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BIA Gets an 'F' for Handling of Cobell Settlement

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This is report card on the manner in which the Bureau of Indian Affairs have managed the Cobell settlement since it was approved in November 2011. Case in point, the second round of the Cobell payments were scheduled for August or September 2013. Now the date has changed to early spring 2014 and most likely March 2014.

The problem with this is that the Trustee Bank will earn more interest off of the deposit and it won’t probably be distributed to the Indian account owners. It looks like a ploy for the Trustee to earn more money. All the while Indian folks are going into winter and need their money to pay for heating costs and Christmas.

I have said since the beginning this was a bad deal. I stand by my opinion that the Settlement was not good for Indian Country. Some gained but many lost.

Individual Indians are going to lose in the end. My article, “Interior Annouces Cobell Settlement Is Final—Enjoy the Moment!,” stated my thoughts about the settlement. I said this would happen and it is happening.

Now they are still trying to implement the Indian Land Buy Back Program and still haven’t helped tribes acquire any interest. They have ten years to complete the project and they are still having meetings on how to accomplish the project. They are met in Billings, MT to try and figure out how to make their presentations to Individual Indian land owners and tribes. Wow, ten years to complete and they have wasted two years since the time clock started. We will see how this goes. They have hired folks to manage the programs who are placed in regions where they have the lowest fractionated interest merely to advance their careers. They have reduced the tribes participation to merely advocating and promoting, or as they call it…outreach, the land buy back program.

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Some folks think I am a bitter ex-employee. No, I’m not a landowner. But I was a former BIA employee who worked hard for tribes and individual Indians to make life better, and I know how it works. Friends help friends in the BIA.

It’s just atrocious that Christmas and the holiday season is upon us and everything should have been accomplished so that you could have a little better holiday. But it’s not going to happen. Yes I’m disgusted, but only for those who have been waiting for their promised payment. Since the beginning of our relationship with the U.S., we have been given promises which sometimes never happen but yet we are expected to comply with our treaties.

Tribes need to take the BIA to task on these issues and demand that this payment be completed and that the Buy Back Program progress more quickly than it has so far. There’s only eight years left to spend the $1.9 billion dollars plus all interest it has accrued in the past two years and all interest accruing before the balance is expended. That’s just my opinion, but these are things to think about and discuss. The non-acting promises need to stop.

The end result is that the BIA has worked hard to earn an F on their report card for mismanaging this simple subject. When you take two years to implement a program which only has a ten year shelf life, it is definitely apparent that they don’t know what they are doing.

Jay Daniels has 30 years of experience working in Indian Country, managing trust lands and is a member of the Cherokee Nation of Oklahoma. You can find resources and information at