A Part Of Our Future Will Vanish Unless Tribes Respond To This!
A lot of Money will be lost to tribes and descendants of past decades and settlements. Many tribes have yet to respond as Melmer reiterates: ''This could be, if the reservations do not file a claim, the greatest land grab in 150 years.”
We as Native people whose ancestor’s died and suffered at the hand of the United States government would want you to save our lands for the future generations. We as Native people still are fighting the war of injustice from the dominant race, but now our battle ground needs to be fought using the white mans words in the court rooms with attorneys that will speak for all of us.
We need to unite and prevent this from happening, for the sake of all our people. With the already loss of many languages and culture, we still suffer on reservations and have our “U” numbers, we still have the greatest and poorest nations in the United States, but allot of tribes still have their land base, and we need to keep these large tracts of lands safe, protected.
Andokikidaasowin ninanishinabeg…BIIMAADZIIWIN Anishinabeg Apane! Geen sagiiwe geen Anishinabeg na all nations!!
Please respond by writing to your congressman or listed attorneys below, or by phone and email address below by December 31, 2005. Mashkikinabinais
Gary Frischer (strategic legal consultant for a group of attorneys working on claims ) urged: ''If they [tribes] do not file, they could lose out on collecting past lease money; and, just as important, they could lose the right to litigate for treaty lands that have been taken”
Attorney Mario Gonzalez, Oglala, in Rapid City, S.D., heads the consortium. He is joined by attorneys Gregory Yates from South Dakota and California, Maurice Johnson in Nebraska, Benjamin Thompson in Minnesota and Jerry Guenther in Montana. Tribal officials wishing to contact any of these attorneys can call (800) 404-4658 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.
Deadline Looms For Tust Fund Claims
Posted: December 09, 2005
by: David Melmer / Indian Country Today
WASHINGTON - Billions of dollars will potentially be lost if tribes do not file claims with the Department of Interior to negotiate settlements that will recoup lost revenues owed to the tribes for leases, royalties and sale of property.
Any tribal claims are subject to a statute of limitations established by Congress in 1999 and which runs out Dec. 31. The revenues owed the tribes come from non-reconcilable funds that were to have been paid to tribes for royalties and leases, sale of land and other negotiations handled by the Interior as part of the department's fiduciary responsibility over the past decades.
So far only three or four tribes have reached a settlement with the government, nine tribes have filed and most all of the 562 federally recognized tribes may have claims to file, attorneys who are working the claims assert.
The statute of limitations was established based on the Osage Nation v. United States case and many tribes may not be aware of the limitations, attorneys claim.
''If they [tribes] do not file, they could lose out on collecting past lease money; and, just as important, they could lose the right to litigate for treaty lands that have been taken,'' stated Gary Frischer, strategic legal consultant for a group of attorneys working on claims. ''This could be, if the reservations do not file a claim, the greatest land grab in 150 years,'' he added.
The accounting firm of Arthur Andersen LLP conducted an audit of the trust funds at the request of the federal government and determined that mismanagement by Interior was involved and that tribes had not received the payments due them. Arthur Andersen sent reconciliation reports to the tribes, which were encouraged by Congress to negotiate settlements with the government rather than file in federal court. The tribes were given five years after the notice from Andersen to negotiate.
Sens. John McCain, R-Ariz., and Byron Dorgan, D-N.D., introduced legislation in October that would extend the statute of limitations date for another five years; however, that bill has not been taken up by the full Senate.
A house companion bill introduced by Reps. Richard Pombo, R-Calif. and Nick Rahall, D-W.Va., would also extend the deadline to negotiate a settlement until Dec. 31, 2011. The Senate Committee on Indian Affairs and the House Resources Committee approved the legislation, but has not been taken up on the floor of either house.
Congress in 1993 required Interior to pay interest on trust funds held for tribes and to demonstrate new approaches for the management of ''Indian trust funds; to clarify the trust responsibility of the United States with respect to Indians,'' said written comments from the Senate Committee on Indian Affairs that year.
A year later, Congress, with an amended reform act, created the office of special trustee. Also that year, the Cobell v. Norton case began. (The Cobell litigation is unrelated to the tribal trust fund issue.)
The Osage case was based on the fact that the federal government mismanaged its fiduciary responsibility to the Osage Nation of Oklahoma. Congress passed the Osage Allotment Act in 1906, which directed the federal government to place all money due, or funds that may become or may be found to be due, in trust. Those monies were royalties from oil, gas, coal and other mineral leases, and were to be held for the tribe and individual members of the Osage Nation.
The Osage Nation argued that the federal government held funds in excess of $8 million in escrow for almost 10 years, prior to payment and transfer of title to the lands from 1873 to 1883. In court, the Osage argued that the federal government ''exercised involuntary, pervasive management and complete control over the mineral assets of the Osage - but has never rendered an accounting.''
In 1996 Arthur Andersen attempted to reconcile the trust fund accounts from between July 1, 1972 and September 1992. Its report shows that the federal government did not comply with the federal law that required reconciliation of the accounts.
The federal government's attempt to have the case dismissed failed. It also asked the court to impose a statute of limitations on claims for funds before 1984. According to Federal Claims Court regulations, the statute of limitations is six years, a term set by Congress. However, according to the many Appropriations Acts (the first of which was passed in 1908), a reconciliation of the due funds held for the tribe is the key to determining dates for statutes of limitations.
As it has been determined that all tribes received a reconciliation in 1999, the statute of limitations date will be Dec. 31.
The Arthur Andersen report was the first reconciliation completed by Interior that complied with the standards set forth in the many Appropriations Acts.
The Osage case leaves open the chance for tribes to file claims for past revenues not reconciled based on technicalities in the Indian Claims Commission Act. The act set the time limit at 1951; however, Hewitt wrote that because the Osage argued that revenue was lost, funds mismanaged and no reconciliation occurred until December 1999, the statute of limitations set by the Indian Claims Commission was not applicable.
The requirements of the reconciliation reports established by Congress state that as full and complete an accounting as possible must be submitted at the earliest possible date.
''The court finds that the language 'to the earliest possible date' to be further indication of the intent of Congress to allow Indian tribes to file tribal trust fund mismanagement claims within six years after an accounting of the trust fund is furnished to the tribe no matter when the mismanagement occurred,'' Hewitt wrote.
Tribes are now faced with the possible termination of their right to file claims by the end of the year unless the two pending bills are enacted in time.
Tribes are encouraged to meet with their tribal attorneys to determine if they have a claim and to file. Also, a consortium of attorneys who are experienced in federal Indian law and who have a track record in these types of land claims has been formed.
Attorney Mario Gonzalez, Oglala, in Rapid City, S.D., heads the consortium. He is joined by attorneys Gregory Yates from South Dakota and California, Maurice Johnson in Nebraska, Benjamin Thompson in Minnesota and Jerry Guenther in Montana.
Tribal officials wishing to contact any of these attorneys can call (800) 404-4658 or e-mail email@example.com.
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