Federal District judge Robertson recently ruled that the U.S. Government owes Native Americans $455 million dollars as “proper repair” for the estimated $47 billion that the Government never paid individual Indians for income generated from over 120 years of managing oil, gas, grazing, timber, and mining leases on their lands. This ruling came after nearly 16 years of litigation in the largest ever class action lawsuit against the federal government – representing some 500,000 individual Indians whose lands were being leased out by the federal government. On Tuesday Eloise Cobell, the lead plaintiff, appeared on Democracy Now! to announce her intent to appeal this decision. In the words of Mrs. Cobell:
“The opinion is both profoundly disappointing and difficult to understand. It disregards unchallenged evidence of record, law of the case, law of the DC Circuit since 1895, and settled law as set forth by the United States Supreme Court. Among other things, duties and responsibilities of the US government as Trustee for the Individual Indian Trust are the same as those that apply to private trustees, unless Congress expressly has enacted legislation to the contrary. No such legislation has been enacted. Accordingly, the unwillingness of the district court to apply trust law is puzzling. So is its unwillingness to hold the government accountable for its egregious breaches of trust. The district court now says that holding the government accountable would be unfair to the government. The complete lack of concern for fairness to victims of 120 years of abuse is utterly incomprehensible to Native People.”
Village Earth is working at “ground-zero” on this issue. While we support Cobell’s efforts to seek justice from the Federal Government and force them to repair this horribly flawed system, we are working to help people reclaim and consolidate their lands from the Federal leasing system giving them an opportunity to bennefit directly from them on their own.