Lynne Harlan: A new era in federal Indian relations
"This week, a landmark lawsuit settlement was offered in the Cobell v. United States case. Basically, the Cobell parties sued the Department of the Interior and the Bureau of Indian Affairs for mismanagement of Indian trust accounts.

While the details of the case are much more complicated, the result of the settlement offer is simple. The settlement offer in Cobell marks a new era in the government-to-government relationship between Indian Nations and the federal government.

The Obama administration has taken a step that other administrations have faltered in taking — the acknowledgment that the Bureau of Indian Affairs' obligation is more than paternalistic benevolence. The responsibility of the Bureau of Indian Affairs and the administration is to respect tribal sovereignty and the willingness to be held accountable in that responsibility. Tribes have long worked to strengthen our sovereignty and our self-sufficiency, and often those strides have come in spite of the obstacles of the federal bureaucracy.

The settlement terms of Cobell are in no way sufficient, the losses to Indian country are immense. However, the administration's bold move gives our communities hope."

Get the Story:
B. Lynne Harlan: A new era dawns in tribal-governmental relations (The Asheville Citizen-Times 12/11)

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