September 2002 Newsletter from
"On This Date in North American Indian History"
by Phil Konstantin
Copyright Phil Konstantin (1996-2002)

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September 2002 Newsletter - Part 2    Phil Konstantin  
  Sep 18, 2002 10:00 PDT   
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START OF THE NEWSLETTER
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Hi,

I thought I would pass along a couple of things. One is about the BIA. 
There is also a review on my book.

-----------------------

Tuesday, Sept. 17, 2002
Interior Secretary Held in Contempt

WASHINGTON (AP) - A federal judge Tuesday held Interior Secretary Gale
Norton in contempt for failing to heed his order to fix oversight 
problems with a trust handling hundreds of millions of dollars in 
royalties from Indian land.

U.S. District Judge Royce Lamberth called the department's handling of   
the Indian money and the action of government attorneys in the case 
disgraceful, and found four specific instances where the department 
committed fraud on the court.

Norton said the ruling applies more to events that took place prior to 
the Bush administration, and that she has devoted more energy to fixing 
the management of Indian money than any other project.

Speaking in Phoenix at an Indian economic development event, she said 
she is considering appealing the ruling.

Norton is the third Cabinet officer that Lamberth has held in contempt 
over the trust fund. Former President Clinton's Interior Secretary Bruce 
Babbitt and Treasury Secretary Robert Rubin were held in contempt in the 
case in 1999.

The government has acknowledged major problems with the trust fund. The 
Interior Department has spent more than $600 million since 1996 to 
comply with instructions from both Congress and Lamberth, but accounting 
problems persist.

In December the judge shut down most of the Interior Department's 
Internet connections because he said the agency could not ensure hackers 
wouldn't break in and steal money.

During a 29-day trial that ended in late February, Norton asked Lamberth 
for more time to make fixes. Lamberth was unmoved. On several occasions 
during the trial and since it concluded, he scolded Interior officials 
for foot-dragging and failure to comply with his orders.

In a 267-page opinion, the judge said the Interior Department not only 
failed to comply with his order to account for the money in the Indian 
accounts, but lied to the court about its efforts to repair the trust 
and protect Indian money.

``The agency has indisputably proven to the court, Congress, and the 
individual Indian beneficiaries that it is either unwilling or unable to 
administer competently the (Indian) trust,'' Lamberth wrote.

``Worse yet, the department has now undeniably shown that it can no 
longer be trusted to state accurately the status of its trust reform 
efforts. In short, there is no longer any doubt that the secretary of 
Interior has been and continues to be an unfit trustee-delegate for the 
United States.''

The contempt ruling also applies to Assistant Secretary for Indian 
Affairs Neal A. McCaleb. The Interior Department did not immediately 
respond to the judge's ruling.

The trust, which now handles funds for about 300,000 American Indians, 
began in 1887 when Congress took 90 million acres from Indian tribes and 
gave the land to white homesteaders.

The Indians were left with allotments ranging from 40 acres to 320 
acres, with the Interior Department assigned to manage grazing, timber 
and oil and gas drilling on the land, and ensure Indians received 
royalties for those activities.

For more than a century, an untold amount of money meant for some of the 
nation's poorest residents was lost, stolen or never collected. Indians 
sued in 1996, claiming the mismanagement cost them between $10 billion 
and $40 billion.

Lamberth ordered the department in 1999 to fix the system and piece 
together what the Indians are owed. He also found Babbitt and Rubin in 
contempt and ordered the government to pay $600,000 of the plaintiffs' 
attorneys fees for failing to turn over documents in the case.

`I prayed every day that this opinion would serve justice to the 
individual Indian beneficiaries - the ones who have been hurting for so 
long,'' said Elouise Cobell, a member of the Blackfeet Nation who 
initiated the lawsuit against the government. ``We are on the road to 
justice, and I'm happy for this opinion.''

Rep. James Hansen, R-Utah, whose committee has oversight of the Interior 
Department and Indian issues, said the ruling ``flies in the face of the 
facts'' and neglects progress that has been made under Norton's tenure.

``She inherited a trust management problem that has plagued the federal 
government for decades,'' Hansen said in a statement. ``I personally 
believe this slap from the judge is patently unfair and deliberately 
disregards her excellent work.''

In the latest ruling, Lamberth ordered the Interior Department to pay 
the attorneys' fees for the group of Indians who sued the department in 
1996. Dennis Gingold, the plaintiff's attorney, said those fees would be 
in the millions of dollars.

`The court confirmed what we've been saying all along. The secretary of 
Interior and Justice Department lawyers have been lying to the court and 
she continues to lie to the court,'' Gingold said.

Lamberth also said that he has the authority to strip the department of 
its oversight of the Indian royalties and appoint a trust expert outside 
the department to mange the money. The judge asked the plaintiffs to 
propose a new management structure.

Norton's own efforts to overahaul the management of the trust funds 
stalled last week when a task force of tribal leaders refused to back 
down on a demand that a panel outside the Interior Department, and 
including Indian members, supervise the department's management of the 
money.

Interior Department: http://www.doi.gov/indiantrust/
Indian plaintiffs: http://www.indiantrust.com

----------------------

I have received the first review for my book. If any of you see any 
others, please let me know about them. The review below is from 
Publishers Weekly. This is a magazine for the booksellers, libraries and 
pulishers which discusses the publishing business, market trends, 
authors and new books. Here it is:

From Publishers Weekly
By now the myth of the "discovery" and peopling of North America has 
passed into the historical record, with the idea of an empty land being 
tamed by toil and westward expansion giving way to a more accurate 
picture of steady trade, virtually nonstop wars and moments of 
cooperation between the native Americans and the European immigrants. 
Freelancer Konstantin shows readers just how many treaties, battles, 
settlements and resettlements, government acts, executive orders and 
surprise attacks comprise this troubled history. Covering territory from 
"Panama to the North Pole" and dates from the 16th century to the 
present, this exhaustive look at the plight of North America's 
indigenous people is both instructive and downright depressing. With its 
neutral tone and format, literally marking events over 365 days of the 
calendar year, it should be an important resource for furthering the 
cause of corrective history.

--------------------

The book should be available the first week in October. If you would 
like to order a copy through Amazon,com or Buy.com, please visit my 
special website for newsletter subscribers:

http://americanindian.net/newsletterbook.html

--------------------

That's it for now,

Phil

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