WASHINGTON, July 9 — Elouise Cobell, who has been leading a successful, 7-year legal fight to secure a full accounting of the government’s Indian Trust accounts, urged Congress today to reject so-called compromise legislation that would effectively kill her lawsuit.
In testimony before the House Resources Committee, Cobell described the legislation as “a draconian provision that would involuntarily extinguish the claims of trust beneficiaries and eliminate their right to seek redress from the courts for the uncontested century of mismanagement of our trust funds.”
Cobell, a member of Montana’s Blackfeet nation, is the lead plaintiff in a lawsuit which has secured court orders requiring the Department of Interior to provide the estimated 500,000 current and former trust account beneficiaries with a full accounting of their funds. The accounts, established in 1887, are supposed to contain the proceeds from government-arranged leases of Indian lands in the West.
Members of the House Appropriations Committee are proposing to end the lawsuit and force Indians to accept settlements devised by the secretary of Interior in an effort to end the litigation.
Cobell denounced that provision — Section 137 of the Interior Appropriations Bill for fiscal 2004 — as the “Mandatory Account Adjustment Directive,” or MAAD.
“MAAD is a most repressive measure designed to eviscerate the rights of Indian beneficiaries and steal from us the victories we have achieved through 7 years of litigation,” Cobell told the committee.
“MAAD is touted by its proponents as a sound, reasonable and fair process for “settling” the on-going Indian trust fund case, Cobell vs. Norton,” she said. “But in reality it is neither sound, nor reasonable, nor fair.”
“Simply put MAAD is bad federal Indian policy,” she said.