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Cobell: Upcoming trial tackles important issues

"After 11 years of litigation, it’s hard to believe that basic issues about the government’s acknowledged mishandling of thousands of individual Indian trust accounts could remain unresolved. But thanks to the government’s determination to prolong our class-action lawsuit over a scandal that dates back to 1887, many issues remain.

On Oct. 10, that may change. That’s when U.S. District Judge James Robertson will walk into Courtroom 23A in Washington, D.C., and attempt to resolve basic questions about what happened to the individual Indian Trust accounts the government established for 500,000 Native Americans.

Ever since Judge Robertson was assigned the case late last year, he has been asking hard questions. In response to a request we filed, he is going to tackle some of the vital issues that have evaded resolution for years.

We’re talking about elementary issues, such as: How will the Interior Department conduct its long-promised accounting? How many of the thousands of trust accounts must it cover? What standards must the government use? Must it follow the accounting standards imposed on commercial banks and other fiduciary institutions? Or does the government, because it’s the government, get a special pass?

The judge has declared that he hopes the proceeding will give the public a dollar figure as to the amount of “through put” — as he calls it — money that never got to the Indians or their accounts. In short, he wants to know how much money the government stole from the Indians."

Get the Story:
Elouise Cobell: Writers on the Range: Indians keep up the fight for the money that’s theirs (The Summit Daily News 9/18)

Relevant Links:
Indian Trust: Cobell v. Kempthorne - http://www.indiantrust.com
Cobell v. Norton, Department of Justice - http://www.usdoj.gov/civil/cases/cobell/index.htm

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