August 2020

Indigenous Peoples and Human Rights

Monday, January 31, 2011

Crumbs! Cobell Settlement

Is the Cobell settlement another scam?
UPDATE: Attorneys ask judge to more than double their feesBy Brenda Norrell

Attorneys in the Cobell settlement jacked up their bill in January, more than doubling it, and the United States is now attempting to buy up Indian lands under the settlement.
Indian land owners, long cheated by the US government, will be receiving peanuts. Individual Indians are expected to receive on the average $1,200, of the $3.4 billion settlement.
Native Americans question if the settlement is no more than another US scam to buy up Indian lands.
Never sell the landVi Waln said she has already received three letters, with increasing offers. Waln is Sicangu Lakota, editor of Lakota Country Times and lives on the Rosebud Indian Nation in South Dakota.
"I got three letters on the Cobell settlement. And I will get more letters offering to buy my fractionated interests. Every time they send me a letter with an offer to buy the fractionated interests they offer more money. Maybe I will sell if they offer me $99.9 million like the Cobell lawyers are getting," Waln said.
"But then again I always tell my family to never sell the land, even if the letter says you own only one acre!"
Attorneys want a big chunk of the pieNow that the US has agreed to the Cobell settlement, the attorneys, including a large number of non-Indian attorneys, are seeking to more than double their fees.
The $3.4 billion class action settlement, Cobell v. Salazar, seeks to resolve claims related to Individual Indian Money (or IIM) accounts and land held in trust by the federal government for the benefit of individual Indians.
The attorneys now say that $99.9 million isn't enough. On Jan. 25, the attorneys asked a presiding judge for far more: $223 million plus $1.3 million in expenses and costs (see court petition below.)
Although some of the attorneys are Native Americans, the majority are not.
Washington solo practitioner Dennis Gingold and a team of Kilpatrick Townsend & Stockton attorneys told a judge their fees should be more than doubled.
The National Law Journal online reports, "Kilpatrick Chairman William Dorris in Atlanta, who bills at $690 an hour, revealed in court records the hourly rates for nearly 100 current and former partners, associates and counsel in Washington; Winston-Salem, N.C.; and Atlanta, among other cities."
Ben Carnes, Choctaw in Oklahoma, questions why the United States isn't paying the legal fees.
"What is absent to me is why the defendants (US Government) isn't paying the attorney fees, which is what is usually requested in civil actions. Unless the negotiations in the settlement were that their payday came from the plaintiffs.
"There has been an argument that many of the current plaintiffs have passed on since the filing of this case, but that has been going on for more than a hundred years. If there is a fear they won't get money in hand before their deaths, then it disturbs me. One should never give up just so they could be bought out."
What about criminal charges?
Carnes said he views the settlement as a cover-up, aimed at protecting the criminals involved in the theft and fraud of billions of Indian dollars.
"My opinion of the Cobell settlement is that it is a cover-up. There is no doubt that to do an historical accounting would be a monumental undertaking, but the costs would be more than dollars.
"It could cost careers, expose covert illegal activities and where possible, lead to a demand for federal indictments. Someone mentioned that during the Iran-contra hearings evidence was revealed that funding had been diverted from our accounts.
"As to the fractionated lands issue, I was told that the lands purchased would be turned over to the tribal government as a part of the consolidation. Since these entities are created by the federal government, it wouldn't be a far stretch to think that the federal government could 'lease' these lands more easily than dealing with heirs."
"Another aspect I haven't seen mentioned here is that when notices are sent out, and if an heir couldn't be reached, they will lose out anyway. These lands will be purchased at fair market value, but when these lands are gone, they will be gone."
Through the years, whistleblowers, including one at the BLM in Farmington, N.M., exposed the fact that the amounts of oil and gas being extracted from the Aneth, Utah, oil and gas fields on the Navajo Nation, were intentionally underreported to benefit the corporations. Navajos in Aneth had long protested the hundreds of oil and gas wells around their homes that were poisoning their families.
Sweetin' the pie: Indian scholarshipsThe dangling carrot of the offer of Indian scholarships was supposed to sweeten the pie, but American Indians aren't buying that either. They've seen these vague scholarship offers fall by the wayside, or end up with most of the funds going into the pockets of CEOs and for travel, or squandered in more fraud.
Theresa Yarbrough listed many concerns over the settlement.
"The scholarship fund is nothing more than dangling an apple in front of the lead plow horse," Yarbrough said.
The vague wording in the settlement states: "Depending on the level of participation in the land consolidation program, up to $60 million will be set aside to provide scholarships for higher education for American Indian and Alaska Native youth."
The truth is, "up to $60 million," is vague wording and means anything less than this amount.
US seeks to benefit from its crimesYarbrough points out that the United States would never enter into the Cobell settlement, unless it benefits the United States.
In the settlement, as usual, the US states that it has done nothing wrong.
"They agree to settle, they don't believe they have committed any crime or wronged anyone," Yarbrough pointed out.
"Another thing wrong with this is that the settlement allows for a huge amount of the monies to establish a new government program that will be used to buy up fractionated lands. This is nothing more than another land acquisition movement," she said. "Unless the land is returned to the Indians with a land patent, and all mineral and resource rights, it is still property of the United States," she said.
Native Americans point out that the US can not be trusted. Further, they point out that tribal governments are entities manufactured by the US government. When it comes to land, and revenues from energy, many Native Americans feel neither the tribal government nor the US government can be trusted.
Although the settlement says the newly-acquired lands purchased will become a "benefit" to the tribes, beware. The US also considers toxic waste dumps as good economic development for Indian country.
It is the purchase of fractionated interests that is a red flag among many.
"Under the Settlement Agreement, $1.9 billion will fund a Department of the Interior program to buy fractionated interests in trust or restricted land from willing sellers to benefit tribal communities and aid in land consolidation."
Yarbrough said what the government is really saying, with the land acquisition is: "We will benefit from your lands and keep you from leaving it to your heirs."
Grassroots Natives remain uninformedThe settlement comes with many warnings that may never reach the grassroots Native people who live without electricity or Internet. For some, English is a second language. Still, if they don't opt out, they are considered part of the settlement.
"Individuals wishing to keep their right to sue the federal government over mismanagement claims covered by the settlement must exclude themselves from the settlement by April 20, 2011," according to the settlement.
Hush moneyAs with any settlement, this means an end to claims.
"Settlement means just that, once the deal is accepted, the issue is settled, put to rest, and can never be brought up again," Yarbrough said.
Crumbs again for the people
As more is learned about the settlement, it increasingly resembles some of the casino negotiations.
These resulted in casino management companies and the states receiving fortunes from lucrative casinos. The grassroots Native people whose tribes operate lucrative casinos, including the Tohono O'odham, continue to live in desperation, seeking food, homes and jobs, while profits go to casino management companies and large percentages to the states.
MoreUPDATE Feb. 2, 2011: Cobell is holding meetings with land owners:
Current payout information for landowners:
Attorneys petition for increased fees:"This fee petition is submitted by plaintiffs on behalf of Dennis M. Gingold, Thaddeus Holt and the law firm of Kilpatrick Townsend & Stockton, LLP, including William E. Dorris, Keith M. Harper, Elliott H. Levitas, David C. Smith, Adam H. Charnes, G. William Austin and Justin M. Guilder (collectively, “Class Counsel”) in accordance with the terms of settlement. Work after December 7, 2009 will be the subject of future applications.
Court petition:
National Law Journal: Cobell attorneys seek $223 million


Unknown said...

after reading this article, once again the greed that united states govt. practice's has come into play again, as an indian of this continant i myself have a deed to an allotment. 3.2 billion is nothing, it's not even pocket change to the corporation that has benefit from indian land resources, the law firm's that are asking for 223 million were just professional united states govt. scammers to hustle the natives of this continant. if these law firm's truely wanted to help the natives they would've wrote that they be paid by the united states govt. not the natives. if your a true native don't recognize yourself as native american or american indian, reason being america is still in the process of exterminting natives of this continant not only natives but the rest of third world countries with natural resouces. money is not everything and is here only in your hand for moment and than gone, our land will be here forever. lets keep fight'n the united states govt. their lost thay wanted us to go school, someday natives well have an out come of another reason why u.s. govt. well hate us more....POWER TO THE NATIVE PEOPLE OF THIS CONTINANT!!!!!...

metis indian said...

this settlement is a joke especially if the crooked lawyers get 99 million or more what does that leave us?????? what a joke