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Posts Tagged ‘Vine Deloria Jr.’

Paying attention to Indian Country? Then by now you should have heard of Elouise Cobell.

In 1996 Cobell filed a class-action lawsuit against the Department of the Interior and the Department of the Treasury, now known as Cobell v. Salazar. The case became the most important litigation ever to occur between American Indians and the United States. Cobell, a citizen of the Blackfeet Nation, filed the suit on behalf of nearly 400,000 other American Indians. She and her co-plaintiffs alleged the mismanagement of leased lands held in trust for individual Indians by the federal government.

These trust accounts began in 1887, when Congress started to divide Indian lands among citizens of tribal nations and then sell off the remaining tribal land to American citizens, a policy known as allotment. The federal government then managed the land that remained in Indian hands on behalf of those Indians and their beneficiaries. Often the government leased this land at below-market rates to mining, oil, gas, livestock, and timber companies.

Cobell alleged that the government failed to keep adequate account records and that it destroyed records, used the income from leasing for other purposes, and simply failed to pay Indians and their beneficiaries the amounts they were owed under the trust relationship. On December 8, 2009, the Department of the Interior announced that it and the plaintiffs had reached a settlement for $3.4 billion. But in the past the Cobell plaintiffs have claimed that the government owes them more than $120 billion to account for funds lost, mismanaged, or not paid.

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