Fwd: "Quiet" and "Permissible" Genocide

Doug Henwood dhenwood at panix.com
Sun Apr 11 19:08:28 PDT 1999

Jim Craven asked me to forward this. - Doug

>An angry judge demands an accounting
>By David Whitman
>US News and World Report, March 8, 1999 p. 24
>Elouise Cobell may have won a $310,000 'genius grant' from the MacArthur
>Foundation, but she still can't figure out how much money the federal
>government owes her. That's because her land, passed on to Cobell by her
>Blackfeet [sic] Indian ancestors, is held in trust by the U.S. government.
>And the U.S. government, well, it's not sure exactly what it owes Cobell--or
>several hundred thousand other American Indians who may[sic] have been
>cheated out of billions of dollars by government incompetence. As a child on
>the Blackfeet reservation in Montana, Cobell would listen to her parents,
>aunts and uncles bemoan the Bureau of Indian Affair's inability to document
>and diligently disperse the income received from Indian land holdings. Soon,
>Cobell had her own initiation into BIA's antiquated trust fund system. In
>1979, Cobell's father died. Sixteen years passed before the BIA finished her
>father's probate--a delay that Cobell only discovered after she became the
>lead plaintiff in a 1996 class action suit over trust fund mismanagement. 'I
>still don't know the types of land I own--whether they have timber or oil on
>them', says Cobell, who also founded one of the first Indian-owned banks on
>a reservation. 'None of us who are trust fund account holders know the depth
>of the losses we have suffered.'
>Judicial ire. Last week, the sluggish government got a jolt when U.S.
>district Judge Royce Lamberth held Secretary of Interior Bruce Babbit and
>Secretary of Treasury Robert Rubin in contempt of court in the Cobell
>lawsuit. Lamberth took the extreme step after concluding that the
>government's stonewalling over documents was 'nothing short of a travesty.'
>Interior officials said they could not retrieve trust fund records in two
>Albuquerque storehouses because rodent droppings ther might spread the
>deadly hantavirus. Other records had been lost or destroyed. 'Only in this
>litigation', Lambert fumed, could 8,000 cubic feet of documents 'slip
>through the cracks'.
> Yet well before Clinton officials provoked Lamberth's ire, the trust
>funds were a colossal mess. The government began holding funds in trust for
>tribes back in 1820; land allotments to individual Indians started in 1887,
>when the federal government sought to break up tribes by divvying up tribal
>lands, typically in the 80- and 160 acre lots. Today, the BIA is responsible
>for arranging leases for grazing, farming, mineral, oil, and timber rights
>on the lots, maintaining the leasing income and interest in individual trust
>fund accounts.
> A 1998 Interior Department report shows there are more than 340,000
>individual Indian trust fund accounts, and over $300 million passes through
>the accounts each year. But more than 123,000 accounts lack a Social
>Security or taxpayer ID number, and a minimum of 46,000 accounts are for
>Indians whose whereabouts are unknown. Indian account holders generally find
>it impossible to check whether their holdings are correct, often don't
>receive regular account statements, and typicaly require BIA permission to
>lease their lands. Meanwhile, several billion dollars may well have been
>lost over the years in undervalued and uncollected lease payments and in
>destroyed or lost checks for Indian beneficiaries. A 1992 congressional
>report concluded that 'the Indian trust fund is equivalent to a bank that
>doesn't know how much money it has.'
> To date, the accounts are in such bad shape that audits are virtually
>impossible. A 1997 report for the Interior Department by Griffin &
>Associates warned that trust fund problems and the Cobell lawsuit 'may
>result in a potential liability to the Federal government so large that it
>is not reasonably estimable.' Administration officials last week apologized
>for their mistakes in handling the lawsuit but said they were moving forward
>with multi-million dollar plans to finally modernize trust fund accounting.
> The most troubling price of BIA mismanagement is that it has denied tens
>of thousands of needy Indians the opportunity to escape poverty. Throughout
>'Indian country', the stories are legion of tribal members who live in
>shacks without a phone or a car, near a lucrative oil well or mining claim
>from which they reap little profit. Cobell recalls going out a few years ago
>with one indigent Blackfeet [sic] tribe member to find his oil wells because
>the man had been unable to learn from the government how many wells were on
>his lands--three--or where they were located. 'The government', she says,
>'has been preying on poor people.'
> Judge Lamberth seems inclined to agree. Later this year, or in early
>2000, he is expected to preside over a trial to determine how much the
>Indians are due. 'The court', as Lamberth put it, 'cannot tolerate more
>empty promises.' "
>Editorial Note: This article also missed so much. For example, these thefts
>of tribal lands and funds are aided and abetted by corrupt sell-out Indians
>within the tribes/Nations as well as by the corrupt and incompetent in BIA
>and Interior. The featured person of this article, along with her husband,
>is considered by many at Browning to be highly involved in the corruption
>there that has facilitated the arrogance, abuse, theft and mismanagement
>that Indians have suffered throughout US history and that is amply
>demonstrated in this article. She has the big bucks to sue; just think about
>the individual poor Indians who have no access to information, court
>decisions or legal representation. I can add the name of Leonard
>Mountainchief who died last week; he lived in a poor HUD home riddled with
>holes through which the cold winds off the mountains at Browning passed--he
>was trying to clean up tribal corruption and had no money for specialized
>medical treatments.
>Jim Craven

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