Documents prove government theft of Indian wealth

Louis Proyect lnp3 at
Tue Jan 7 15:32:58 MST 2003

NY Times, Jan. 7, 2002

American Indians Say Government Has Cheated Them Out of Billions

WASHINGTON, Jan. 6 — More than 300,000 American Indians gave a federal 
judge a detailed court filing today based on private historical records 
asserting that the government had cheated them out of as much as $137.2 
billion over the last 115 years.

The court action marked a significant turn in the largest class-action suit 
ever filed by Indians against the federal government and showed just what 
kind of sums are at stake.

For generations Indians have complained that the federal government has 
lost or stolen millions of dollars earned on tribal lands. And for decade 
after decade the government has ignored or disputed those contentions while 
failing to offer detailed accounts of how much money has been raised from 
oil and mineral, timber and grazing leases, proceeds of which go into a 
trust fund for the Indians' benefit.

The conflict — dating from 1887 — escalated into a lawsuit that the Indians 
filed against the Department of the Interior in June 1996. In the six years 
since, the standoff has become ever more bitter, documents have been 
destroyed and interior and Treasury secretaries have been held in contempt 
of court. But until now the Indians' evidence of loss was largely anecdotal.

"We just knew there was a lot of money missing," said Tex Hall, president 
of the National Congress of American Indians and the leader of his tribe, 
the Mandan, Hidatsa and Arikara Nation in North Dakota. "Elders would come 
to me and say, `Tex, I got money last year but didn't get any this year.' 
There was so much variation in the system that we know something was wrong."


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