Trust Fund Scandal
An Open Letter to the American People
Imagine the unimaginable-a bank that cannot tell you how much money should be in your account. Or how your money has been invested. Or even where your money is today.
Now, imagine that bank management and its lawyers are abusive to their customers and to the federal judge who is attempting to enforce the bank’s trust duties. Worse, imagine that the bank is plagued by fraud and corruption.
There is such a bank. It’s the U.S. Government. And the bank is currently run by Gale Norton, the Secretary of the Interior, and her Department of Justice lawyers.
For more than 118 years, the U.S. government has collected income from oil and gas leases, timber contracts and other uses of our land-by its own admission, at least $13 billion dollars. Yet, the government cannot account for these funds and it has destroyed almost all the trust records. Very little has ever been paid to the American Indian owners. At the same time, the Government has withheld our desperately needed trust funds, depriving the elderly, the infirm, and Indian children of adequate shelter, food and medical care.
COBELL v. NORTON, the landmark American Indian trust case, was filed almost nine years ago to enforce the trust duties owed by the Government. This is our land and our money. This is not an entitlements program. Unfortunately, the Government has worked hard to undermine the integrity of the judicial proceedings.
Millions of dollars of taxpayer funds are paid to private attorneys to defend the misconduct of Government officials in this litigation. At the same time, the Government retaliates against anyone who attempts to clean up this scandal-including the federal judge.
It’s no wonder the judge has called the Government’s misconduct in this case “the gold standard for arrogance in litigation strategy and tactics.”
Tell President Bush and Congress that it is time to stop this scandal and remove this stain on our nation’s honor.
Elouise Cobell Browning, Montana On Behalf of 500,000 Individual Indians