Master of Jurisprudence in Indian Law - University of Tulsa College of Law
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Cobell | Opinion
Jim Cason: Historical accounting facts


"This is a pivotal time in Indian country for the class of Individual Indian Money account holders represented in the Cobell v. Kempthorne lawsuit. As the Department of the Interior makes significant progress conducting the historical accounting of funds that went into and out of IIM accounts, it is apparent that few mistakes in the accounting have been found and that ample trust records exist to support our accounting efforts.

No doubt that over the years, the Cobell case has brought needed attention and resources to improve the management of Indian trust assets. However, instead of breathing a collective sigh of relief that the historic administration of the Indian trust funds has, for the most part, been careful and accurate and that beneficiaries were receiving the funds collected from the use of their trust assets, the plaintiffs are continuing to spread fear, mistrust and doubt among class members. In a recent Indian Country Today op-ed, the plaintiffs state that ''Indians have been robbed of billions - not millions - of dollars'' and that the ''robbery'' continues even today.

The lead plaintiffs have claimed that as much as $176 billion is owed to account holders. This figure is based on the largest myth of all: the assumption that the government has failed to distribute a single penny of the money it has collected on behalf of Indian accountholders since the inception of the trust over 100 years ago. Every account holder who has ever received a payment from his account ought to know that this assumption is preposterous. In fiscal year 2007, for example, more than 530,000 checks were distributed to account holders worth more than $200 million.

It is troubling that the plaintiffs continue to propagate such myths, especially in the face of volumes of evidence to the contrary, and in light of other pressing matters in Indian country that need attention. During the 10-day trial on Interior's historic accounting plan in October 2007, facts about how the historical accounting is being accomplished as well as the accounting findings to date were shared with the U.S. District Court. While the plaintiffs' attorneys had the opportunity to question every government witness and to introduce their own witnesses, no evidence of government ''robbery'' was introduced. No evidence to demonstrate billions of dollars of undistributed funds was provided to the District Court judge. Not a single account holder, including lead plaintiff Ms. Elouise Cobell herself, was willing to testify that she was failing to receive funds collected on her behalf."

Get the Story:
Jim Cason: Historical accounting: Fact, not myth (Indian Country Today 1/18)

Final Briefs:
Cobell Brief: Conclusions of Law | Cobell Brief: Findings of Fact DOJ Brief: Findings of Fact and Conclusions of Law

Trial Transcripts:
Day 1 AM | Day 1 PM | Day 2 AM | Day 2 PM | Day 3 AM | Day 3 PM | Day 4 AM | Day 4 PM | Day 5 AM | Day 5 PM | Day 6 AM | Day 6 PM | Day 7 AM | Day 7 PM | Day 8 AM | Day 8 PM | Day 9 AM | Day 9 PM | Day 10 AM | Day 10 PM

Trial Order:
Cobell v. Kempthorne (April 20,2007)

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

Related Stories:
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Bush shifts historical accounting duty again (12/5)
Opinion: U.S. wages war on Indian landowners (12/4)
Cobell historical accounting briefs due in court (11/30)
Jodi Rave: Cobell trial ends after 10 days (10/29)
Cobell historical accounting trial concludes in DC (10/26)
BIA faulted for trust management in Palm Springs (10/24)
DOJ objected to testimony from Interior attorney (10/24)
Interior attorney set to testify in Cobell case (10/22)
Interior says Cobell suit not worth billions (10/15)
Cason wraps up testimony in trust case (10/12)
Cobell accounting trial opens in DC (10/11)
Cobell historical accounting trial starts in DC (10/10)
CFO Magazine: The Indian trust fund accounting (10/5)
Cobell historical accounting trial starts October 10 (10/1)
BIA agency lacks accounting for millions in trust (09/25)
Audit finds Indian trust management problems (9/24)
Cobell: Upcoming trial tackles important issues (09/19)
Interior attorney to testify at upcoming Cobell trial (9/18)
DOI won't release trust data in Cobell case (9/11)
Interior attorney accused of disclosing trust data (08/29)
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Cobell prepares for court battle on accounting (5/30)
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Judge prods DOI on Indian trust fund accounting (5/15)
First status conference for Cobell accounting trial (5/14)
Cobell status conference pushed back to May 14 (05/02)
Attorney calls $7B Cobell offer pennies on dollar (4/24)
Cobell heads to landmark accounting trial (4/23)
Judge orders Cobell accounting trial for October 10 (4/20)
Jodi Rave: Cobell calls for accountability (4/12)
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