details of the $3.4 billion Indian trust settlement at a public meeting held on the Salish and Kootenai College campus in Montana back in April. Approval of the settlement funding by Congress has been repeatedly delayed, most recently in the Senate last week. “We need help in Congress,” she said then in a statement that still applies. (LINDA THOMPSON/Missoulian

Cobell, supporters look to next move in wake of Senate rejection of settlement
The latest setback for congressional approval of the $3.4 billion lawsuit settlement on Native American trust accounts will send its supporters back to the House of Representatives to try again, Mary Garrigan of the Rapid City Journal writes here. Lead plaintiff Elouise Cobell, who is Blackfeet from Browning, Mont., has expressed faith in the backing of House Speker Nancy Pelosi, and South Dakota Democratic Sen. Tim Johnson has vowed to work toward approval.

Oklahoma universities No. 1 in Native college grads

Northeastern State University, Oklahoma State University and the University of Oklahoma led the list of schools graduating Native Americans last year, the Oklahoman reports here. That’s according to a report by Diverse Issues in Higher Education, which also showed that Oklahoma universities made up six of the top 12 schools, and 12 of the top 100.

Author, filmmaker talks on Native military service
The the history of American Indians and the military is the topic of a lecture tomorrow at 6 p.m. at the Dorothy Ramon Learning Center, in Banning, Calif. Gary Robinson, a writer and filmmaker of Choctaw and Cherokee descent, is the co-author of the 2008 book, “From Warriors to Soldiers: A History of American Indian Service in the U.S. Military.” His short film, “I Am the Warrior,” won third place in the 2009 national Veterans Day short film competition hosted by the National Museum of the American Indian, according to the Banning Record Gazette, here.

Vermont panel on tribal recognition seeks new members

The Burlington Free Press writes here that “a new law that sets up a process for state recognition of American Indian tribes in Vermont has revised the makeup of the Vermont Commission on Native American Affairs and has that panel seeking nine new members.” Gov. Jim Douglas is to appoint the new members by Sept. 1.

Gwen Florio