Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Questions over Cobell settlement, NCAI resolution

Censored News

New questions are emerging over the proposed settlement of the Cobell trust fund lawsuit, which came after the US stole and mismanaged billions of dollars of Indian energy and resource payments.
Already, Indian land owners were upset that their payments are likely to be $1,000, while attorneys in the suit are asking for up to $99.9 million.
Others are questioning if there are safeguards to prevent the US theft from continuing. Will the US be required to lease lands at the fair market value in the future? Or will the US continue the corporate giveaway of Indian resources?
More questions emerged this week after the National Congress of American Indians tabled a resolution this in executive session in DC which points to more concerns. Among those concerns is the fact that most Indian land owners have not been properly informed of the settement, since they lack Internet access and have not been notified otherwise.
NCAI's resolution, below, also raises new concerns about new plaintiffs. Further, the resolution raises more concerns over $2 billion for land consolidation which does not fit in with Indian Nations efforts and would revert to the US Treasury.

The National Congress of American Indians

(TABLED) Resolution #ECWS-10-008
TITLE: Demand for Transparency, and Time to Fully Inform Indian Country Regarding Cobell v. Salazar Settlement Terms

WHEREAS, we, the members of the National Congress of American Indians of the United States, invoking the divine blessing of the Creator upon our efforts and purposes, in order to preserve for ourselves and our descendants the inherent sovereign rights of our Indian nations, rights secured under Indian treaties and agreements with the United States, and all other rights and benefits to which we are entitled under the laws and Constitution of the United States, to enlighten the public toward a better understanding of the Indian people, to preserve Indian cultural values, and otherwise promote the health, safety and welfare of the Indian people, do hereby establish and submit the following resolution; and

WHEREAS, the National Congress of American Indians (NCAI) was established in 1944 and is the oldest and largest national organization of American Indian and Alaska Native tribal governments; and

WHEREAS, the parties to the long-standing case of Cobell v. Salazar in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia have announced they have reached a Settlement Agreement; and

WHEREAS, the proposed settlement requires legislation by the U.S. Congress and approval by the court in order to be effective; and

WHEREAS, the Settlement Agreement reached by the parties on December 7, 2009 was binding only until December 31, 2009 unless authorizing legislation was enacted by that date, or unless the parties extended the expiration date by mutual agreement; and

WHEREAS, Congress did not act by December 31, 2009 and the parties have subsequently extended the expiration date until April 16, 2010; and

WHEREAS, the legislation required to authorize the proposed settlement has yet to be introduced in Congress and referred to the Committees of Jurisdiction over Indian Affairs; and

WHEREAS, the proposed settlement creates a whole new class of plaintiffs and claims which have not previously been included in the 14 year old litigation, and

WHEREAS, only one hearing has been scheduled in each chamber of Congress, the second to be March 10, 2010 in Washington DC on the legislation required to authorize the settlement by the U.S. House of Representatives; and

WHEREAS, the NCAI Executive Council believes Congressioanl hearings in each of the Bureau of Indian Affair’s regions are required to fully inform the Indian people most impacted by the Cobell Settlement, and

WHEREAS, no legislation to authorize the proposed settlement has been printed and made publicly available by either house of the U.S. Congress; and

WHEREAS, the only information available to Tribes and individual Indians regarding the Cobell Settlement is through a web site maintained by the plaintiffs and many thousands of individual Indians lack access to this type of technology ; and

WHEREAS, the $2 billion for land consolidation in the proposed Cobell Settlement is not responsive to Tribal land consolidation and restoration efforts and the funds will be returned to the Treasury after ten years if not fully expended by the Bureau of Indian Affairs, and

WHEREAS, NCAI is determined that a settlement of this magnitude demands transparency and time for Indian Country to understand what is being proposed to extinguish all individual Indian fiscal and trust-related claims against the government.

NOW THEREFORE BE IT RESOLVED, that NCAI does hereby demand that the Congress of the United States conduct regional hearings to ensure that Indian Country has time to consider both the likely and unintended consequences, guaranteeing transparency of the agreement and process, and ensuring fairness of the proposed Cobell Settlement; and

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED, that the Department of Interior and the Cobell Plaintiffs conduct regional consultation with Indian Country to explain the proposed settlement and answer questions from affected Indian people.

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED, that this resolution shall be the policy of NCAI until it is withdrawn or modified by subsequent resolution.

Also see: Cobell answers questions on trust fund settlement:

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Censored News is published by censored journalist Brenda Norrell. A journalist for 27 years, Brenda lived on the Navajo Nation for 18 years, writing for Navajo Times, AP, USA Today, Lakota Times and other American Indian publications. After being censored and then terminated by Indian Country Today in 2006, she began the Censored Blog to document the most censored issues. She currently serves as human rights editor for the U.N. OBSERVER & International Report at the Hague and contributor to Sri Lanka Guardian, Narco News and CounterPunch. She was cohost of the 5-month Longest Walk Talk Radio across America, with Earthcycles Producer Govinda Dalton in 2008:
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