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Indian Trust lawsuit returns to court

[JURIST] The US District Court for the District of Columbia [official website] Wednesday conducted an evidentiary hearing in the decade-old Indian Trust case [Cobell v. Norton litigation website; JURIST news archive]. The class-action suit involves the alleged mismanagement by the US Department of the Interior [official website] of American Indian money [DOI Indian Trust Fund website], including lease and sales revenues, permit fees and interest, received and held for Native Americans by the US government over the last 120 years. DOI Associate Deputy Secretary James Cason [DOI press release] told the court that the government has so far spent over $127 million in a good-faith effort to present timely historical accountings of the disputed trust lands. Cason pointed to limited investigatory funds from Congress as the source of DOI delays. AP has more.

In March, the Native American plaintiffs rejected [JURIST report] a $7 billion settlement proposal from the US government. Some read the offer as a governmental acknowledgment of liability, but DOI officials disputed that interpretation. The plaintiffs criticized the settlement offer as "pennies on the dollar" in respect of the value of their claim as well as for its attempt to preclude further claims.

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