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Proposed Interior Accounting Plan is Insufficient to Individual Indian Trust Account Holders

Location: Washington, DC. Date: July 3. 2002

Today, the US Department of Interior released a 110 page report to Congress on the Historical Accounting of Individual Indian Money Accounts. The Plaintiffs in Cobell v. Norton, a lawsuit against the Secretary of the Interior, find this report to not provide an accurate, historical accounting as required by the US District Court in Washington, DC.

Cobell v. Norton is a class-action lawsuit filed on June 10, 1996, in US District Court in Washington, DC to force the federal government to account for billions of dollars held in trust for approximately 500,000 American Indians and their heirs. The purpose of the Cobell v. Norton lawsuit is twofold: to force the government to account for the money, and to bring about permanent reform of the system.

In the report, the Department of Interior estimates that the historical accounting will cost between 2.4 and 2.5 billion dollars and take at least ten years. This planned accounting will only reconcile accounts through Dec 31, 2000.

The Plaintiffs respond to the proposed timeline of the historical accounting provided by the report as follows:

"The Secretary promised to accelerate an accounting of funds, not to delay an accounting of funds. By delivering a plan with no assurances of completion, Secretary Norton has not fulfilled her promise to the account holders. Under the proposed plan many of our older beneficiaries will have passed on before the promised accounting. We cannot, should not, and will not tolerate this delay any longer. The Secretary should settle this lawsuit to restore justice to the hundreds of thousands of beneficiaries to whom she owes the highest degree of care, trust, and responsibility."

To provide an accurate accounting, the Department of Interior states in the report "Although there are probably some errors, the data that reside in the existing electronic records systems are presumably correct."

Keith Harper, Lawyer with the Native American Rights Fund, responds "An accounting that presumes information is accurate is no accounting at all. It undermines every fundamental principle of fiduciary relationships."

The class action lawsuit, Cobell v. Norton, is ongoing.

For more information on the Plaintiffs' lawsuit against the Department of Interior, please visit the website:

For more information about the Historical Accounting report please contact: Mia Merrick at (602) 878 2928

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