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Government documents important

The article “Honoring the trust relationship” by Jicarilla Apache Nation President Levi Pesata in the Oct. 6, 2010 Indian Country Today notes the government’s refusal to turn over volumes of documents relevant to the Jicarilla Apache Nation’s claims of federal mismanagement. As matters of reason and fairness such documents are critical to Indian claims.

I have been an expert witness for a number of tribes in cases of mismanagement of assets, specifically forest mismanagement and the impact on historic revenues and the value of today’s forest. In every case the good result was supported by government documents, a primary historic record of actions, opinions, decisions, natural and human events and available resources.

That the “… documents contain advice given by the Department of the Interior Solutions office (and other federal legal offices) about acceptable investments for tribal trust assets. …” is significant. Such internal advice on acceptable investments can be compared to what was actually done as well as to what were known to be good and essential forest practices. The differences contribute to explaining a deficit in revenue and value and how it came to be.

Much loss of forest income and value has been caused by a documented failure to make the most basic investments in the tribal forests, e.g., in reforestation and forest stand management, in fire protection, and in insect and disease control.

-Wesley Rickard

Gig Harbor, Wash.