Indian Funds Mismanaged
Recently, in Washington, D.C., United States District Judge Royce Lamberth held Treasury Secretary Robert Rubin, Interior Secretary Bruce Babbitt, and Assistant Interior Secretary Kevin Gover (Clintons top American Indian official) in contempt of court. The reason for this action was that these officals had shown "flagrant disregard" for court orders in not producing documents related to a 1996 class-action lawsuit alleging mismanagement of 300,000 Indian accounts, totalling billions of dollars. Through these accounts, individuals and tribal governments are to receive proceeds from court settlements and sale of natural resources on Indian lands. Accounts range in value from a few dollars to millions of dollars.
Lamberths action came after the resignation of Paul Homan, the Clinton administrations Special Trustee for American Indians. Homan protested Babbitts efforts to obstruct attempts to untangle the trust account mess. Gover said that the accounting disaster began in the 1930s, but all previous administrations had ignored the problem. The lawsuit claims the mismanagement has gone on for 175 years.
The recent trust fund scandal is only the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the theft and abuse of Indian lands and resources. A few examples from the Black Hills alone: The U.S. gold production comes from the Black Hills, in addition to billions of dollars worth of uranium, copper, and other precious minerals. Three fourths of the Black Hills, about 1,320,000 acres was nationalized by the U.S. government for parks. The Lakota Nation has consistently refused compensation (amounting to trillions of dollars) because of the sacredness of the Hills.
Today we must give special attention to nature of claims made. Are the claims reflecting rights guaranteed to full-blooded Indian peoples under the many treaties of the previous century? Or, are the claims more recent ones that originate with government-created Indian tribal governments? It is time that people educate themselves about treaties (bilateral agreements between two sovereign nations) and how treaties differ from acts of Congress. See more in Treaty People Gather to Reclaim Lands.