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Trust
Attorney: Interior still not living up to trust duties


"The Cobell case is not about wealthy gaming Tribes or even the land held by less wealthy reservations; it is about a smaller subset of individual Indians, some impoverished, living on plots in a checkerboard of privately held acreage. They can�t even contemplate affording a Jack Abramoff to wave their tattered flags.

Sure, Interior might have made some progress on reforming some of the surface problems in its Trust management. Sure, its reforms are compatible with what both Lamberth and the Court of Appeals currently say has to be done to resolve the Cobell lawsuit. Yet Interior knows that this is not enough; Interior knows that its history of disregard and corporate favoritism damaged the Indians far more than a few misplaced checks or decimal points. Despite its obligations, Interior continues to refuse to be the voice for its beneficiaries. It would rather deny, demean, retaliate and obfuscate.

Where Interior excels is in reorganizing itself, opening new offices, changing the acronyms and then continuing as usual under these new auspices. Take for example the Office of Special Trustee (OST), which was opened after the GAO and Congress started looking into its Trust management in the late 1980s and early 1990s. OST had no real authority other than providing advice. When Interior didn�t like OST�s advice, the officials were relocated or replaced."

Get the Story:
Lee Helfrich: Cobell v. Norton, 'A window on the balance of power in Washington' (Nieman Watchdog 12/16)

Relevant Links:
Indian Trust: Cobell v. Norton - http://www.indiantrust.com
Cobell v. Norton, Department of Justice - http://www.usdoj.gov/civil/cases/cobell/index.htm
National Congress of American Indians - http://www.ncai.org
Intertribal Trust Fund Monitoring Association - http://www.itmatrustfunds.org

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