Current Native American Issue

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A current issue involving the Native Americans and the federal government is the settling of Cobell vs. Salazar Lawsuit filed in 1996. The lawsuit alleged illegal conduct in the management of Native American money held in trust accounts and managed by the Bureau of Indian Affairs. The trust was established to allow nontribal groups to use Native American lands. The trust contains money from oil and gas production, coal production, grazing leases, and timber sales.

Elouise Cobell was the treasurer of the Blackfoot tribe in the 1980’s. During her time as treasurer she discovered many irregularities in the handling of funds held in trust by the United States. For over a decade Ms. Cobell worked with Washington to get resolution to the matter. After no response to her repeated request she filed her lawsuit. In her lawsuit Ms. Cobell asked the Department of the Interior to account for its management of individual accounts for Native Americans.

The monies in question are in a trust managed by the Bureau of Indian Affairs. Beginning in 1928 and ending in 1996, there have been over thirty audits performed on the accounts. All thirty audits noted serious accounting and management problems. There are many missing documents and others are totally inaccurate. The United States government has lost, misappropriated, or stolen billions of dollars from the Native Americans in this trust.

The settlement of $3.4 billion dollars is the largest ever in the history of America. A major problem with the settlement is the amount awarded to a person is based on money generated by their account. The accounts were mismanaged and will show inaccurate amounts of money earned. It is an on going effort to determine how many Native Americans the settlement will effect and how much money they will each receive.
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