Native Tears

Via the Washington Post, the verdict has been rendered at long last in the Cobell litigation

A federal judge ruled Thursday that American Indian plaintiffs are entitled to $455 million in a long-running trust case, a fraction of the $47 billion they wanted.

Robertson’s final number is close to government estimates and far from the billions sought by plaintiffs in the 12-year trial. The lawsuit _ filed on behalf of a half-million American Indians and their heirs _ claims they were swindled out of billions of dollars in oil, gas, grazing, timber and other royalties overseen by the Interior Department since 1887.

At issue was how much of the royalty money was withheld from the Indian plaintiffs over the years, and whether it was held in the U.S. treasury at a benefit to the government.

Because many of the records have been lost or destroyed, it has been up to the court to decide how to best estimate how much the individual Indians, many of whom are nearing the end of their lives, should be paid.

The government proposed paying $7 billion partly to settle the Cobell lawsuit in March 2007, but that was rejected by the plaintiffs.

In a January decision, Robertson said the Interior Department had "unreasonably delayed" its accounting of the money owed to landholders and that the task was ultimately impossible. He called the June trial to consider whether money was owed, and, if so, how much was owed.

The class-action suit deals with individual Indians’ lands and covers about 500,000 Indians and their heirs.

This is a giant, landmark case that has been screwed up and slanted against the Native plaintiffs from the start. The US government has been dishonest, dismissive and disingenuous every inch of the way. In fact, this is so true that the original judge assigned to the case, Royce Lamberth, not necessarily a bleeding heart understand you, not only had the following to say, he literally made it part of a formal interlocutory opinion in the case. Lamberth stated that the United States Government, and it’s Department of the Interior was

…a dinosaur — the morally and culturally oblivious hand-me-down of a disgracefully racist and imperialist government that should have been buried a century ago, the pathetic outpost of the indifference and anglocentrism we thought we had left behind.

For this singular demonstration of honesty and perspective, the Bush Department of Justice had Lamberth removed from the case. For more on the case of Cobell v. Kempthorne, see here and here.

The Native Americans have been screwed once again by the white man. It is disgraceful.

UPDATE: Now would be a good time for those of you not familiar with Cobell to begin to ask yourselves about McCain’s relationship to the Bureau of Indian Affairs, and how that relationship fits into the big picture of Cobell.

And then ask yourselves about the connection between Cobell and the demands of the idiot Republicans in Congress who are having a hissy fit about drill, drill, drilling here in the United States.
(These very true words courtesy of Rayne in comments)

  1. skdadl says:

    Aha. Lamberth … one of the FISC judges who sent up a warning? Had to look that up, but I knew the name rang a bell.

    Obviously I don’t know this case, bmaz, but as a resident of another “pathetic outpost of the indifference and anglocentrism we thought we had left behind,” I empathize deeply. We are going to have to do so many of these cases all over again one day.

    • bmaz says:

      Well, this is an American case, but the issues pervade both countries; it’s a North American thing.

      The sad deal here is not just that the Natives were plundered, but it was the royalties, rights and monies we were holding in trust for them from ripping them off in the first place. Of course, the US government had to hold it in trust because they might have not protected it and let it disappear and waste. That sure worked out well eh?

      • PJEvans says:

        Of course, the US government had to hold it in trust because they might have not protected it and let it disappear and waste. That sure worked out well eh?

        Dishonest trustees are a problem for everyone. This time it’s a lot bigger set of trustees and victims. Too bad they weren’t having to publish the books every year from the beginning; it might have kept them more honest.

      • Ian Welsh says:

        Exact same thing happened in the US. I have some issues with Indian land claims in the West of Canada, but they are exactly right that “Indian Affairs” treated them like a cash cow and took no care of money they were supposed to be investing in trust for the Indians.

        The Feds are TERRIFIED of what the bill could turn out to be. Just petrified.

  2. oboblomov says:

    Observing this sort of thing happen to Indigenous people over and over again makes me feel that, as far as the law goes, this country and Nazi Germany have a lot in common. And it ain’t just the Bush administration.

  3. Rayne says:

    Now would be a good time for those of you not familiar with Cobell to begin to ask yourselves about McCain’s relationship to the Bureau of Indian Affairs, and how that relationship fits into the big picture of Cobell.

    And then ask yourselves about the connection between Cobell and the demands of the idiot Republicans in Congress who are having a hissy fit about drill, drill, drilling here in the United States.

      • DWBartoo says:

        Thank you for that link, Marie.

        Elouise Cobell speaks to the deceit of a people (or ‘their’ bureaucracy) grown arrogant and disdainful of truth, as oboblomov says, fascistic behaviors too long accepted as justified, necessary and ‘proper’.

        Any nation which denies, almost from its inception, the truth of its murderous ‘philosophy’, of its denial of common humanity, and pretends to moral ‘virtue’ is doomed to the consequences of karma.

        As we shall see, and know … all too soon.

        • MarieRoget says:

          Credit where credit is due, DWBartoo. I was in a hurry to hit the road for the gym & meant to highlight that link, which bmaz had originally included in his post. Thought it needed a little spotlighting so folks would go to it & read Elouise Cobell’s piece. The link is also an excellent resource on the issue.

          My brother & I emailed back ‘n forth quite a bit last night about this wretched verdict. He isn’t shaking his head, he’s white hot angry. Mom explained her personal experiences w/the BIA to us all many times when we were kids (Mom was Huron).

          Time to go after the DOI on this one, & they will.

  4. pseudonymousinnc says:

    Wampum, ‘A penny on the dollar’:

    That works out to about a 25.9cu refrigerator (at Sears) per Indian, after 100 plus years of theft and 11 years of first class litigation.

  5. Kirk James Murphy, M.D. says:


    Despicable decision from a despicably politicized Federal judiciary.

    Another vile episode in the United States’ long history of genocide and evil acts towards indigenous peoples.

    Ain’t no justice: just us.

  6. Mark0101 says:

    For those of you with the eyes to see, and the ears to hear, I have put together a site that provides an interesting overview of the unfolding events of Revelation 12

    Those who have done the research know that the underbelly of the Illuminati is satanism. This is why they censored the extraordinary eruption of Comet Holmes in October. There are pictures and further info explaining this monumental event at the site, under the “signs” button.

    Go to “links” button for the astounding revelations last week from former Nasa official Clark McClelland, who supported astronaut Ed Mitchell’s recent comments regarding military involvement with alien races.

    McClelland has admitted to seeing a 8 t0 9 ft tall alien on his monitor who was in the shuttle cargo bay during a classified shuttle mission. This week Clark put a artist’s rendering on his website of what he witnessed. Be sure to read the “incidents” links and you will get a pretty good idea of how credible of a witness Clark really is.

    I will posting further info on the site in a couple of days that is going to shock you.

    • bmaz says:

      It is a tragedy. I had one of the putative certified plaintiffs come to me about opting out and proceeding individually as co-plaintiffs eight or nine years ago. I reviewed a lot of material and the scope of how bad this all is is simply staggering. I have seen some pretty fucked up things along the way (coerced false simultaneous confessions of four innocent men to the execution style murders of nine Buddhist monks among them) and this may well be the most infuriating fact set I have ever encountered.

  7. egregious says:

    BIA knows they’re screwing the Native Americans. I have heard them speak openly of it. They just don’t care — who will stop them? There’s so much money involved from royalties, and the people who are getting that money have an interest in the status quo.

    I still think this is why some of the US Attorneys were fired. They were getting too close to the money.

    • nahant says:

      or better yet in the value of an once of gold in 1887 translated into todays dollars… What was it worth back then $5.oo per once… They should be given every cent they were screwed out of and then damages for the government doing so… Make the oil/gas and mining companies pay it… they are the ones who made all the money from exploiting the native Americans!!

  8. foothillsmike says:

    he’s baaaack

    My ex used to get a check from the treasury every quarter. Amount of check

    1 cent

  9. MadDog says:


    Any idea who the Defense team consisted of? And whether they know what the heck they’re doing?

    I certainly don’t know, but with results like this, I’d had to ask.

    • Ishmael says:

      The courts have never been a hospitable place for First Nations to seek redress. In Canada, many of these cases have been outstanding for decades, even centuries, in part as a result of a provision included in the Indian Act between 1927 and 1951, prohibiting First Nations from hiring lawyers to bring proceedings to assert their rights, without the prior written authorization of the federal government. Anyone seeking or receiving fees in violation of this provision was subject to a maximum fine of $200 or a maximum jail term of 2 months!

        • Ishmael says:

          Sorry for not replying! I’ve been busy with real work, but back in the toobz now. Looking forward to seeing Rodney Harrison harass Brett Favre into many ill-considered passes and costly interceptions on at least two occasions this year! (Or is it too early in the thread for Football Trash talk?)

    • bmaz says:

      There are a boatload of them. See here for a bunch of document links, and number of which will likely list the counsels of record. Also, the Natives are the Plaintiffs, the govt. is the defendant.

      • MadDog says:

        Also, the Natives are the Plaintiffs, the govt. is the defendant.

        Force of habit, I guess. Too often the screwed are the defendants and the screwers are the prosecution/plaintiffs.

  10. Ishmael says:

    I have done a lot of land claims work in Canada, and given the magnitude of the injustices done to First Nations peoples since European contact, and the glacial pace of addressing the wrongs done to them, I have been surprised that there have been so few instances of civil disobedience or even “terrorism”, to use what is an inapt word, by First Nations members in response to these wrongs.

  11. nahant says:

    Ha he is can learn!! He can now post a proper link… what the hell is he doing here… Last I knew this was/is not a blog about religion… come on MODS do ya havta let this stuff through??

  12. foothillsmike says:

    Several years ago the Supreme Court awarded several billion dollars to the Sioux Nation for the taking of the black hills – the sacred land of the Sioux. The Supreme Court called it one of the blackest periods of american history. The Sioux said stick it they want the black hills back. Treasury is supposedly holding the money in trust. Excellent book Black Hills White Justice – by the attorney for the plaintiffs.

    P.S. Why did we give Israel to the Jews?

    • Peterr says:

      I’ll second that book recommendation. Very well written tale of a very sad episode . . .

      And now the sequel plays out even worse.

      The WaPo article ends like this:

      On behalf of the Native Americans, the government then leased the land to oil, gas and other companies.

      The government has run into trouble trying to account for the money. Many records are missing. Some are kept in different forms. Others were destroyed.

      I’ll remember that if/when the IRS comes knocking. “Sorry, many records are missing. Some were kept in different forms, and others were eaten by my kid’s fish.”

      This was a suit to recover the money that was held in trust. Any chance of a suit for fiduciary malpractice?

      • bmaz says:

        That is part and parcel of this litigation. This is it. Appeal is the only hope. Alito instead of O’Connor is a cruncher for chances at the Supremes though.

      • Ishmael says:

        Absolutely. Right now, the Supreme Court of Canada is considering this very issue – the Ermineskin Nation of Alberta is claiming an action for breach of fiduciary duty by the federal government in the management of an oil and gas field and related royalties on behalf of the First Nation.

    • lllphd says:

      same reason we put the indians on the reservations, interestingly.

      about a century ago, many european and american jews were eager to recover their own lands for their ‘exiled’ people, and the holocaust brought on so much guilt, the UN ‘gave’ it to them. as if it were theirs to give.

      reading einstein’s bio now, and quite interesting how he became involved with zionism after a lifetime of resisting affiliation with anything like a group or nation or people. what tipped him into his ‘tribal’ inclinations, as he called it, was how horribly they were treated, especially in post WWI germany.

      his affiliation did not last long, though, and very quickly he was uncomfortable with what it would mean for the palestinians.

      prescient. brilliant and prescient.

      • oboblomov says:

        Over ten years ago a Hopi told me that there was some kind of “official” Israeli aid program in Hopi in the form of an agricultural mission. Seemed very strange to me, and before I had a chance to meet them, it folded. I didn’t learn until much later that at least some Israelis have a thing about American Indian Reservations and their relevance to the Palestinians.

        Thus, as already mentioned, the scholarly consensus is that Palestinians were ethnically cleansed in 1948. Israel’s leading historian, Benny Morris, although having done more than anyone else to clarify exactly what happened, nonetheless concludes that, morally, it was a good thing — just as, in his view, the “annihilation” of Native Americans was a good thing–that legally, Palestinians have no right to return to their homes, and that, politically, Israel’s big error in 1948 was that it hadn’t “carried out a large expulsion and cleansed the whole country–the whole Land of Israel, as far as the Jordan” of Palestinians.

        from N Finkelstein, Beyond Chutzpah pg 5. Benny Morris quotes from: Ari Shavit, “Survival of the Fittest,” interview with Benny Morris, Haaretz (9 January 2004)

  13. Marion in Savannah says:

    Ian is upstairs at FDL with the Tinker watch, hoping that the anti-Semitic creature (oh, the other words I could have used, but as someone once told me “now that you’ve been abroad please try to be a lady”) goes down to a well-deserved defeat.

    • oboblomov says:

      Thanks for pointing this article. Hopefully the Hopi and Navajo can unite over this serious threat to their collective survival on Black Mesa. Peabody Coal and the Gov have skilfully manipulated folks there into a heightened state of distrust. And not just Hopi-Navajo, but Hopi-Hopi and Navajo-Navajo as well. The Navajos of Black Mesa have lost greatly but in the long run everyone looses. No water, no life.

      John McCain is just the most recent servant of Peabody Coal, at the end of a long, long line of lawyers and politicians that taken and sold what is not theirs. Literally, Mother rapers.

  14. AZ Matt says:

    I showed the AP report on this to one of the Hopis I work with and he was just shaking his head, same-old-same-old. The Tribes now will go after the DOI.

  15. Peterr says:

    From the WaPo article on Lamberth cited in the post:

    But the appeals court said Lamberth was right about the Interior Department — to a point:

    “Although the July 12 opinion contains harsh — even incendiary — language, much of that language represents nothing more than the views of an experienced judge who, having presided over this exceptionally contentious case for almost a decade, has become ‘exceedingly ill disposed towards [a] defendant’ that has flagrantly and repeatedly breached its fiduciary obligations.

    The case was heard by a three-judge panel that included Senior Judge Laurence H. Silberman, Judge Janice Rogers Brown and Tatel.

    Emphasis added.

    I don’t know that I’d give up hope on the appeals. If I’m the counsel for the government, I don’t know that I’d sleep really well knowing that my case was headed for an appeals court that just two years ago agreed that my client has flagrantly and repeatedly screwed up. It’s better than losing at the district court level, of course, but this is a long way from being done.

    But damn, I wish the District Court had gotten it right in the first place.

    I’d love to see Lamberth write an amicus brief on this one.

  16. orionATL says:

    there was a fine discussion of the cobell litigation some months ago here at ew’s.

    as i recall, the occasion was an ew post (or two) about the firing of the minnesota u.s. attorney who had taken a lead in speaking out for native american interests within the bush doj.

    in those discussions, wampum and rayne, as i recall, and no doubt others, informed me of a lot i had not known.

    the ovp may have been mentioned. -:)

    as may have been buried carbon.

    one of the things at which the main stream media fails miserably is linking past reporting with present reporting to present a set of stories, rather than just the story of the moment.

    • rincewind says:

      Heffelfinger — and several of the 8?9? fired USA’s had served on the (senior moment) NAIS? committee. I’m thinking Chiara was the current chair at the time (and the special detail that Hagen was removed from was domestic violence issues in Indian Country, I think).

  17. jaango says:

    Anyone for a refrigerator? It’s free!

    In any event, I will toss my ‘refrigerator’ into the bottom of the Big Hole, or the Grand Canyon. And when the Japanese tourists arrive and see a mile high pile of refrigerators, their first comment will be, “What the hell?” And I will suggest that it’s a memorial to Cortez and the like=minded.


  18. DWBartoo says:

    Good to see you here, Jaango, once again.

    Such a monumental pile of ‘white trash’ as you suggest is outrageously appropriate.

    The casual hubris, historically, of the barely yet dominant Caucasian or “light-skined division of humanity” (according to the Oxford American Dictionary) is still, on occassion, to be both witnessed and experienced; even today.

    This thread bears such witness.

    The empires of the West, of which this, the American Empire, is the last, have exacted a terrible obedience to a smugly self-perceived sensibility, imagining itself superior to any and all different cosmologies, different cultures, and especially, towards other peoples, other human beings.

    As we know, but have not, generally, acknowledged either as society or as individual human being, whenever any people set themselves apart and above others then it becomes imperative that the humanity of the ‘other’ be diminished or denied.

    This is true whether we speak of class war fare, the ‘peculiar’ institution, slavery, or the systematic destruction of the civilizations of nations or peoples, or a male-dominated social ‘order’.

    The history of our species’ behavior is replete with such strife and brutal manipulation.

    By now, we human animals, one would hope, however audacious such hope appears, might have begun to understand that by most fantastic good fortune we live on a planet to which we are quite ideally suited. Consider, what other place may we imagine where we should feel so much at home?

    So, as our stone-age brains struggle to interpret the meaning of a mile-high edifice to profound ignorance and our far more ancient emotional responses begin to comprehend the enormity of what is before us, may we, all of us, have the good sense to realize that all we ever truly have to spend, as human beings, is time. And that our knowledge is always surpassed by what we don’t know, and that, if we have children, then the world already belongs to them, and that all of us, are really only guests of the future, that we are all here, only for the briefest moment of time.

    Jaango, you have provided me an excuse to ramble a bit, for which I hope you will not be overmuch annoyed. Presuming upon our too-short aquaintance, I would take leave of you now with one parting concern, that we may, all of us, learn what is needful, which I suspect is far beyond what any single one of us may know, or can even imagine; may we learn these manifest things before, and hopefully well-before, it is too late.

    Though it is morning here, Jaango, I bid you good night.

  19. bobschacht says:

    I’m way late to this party, but better late than never, I hope.
    Thanks for writing this piece! By way of background, I lived on the Navajo Reservation for a year, and was married to a Navajo woman for 8 years. I was also a resident of Arizona for 17 years, and we thought that when Clinton named favorite son Bruce Babbitt to the Dept of the Interior, this whole mess would be resolved in a noble manner. But it wasn’t. In eight years, Babbitt didn’t help much at all. That was a real disappointment.

    Bob in HI

  20. pajarito says:

    I work for Department of Interior. Judge Lamberth got it exactyly right: a dinosaur……

    A relict of the white-man expansion and exploitation of the American West that remains today to serve those who benefited, now at taxpayer expense.

    Scott Horton wonders if DOJ is the most corrupt federal agency, I would suggest DOI is not far behind.

  21. jaango says:


    Thanks for the response, again.

    Given that we are an Exemplar of “maturation”, there is much to be said, and I have learned over the years that the Elders tend to be far more correct than incorrect. Take, for example, “We have borrowed this planet from our children!” or “Living within the Heart!” teaches much when one is willing demonstrate the patience to “hear” and to “listen”.

    Earlier this year, I took the decision to participate here with the Big Pups and on those issues of particular importance that will encourage voters to visit the Ballot Box on Election Day, and the Cobell decision will accomplish much to reinforce this behavior.

    Lest I forget, I find rambling not to be annoying. I have been known to do that as well. As a proud member of the slow-walking “maturation for modernity” club, it beats having to spend any monies on the services on a mental health expert.

    Now, my ramble. Permit me to toss out the name of J.D Hayworth. He is a former member of the House and was eventually ousted by Harry “Gramps” Mitchell, a former civics teacher, a former Mayor Tempe, and a former state legislator. Regardless, while a member of the House, He, Hayworth established the Indian Caucus, appointed himself Chairman and of course, he is not Native American and the Caucus only had one member and that was Hayworth. Thus, an Opportunist of some note, but then, we have McCain too.

    Hayworth involved mself in the Cobell litigation and introduced legislation to ’solve’ this lawsuit. His dollar amount for financial compensation was $500 million. What I find interesting is that this dollar amount parallels the judges decision. Needless to say, Hayworth was a ‘public’ member of the Minutemen here in Arizona. Consequently, our Judiciary has been infected with similar thinking by our Elected and Appointed Officials. Thus, the Judiciary will continue to propagate this egregious thinking in their decison-making and for years to come. And many folks who hold to my view of politics, consider this the equivalent to the “land mines in self-governance that need to be extruded quietly and efficiently.” A toxic environment indeed!


    • DWBartoo says:


      Hayworth is quite a despicable being, as you say, with ties to Abramoff, among other sordid ‘achievements’.

      You concern regarding the judiciary certainly resonates with my observations here in Penns Woods, some counties in the state’s (Pennsylvania)judiciary system have long been in the thrall of judges who are justifiably described, by somewhat ‘liberal’ attorneys of my aquaintance, as being “slightly to the left of Attila the Hun”. I some cases I would say the comparison is probably unfair to Atilla.

      As the American middle-class is further beset by the unfolding economic depression, more people, who are unaccustomed to the ‘experience’ will find themselves facing judges who shall have little sympathy for plight of those compelled to appear before them.

      While the less ‘well-rewarded’ have, for many years, known that ‘justice’ without deep pockets is harsh indeed, many, who could never have imagined unkindly fate as a too-constant companion for themselves, may find that they too are but a few dollars away, not only from privation, but also, perhaps, of the loss of certain freedoms they had come to take for granted.

      Off, rambling again I am, Jaango.

      Hayworth is a ‘politician’ we all should keep our eyes on, the ascendency of J. D. and his ilk portend nothing but ill for the rest of humanity.

      Well, once again, daylight is fast approaching and tomorrow promises to be a long and busy day.

      It is a pleasure to learn of your perspectives, to ’see’ the horizons of your landscapes, and I find your philosophy inspired, Jaango.

      Thank you for sharing your thoughful sensibilities.


  22. JohnLopresti says:

    One of the effects of city orientation can be a confined sense of proportion. There may be few people on a reservation but the lands are large. Consider this reservation of the native American community in south west AZ known as the “Tohono O’odham”, population 24,000 people; their dedicated lands comprise an area the size of CT.

  23. Gitcheegumee says:

    I may have missed it, but I didn’t see any refernce to the fact that John McCain has been influential in all things relating to the BIA . Most specifically, the hearings involving the Coushatta Indians and the Abramoff scandal. In fact,John McCain SAT on an Email tying Abramoff to the chicanery surounding the railroading of Alabama governor Don Segilman-(in an attempt to keep gambling OUT of that state and IN Mississippi,run by Haley Barbour,Jacks BBF).HuffPo and SamStein did a piece on this in Feb. of this year. Abramoff’s ties to Isreal and his lobbying eforts are well known,but John McCain and Israels ties via gambling have been less publicized…evidence of lack does not always imply lack of evidence.