Thursday, June 23, 2011

Cobell Settlement: Indian land owners swindled again

By Brenda Norrell
Censored News
Photo Oklahoma Historical Society

Updated Thursday afternoon

American Indian land owners who were swindled out of oil and mineral royalty payments will get crumbs, but the attorneys in the Cobell Settlement will receive $99 million of the $3.4 billion settlement, following a judge's ruling in the case this week.

Why isn't the US government paying the legal fees in this case of US government crime against Native American land owners?

It also turns out that non-Indian attorneys and a non-Indian law firm will share in that $99 million. Those non-Indian attorneys have kept a low profile in the media.

A report in the American Lawyer gives the details of the non-Indians who worked on the case and will now share in the $99 million. Meanwhile, Individual Indian land owners who were swindled are expected to get about $1,000, a puny sum that is about the same as an insurance payout for a fender bender.

"How much is enough?" asks writer Irene Plagianos in her article published in the American Lawyer in April. It says that in 1993, Dennis Gingold was contacted by Elouise Cobell, Blackfeet. Cobell asked Gingold to represent her.

"He agreed and enlisted the aid of a friend, retired Covington & Burling partner Thaddeus Holt. In 1996 the two sued the federal government in Washington, D.C., federal district court on behalf of Cobell and thousands of other trust holders. In 1999 Holt turned to a former Oxford University classmate, Kilpatrick Townsend & Stockton litigation partner Eliot Levitas, to bolster the legal team. Levitas brought in a Kilpatrick group that came to include co – managing partner William Dorris and Keith Harper, head of the firm's Native American affairs practice and a member of the Cherokee Nation of Oklahoma," the article states.

Recently, the Cobell team of attorneys asked the court for $223 million in fees, instead of the $50 million to $99.9 million, which it agreed to in December 2009. This week, a judge ruled the amount will be $99 million.

Native American landowners say they have already been swindled once by the US government, and now they are being swindled again by the US government, federal court and attorneys in the case.

Further, besides what the attorneys are receiving, the $3.4 billion was chopped up even more, to make sure Indian land owners would not receive their fair share.

In the settlement, $1.4 billion will go to pay Individual Indian Money account owners. Another $1.9 billion will go to Trust Land Consolidation Fund to "purchase" fractionated Individual Indian trust lands. Then, not more than $60 million for an Indian Education Scholarship Fund to assist Native people to attend college or vocational school.

Once again, new land deals and "Indian scholarships" will offer more opportunities for theft and corruption by the US government.

According to whistleblowers in the case, the fraud and theft of oil and mineral payments was extensive.

Besides the enormous sum of money that disappeared within the US government, there was systematic theft in the oil and gas fields. In the Four Corners area, a BLM whistleblower said oil and gas companies tampered with the measuring devices so those would show far less oil and gas than was being extracted. Throughout Indian country, the US also engaged in corporate theft by leasing Indian lands to oil and gas companies for far less than the market value.

In the end, it was theft all over again.

According to the Bismark Tribune, the US government offered to pay $7 billion to settle the case in 2007, about half what the plaintiffs for the Indian land owners settled for and will now receive.

With documents now shredded, the entire truth of the stolen billions of oil and mineral payments and where it vanished to is not known. It is estimated that as much as $100 billion was stolen, dating back to the 1880s.

What is known is that Indian land owners will get crumbs in the settlement.

A few individuals, however, will receive hundreds of thousands, and millions.

"Cobell, who recently underwent treatment for cancer, was unable to attend the hearing in person but spoke by phone to the court earlier in the day. 'She put her reputation on the line and her health,' Judge Thomas F. Hogan said before agreeing to her request for a $2 million incentive award," reports the online

"Hogan also approved other awards for the named plaintiffs: $200,000 for Louis LaRose, a former chairman of the Winnebago Tribe; $150,000 for Thomas Maulson, the chairman of the Lac du Flambeau Band of Lake Superior Chippewa; and $150,000 to Penny Cleghorn, the daughter of Mildred Cleghorn, a former chairwoman of the Fort Sill Apache Tribe who was an original named plaintiff before she died.

In total, 92 beneficiaries filed objections. An estimated 360,000 will receive a payment as part of the Historical Accounting Class. An estimated 450,000 who will receive a payment for the Trust Administration Class.

In total, 92 beneficiaries filed objections. An estimated 360,000 will receive a payment as part of the Historical Accounting Class. An estimated 450,000 who will receive a payment for the Trust Administration Class.

"Additionally, about 1,900 people opted out of the Trust Administration Class. The overwhelming majority -- about 1,100 -- are members of the Quapaw Tribe who recently filed a trust mismanagement lawsuit of their own."

Read more: article:

Ben Carnes, Choctaw: Cobell Settlement: A Knife in our Backs
The American Lawyer: How Much is Enough?
Interior proposes settlement in Cobell Case (2007 Bismark Tribune)

No comments:

Post a Comment