Modal close

Dear Democracy Now! visitor,

You turn to Democracy Now! for ad-free news you can trust. Maybe you come for our daily headlines. Maybe you come for in-depth stories that expose corporate and government abuses of power. Democracy Now! brings you crucial reporting like our coverage from the front lines of the standoff at Standing Rock or news about the movements fighting for peace, racial and economic justice, immigrant rights and LGBTQ equality. We produce our daily news hour at a fraction of the budget of a commercial news operation—all without ads, government funding or corporate sponsorship. How is this possible? Only with your support. If every visitor to this site in December gave just $10 we could cover our basic operating costs for 2017. Pretty exciting, right? So, if you've been waiting to make your contribution to Democracy Now!, today is your day. It takes just a couple of minutes to make sure that Democracy Now! is there for you and everybody else in 2017.

Non-commercial news needs your support.

We rely on contributions from you, our viewers and listeners to do our work. If you visit us daily or weekly or even just once a month, now is a great time to make your monthly contribution.

Please do your part today.

Topics

"The Indian Enron"? Hundreds of Boxes of Documents Destroyed, Charges of Contempt of Court, Billions of Dollars at Stake, Millions Paid to Arthur Anderson: Native Americans Sue the U.S. Government in

StoryApril 29, 2002
Watch iconWatch Full Show

The destruction of hundreds of boxes of documents; charges of contempt of court; billions of dollars at stake; millions paid to Arthur Anderson.

No, it’s not the Enron scandal. It is much bigger. It’s one of the largest class-action lawsuits in history, and it’s about how the U.S. government has treated Native Americans over the last century.

The US government began taking Native American land and putting it into government-run trust funds in the 19th century. In 1887, a new law called for the breaking up of tribal land into allotments to individual Native Americans. The law was a means of winning land for white settlers–after allocating land to individuals, the government would declare a "surplus," and "buy" the surplus for a pittance. Congress has also concluded that law was an attempt to break up tribes. It destroyed the land base of many reservations.

Over the years, the government leased the land to oil companies, miners, ranchers, and loggers, and sent checks to landowners. But according to a massive class-action lawsuit, the system has plagued by problems for decades. Landowners have no way to determine how much money they are owed and whether they are receiving a good value for their leases. The government often fails to collect on leases or send funds to the correct beneficiary. There has never been an accounting of the funds.

The General Accounting Office, the Interior Department, and Congress have all urged reform. Congress tried to fix the system and failed. The Interior Department tried, and failed. Accounting giant Arthur Anderson was paid over $20 million to fix the system, and failed.

In 1996, Blackfeet Nation treasurer Elouise Cobell launched the class action lawsuit to account for all royalties due individual Native Americans since 1887. Since then, the government has destroyed over one hundred boxes of records. Interior Secretary Bruce Babbitt and Treasury Secretary Robert Rubin under Clinton were held in contempt of court. Cobell just finished a month-long hearing seeking contempt of court charges against the current Interior Secretary, Gale Norton.

Guests:

  • Eloise Cobell, former treasurer of the Blackfeet Nation.
  • Keith Harper, attorney, Native American Rights Fund.

Related links:

Music:

  • "Peace Is A-Coming", Khayumbia, is Kharabia Rayford (vocals, percussion) & Yumi Steve Hooks (bass, guitar, flute and keyboard).

The original content of this program is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 United States License. Please attribute legal copies of this work to democracynow.org. Some of the work(s) that this program incorporates, however, may be separately licensed. For further information or additional permissions, contact us.

Non-commercial news needs your support

We rely on contributions from our viewers and listeners to do our work.
Please do your part today.

Make a donation