Voice for the Voiceless: Cobell lawsuit a warning
"On Aug. 7, U.S. District Court Judge James Robertson reached a verdict in Cobell v. Kempthorne, the largest class action lawsuit ever brought against the federal government. In his decision, Robertson determined that the plaintiffs – 500,000 individual Indians – are due $455 million as a result of the Department of the Interior's mismanagement of their lands. The ruling represents less than 1 percent of the $47 billion sought by lead plaintiff (and MSU alumna) Elouise Cobell of the Blackfeet Nation.

Robertson defended the $455 million figure, arguing "the evidence produced at trial did not illuminate whether and how any benefit would have accrued to the government from the withholding of IIM (Individual Indian Monies) monies [sic], especially during the early periods of the trust." In response to the decision, Ms. Cobell considered the verdict "puzzling, as is the unwillingness to hold the government accountable for its horrible breaches of trust, because the district court says that holding the government accountable would be unfair to the government. The complete lack of concern for fairness to victims of 120 years of abuses is just utterly incomprehensible to Native people. I'm just very, very disappointed in this opinion." So what? Considering all of the economic turmoil in the country, wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, recent elections, and everything else that seems so damned important, why the hell should we care about some lawsuit involving a bunch of Indians?

"What do you think would happen if the federal government were to go to every person in Bozeman, put a gun to their head, take their home, their car, their possessions and tell them the government would manage it from now on? That they would collect rent and say they would disperse it to the people of Bozeman? There would be outrage." – DENNIS GINGOLD, LEAD ATTORNEY FOR THE PLAINTIFFS."

Get the Story:
Voice of the Voiceless: Elouise Cobell's lawsuit provides warning to us all (The Tributary 11/6)

Related Stories:
Opinion: Scoundrels and scandals at Interior (10/09)
Jodi Rave: Corruption 'nothing new' at Interior (09/22)
Government appeals decision in Cobell case (9/19)
Cobell: Judge gives Interior a pass on trust duties (9/16)
Appeal stretches Cobell lawsuit into another year (9/16)
Appeal stretches Cobell lawsuit into another year (9/16)
Cobell seeks to resolve trust issues on appeal (09/09)
Cobell: Lawsuit more than a question of dollars (9/8)
Jodi Rave: Cobell set for appeal of $455.6M decision (9/8)
Judge certifies appeal of Cobell accounting decision (9/5)
Cobell headed to appeals court to resolve $455.6M (8/29)
Judge to hold first hearing after Cobell decision (8/28)
Howard Dean slams McCain for treatment of Cobell (8/26)
Native finance group supports appeal in Cobell case (8/20)
Off the Reservation: Cobell ruling a slap in the face (8/15)
Jodi Rave: Interior can't find owners of $73M (8/13)
Cobell to appeal $455.6M ruling 'as soon as possible' (8/13)
Jodi Rave: Cobell to appeal $455.6M decision (8/11)
Cobell final ruling of $455.6M disappoints (8/8)
Judge issues final ruling in Cobell trust case (8/7)
Judge to issue final ruling in Cobell case in August (06/26)
Judge to hear final arguments in landmark Cobell trial (06/25)