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Cobell
Opinion: Questions remain about Cobell settlement


"This editorial responds to the op-ed, “Cobell settlement will provide legacy,” by Dennis Gingold, the lead attorney in the Cobell litigation, which unleashed a harsh, misleading attack on fellow tribal leader and respected tribal elder William Martin, president of the Central Council Tlingit Haida Indian Tribes of Alaska. Mr. Gingold’s attack came in response to President Martin’s Jan. 26, 2010 column, “Congress should study Cobell settlement before approving it,” that raised questions and urged careful scrutiny of the proposed Cobell v. Salazar settlement. Although President Martin is on the Board of the Intertribal Monitoring Association on Indian Trust Funds, his column was written in his capacity as an elected tribal official, and not on behalf of ITMA, and did not mention ITMA at all. Nonetheless, Mr. Gingold’s response not only erroneously characterized President Martin’s active role in trust reform over many years, to which ITMA can attest, but also chose to mischaracterize the role of ITMA during the past 19 years.

Mr. Gingold says the world, including President Martin and ITMA, historically “turned its back” on the abuse and mismanagement of the trust estates of individual Indians. Mr. Gingold does not mention that his entire case rests squarely on claimed violations of the Indian Trust Funds Management Reform Act of 1994, and that ITMA and our member tribes drafted the legislation and were instrumental in its enactment. Neither President Martin nor ITMA has turned a blind eye to historic problems of Indian trust administration. Without our efforts, Mr. Gingold would not have the federal law that provides the sole statutory basis for his lawsuit.

With respect to Mr. Gingold’s assertion that President Martin omitted mention of “the fact that the settlement is three times that which has been awarded in aggregate to Indian tribes and individuals in the history of the United States,” perhaps President Martin did not say that because it is simply not true. There are documented recent settlements and awards to tribes that significantly exceed $1 billion, not including earlier Indian Claims Commission awards or even more recent judgments that have included at least one tribe’s recovery of more than $100 million."

Get the Story:
Michael Finley: Relevant questions remain about Cobell proposal (Indian Country Today 2/9)

Relevant Documents:
Agreement | Press Release | Q&A | Audio

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