In the United States District Court for the District of Columbia filed Nov. 17, 1982, Civil Action No. 82-2725, Covelo Indian Community v. Watt, in which plaintiffs seek declaratory and mandatory injunctive relief to secure rights and duties they claim are owed to them, and all others similarly situated, by the defendant, James Watt, former secretary of the Interior, and other government officials.
This class action suit concerns pre-1966 Indian claims protected under 28 USC 2415 extended several times since 1982 since tribes and individual Indians had only recently became aware of the remedies for pre-1966 claims, and that thousands of these claims already identified and being researched, could not be filed by the U.S. in time to meet the statutory deadline.
Congress granted an extension until April 1, 1980. Congress granted extensions in 1980 and in 1982 added a critical Section 2 to Public Law 96-217, which provides: “Not later than June 30, 1981, the Secretary of Interior, after consultation with the Attorney General, shall submit to the Congress legislative proposals to resolve those Indian claims subject to the amendments made by the first section of this act [extending the limitations period] that the Secretary of Interior or the Attorney General believes are not appropriate to resolve by litigation.”
Plaintiffs complaint filed Sept. 23, 1982, alleges that defendants have violated the mandate of Section 2 in that they have decided not only not to litigate the vast majority of pre-1966 Indian claims subject to the statute of limitations, but they have also declined to submit legislative proposals to Congress to resolve those claims deemed inappropriate for litigation. Plaintiffs contend, as a class, all Indians and Indian tribes that have pre-1966 money damage claims affecting lands held in trust or restricted status have been materially injured by this allegedly unlawful agency action. We agree.
I am writing to inform other tribes and individuals that we, the Blackfeet allottees, have still not had our 605 forced fee patent claims sent to Congress for legislative solutions as ordered by the Court. On March 13, 1979 Assistant Secretary for Indian Affairs Forest Gerard testified before the Oversight Hearings on the Statute of Limitations: Before the Senate Select Committee on Indian Affairs, 96th Congress, 1st Session. “That Litigation was thought inappropriate in these cases because the government would have to sue itself on behalf of the Indian claimants.” The BIA was complicit in the 605 Blackfeet forced fee patent cases.
The problem is that the Interior and Justice departments have declined to send the Blackfeet forced fee patents cases to Congress for legislative solutions since 1980. I was wondering if the other tribes and individuals have had success in getting their pre-1966 claims resolved by either litigation or legislative solutions? We are a band of enrolled Blackfeet Indians who are heirs to the stolen Blackfeet allotments taken by the Bureau of Indian Affairs deliberate conspiracy to defraud the Indians by issuing fee patents absent the consent of the Indians; which Blackfeet Indian titles were canceled in county court actions.
We would also like to know if there are other tribes and individuals out there in Indian country that could join with us or assist us in resolving our pre-1966 claims. We have e-mailed President Obama, Secretary Salazar and Assistant Secretary for Indian Affairs EchoHawk about our request in sending the Blackfeet forced fee patent claims to Congress for legislative solutions as ordered by federal court in Civil Action No. 82-2725.
Many thanks to the Covelo Indian Community on behalf of the Blackfeet Indians; 605 Blackfeet allotments were taken by forced patents issued 1917 – 1922 by the BIA conspiracy; an intergenerational crime suffered by allottees 90 years ago, as their legitimate heirs suffer today.
– Bob Juneau