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Offering morsels to starving Indians

The Pre-1966 Indian Money Damage Claims [2415 Indian Claims Program] are distinct from the Cobell v. Salazar lawsuit, but there is concern that the Interior Department is trying to extinguish pre-1966 Indian claims by including them in the Cobell Individual Indian Money accounting case settlement. It is burying two corpses in one casket.

The Cobell settlement is pennies unaccounted for in the BIA IIM accounts and not the 10 million acres of private Indian land and resources stolen prior to filing the accounting case. We, as individual Indian allottees and heirs, are asked to accept an average of $1,500 in the Cobell case in exchange for 10 million acres of stolen allotted lands and minerals. The states, counties, corporations, companies and individuals listed in the lawsuit walk away with stolen Indian trust property on the reservation forever. Our reservation lost 28 percent of the tribal mineral estate and 500,000 acres to fee patents.

Is $1,500 supposed to cover those losses? Our oil and gas reserves were estimated at $10 billion in 1950. Imagine the wealth of the stolen Indian allotments nationwide. It would put Indians in the highest income brackets in the nation. The Interior Department has tried to extinguish these Indian claims since the BIA forced-patent conspiracy was hatched during the allotment period when Indians were illiterate and completely dependent on the BIA for protection from states and speculators.

The United States government is party to the original land frauds and continues to cover up the BIA land-grafter conspiracy though it is known to the Interior Department and Congress. In 1979, the Interior Department was cited by the Senate Select Committee on Indian Affairs for trying to extinguish the Indian claims by letting the statute of limitations run out. Forrest Gerard, assistant secretary for Indian Affairs, testified that “Litigation was thought inappropriate in these cases because the government would have to sue itself on behalf of the Indian claimants.” Congress was troubled by “the serious problem of complicity on the part of the federal government in bringing about many improper transfers and encumbrances of Indian land (e.g. secretarial transfer, forced fee patent and old-age assistance).”

Committee chairman Senator Cohen said, “I do not agree with the conclusion of the Department of Interior in its communication to this committee, that legislation to address the old-age assistance category of claims will bring the government into substantial compliance with the requirements of P.L. 96-217 that the Department of Interior in consultation with the Department of Justice submit to the Congress legislative proposals to resolve these outstanding Indian claims. A decision to waive a claim for damages on the grounds that the claim for title to land is not barred does not do justice to either the Indian claimant or the non-Indian who is occupying the land in good faith and under color of title. A decision to administratively resolve rights-of-way claims in a manner that waives a claim for past damages without notification to the Indian whose claim is affected does not reflect the good faith owed by the trustee. Also, a waiver of past damages on water rights claims and claims for degradation of the environment resulting in destruction of fish stocks will almost certainly adversely affect the bargaining position of the United States and the tribes in attempting to reach settlement of these claims.”

Congress then passed Section 2 to Public Law 96-217 to impose a duty on the Interior Department to propose legislative solutions for all those claims they decide not to litigate. Now in 2010, Interior Department lawyers allegedly devised a scheme of offering starving Indians a morsel of money in the IIM case if they will deny the forced fee patent atrocity.

I have written to President Obama and the Secretary of Interior requesting that our 2415 claims be sent to Congress for legislative solutions as required by Section 2 of P.L. 96-217. I hope tribes and forced fee patented allottees and heirs will join me. It is the worst corruption scandal to hit the Executive Branch and Congress in Indian Affairs. Coercion in current Indian claims just points to new injustices planned for us.

– Bob Juneau

Missoula, Mont.