November 4, 2003

I'm with Senator Daschle on this one ...

Daschle, Speaking on the Senate floor:

....The trust fund language inserted into this conference report -- behind closed doors -- would stay Judge Lamberth�s decision. It would effectively halt the Cobell v. Norton lawsuit and further delay justice for 300,000 to as many as a half-million Indian trust fund account holders. This provision is unconstitutional and, I believe, unconscionable.

Partly because so many Americans Indians live on remote reservations, not many Americans understand what the Indian trust fund dispute is about. This dispute stretches back to the 1880s, when the U.S. government broke up large tracts of Indian land into small parcels of 80 and 160 acres, which it allotted to individual Indians. The government, acting as a �trustee,� then took control of these lands and established individual accounts for the land owners. The government was supposed to manage the lands. Any revenues generated from oil drilling, mining, grazing, timber harvesting or any other use of the land was to be distributed to the account holders and their heirs.

The government has never -- never -- lived up to its trust fund responsibilities. The Indian trust fund has been so badly mismanaged, for so long, by administrations of both political parties, that today, no one knows how much money the trust fund should contain. Estimates of how much is owed to individual account holders range from a low of $10 billion to more than $100 billion. As Tex Hall, president of the National Congress of American Indians has said, �this is the Enron of Indian Country.� In fact, it may well be bigger than Enron....

Presidential administrations, Democrat or Republican, come and go. They vary in many ways. Some are reformers, some not.

But one thing they ALL agree on�the Interior Department must continue to miss-administer the IIM. Why? It's uncanny. As if some spell or curse was laid in the 1880's, binding the Interior Department forever. Some pact with the Devil, or Cthulu. It makes the "Kennedy Curse" look like small beer.

Posted by John Weidner at November 4, 2003 8:03 AM
Weblog by John Weidner