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

Flagstaff Protest: NAU off sacred Mount Graham

Contact: Robin
(602) 799-3275 (Photo: Mount Graham website: )
Action in support Winona LaDuke's presentation at NAU campus on Feb 1st. Protest rally to stop NAU desecration and extinction on Mount Graham!
When: Tues. February 1.
Gather at 5:00 PM
Walk starts at 6:00 PM
Where: NAU High Country Conference Center located at 201 West Butler Avenue.
Meet outside near Butler Ave and Conference Center main entrance.
Look for banners.
Why: The Mount Graham telescope project desecrates a central Apache religious site. It destroys and fragments the old growth forest heart of an endangered species' critical habitat.
Northern Arizona University is a partner in the projects centerpiece Large Binocular Telescope.
NAU administration has ignored previous attempts to address this issue.
Please join us!
Who: NAU students, faculty and concerned community members. Elders from San Carlos Apache will be in attendance.
This action is being supported by: Center for Biological Diversity, Mount Graham Coalition, and Indigenous Action Media.
Plan: Walk from Conference Center to Winona LaDuke's speech at Ardrey
Auditorium (ticket necessary for admission:
Contact: NAU President Haeger and urge him to respect the Apache, to save the Mount Graham red squirrel and to get NAU out of the Mount Graham telescope project.
Phone: (928) 523-3232 Email:
Further Info:
For the Apache, Mount Graham or Dzil nchaa si' is of central sacred importance to the Western Apache as a geographical landform, as a burial ground, and as home to the Gaahn (mountain spirits). Mount Graham is also sacred in very specific locations. One of these sites is Emerald Peak where the centerpiece Large Binocular Telescope (formerly the Columbus telescope) is now located. NAU is a partner in this telescope which is now visible from the San Carlos reservation.
The Mount Graham Red Squirrel is found nowhere else except on Mount Graham. Only a little more than 200 squirrels now survive. The telescopes destroy and fragment the forested heart of the squirrels' essential spruce-fir habitat. Nearly one third of the spruce-fir was needlessly destroyed recently under the guise of protecting the telescopes from fire.

O'odham: Border Patrol protesters call for more action

NEWS RELEASE Monday January 31, 2011
Contact: Alex Soto Email:

Update: Events in Tucson, Flagstaff and Phoenix. Feb. 2011:

Border Patrol Headquarters Occupation Protesters to Fight Charges
Group Calls for Further Action Against Border Militarization
TUCSON -- On February 23, 2011, 2:00 PM at Tucson City Court, five of the six protesters who locked-down and occupied the US Border Patrol Tucson Headquarters on May 21, 2010 are going to trial fighting one count each of "criminal trespassing". One of the six has chosen to take a diversion.

The action was taken, in part, to demand that BP, Immigration Customs Enforcement (ICE), their parent entity, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), and the Obama administration end militarization of the border, end the criminalization of immigrant communities, and end their campaign of terror which rips families apart through increasing numbers of raids and deportations.

Alex Soto, one of the arrestees and member of O'odham Solidarity Across Borders states, "As we did not enter the BP headquarters alone but with prayers of O'odham elders and community supporters, we are asking for support once again for our continued stand against border militarization. Our messaging is the reality for everyone that is forced to feel the pain that borders inflict upon us in our daily lives. The Border Patrol is not the only agency responsible for the militarization of the border – and it's subsequent destruction of Indigenous and migrant communities – or the only benefactors of border militarization." Soto states.

In a previous release O'odham Solidarity Across Borders and O'odham elders stated, "The development of the border wall has lead to desecration of Tohono O'odham ancestors graves, it has divided communities and prevents O'odham from accessing sacred places. Troops and paramilitary law enforcement, detention camps, check points, and citizenship verification are not a solution to "issues" of migration. Indigenous Peoples have existed here long before these imposed borders, elders inform us that we always honored freedom of movement. Why are Indigenous communities and the daily deaths at the border ignored? The impacts of border militarization are constantly made invisible in the media, the popular culture of this country and even the mainstream immigrants rights movement which has often pushed for “reform” that means further militarization of the border, which means increased suffering for Indigenous communities. Border militarization destroys Indigenous communities."

Since the creation of the current U.S./Mexico border, 45 O’odham villages on or near the border have been completely depopulated.

According to the migrant support group No More Deaths, from October 2009 to Sept. 2010 there have been more than 250 deaths on the Arizona border alone.

Actions toward ending border militarization and the decriminalization of our communities:
- Immediately withdraw National Guard Troops from the US/Mexico border
- Immediately halt development of the border wall
- Immediately remove drones and checkpoints
- Decommission all detention camps and release all presently held undocumented migrants
- Immediately honor Indigenous Peoples rights of self-determination
- Fully comply with the recently signed UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples
- Respect Indigenous People's inherent right of migration
- End NAFTA, FTAA and other trade agreements
- Immediately repeal SB1070 and 287g
- End all racial profiling
- No BP encroachment/sweeps on sovereign Native land
- No raids and deportations
- Immediate and unconditional regularization (“legalization”) of all people
- Uphold human freedom and rights
- Support dignity and respect
- Support and ensure freedom of movement for all people

Put this message in action and help end the attack on Indigenous and migrant communities. Take these messages to the street where you are. If you can, join us inside and outside the court room in Tucson at 2:00pm. on February 23, 2011.
Tucson City Court is located at 103 E. Alameda St. Tucson, AZ.

Additional ways to take action in your community to bring awareness to the impacts of the militarization of the border and criminalization of our communities:

1. Directly intervene by:
- Protesting institutions and agencies directly responsible (a brief list available at:
- Being part of (or starting) Border Patrol, ICE, National Guard, Minutemen watch groups in your community
- Stopping ICE vehicles from deporting migrants
- Providing aid for migrants crossing the border

2. Pressure political officials:
Janet Napolitano
Department of Homeland Security
U.S. Department of Homeland Security
Washington, DC 20528
Comment Line: 202-282-8495

3. Organize or attend an awareness or benefit event:
An awareness and benefit show will be held in Tucson on February 22nd at Dry River Infoshop.
A discussion on border issues will be held in Flagstaff, AZ on February 22nd at Taala Hooghan Infoshop.

4. Donate to Border Action Defense Fund:

5. Support local Indigenous struggles for self-determination and freedom of movement.
In particular, bring awareness to Indigenous communities on the US/Mex border that have been militarized.

To view the occupation video and for additional resources please visit:

Fat Takers and the return to awareness of nature

Mohawk John Kane: 'Nature will always be there to teach'
By Brenda Norrell
Censored News
Photo: Schools for Chiapas published with permission
National Congress of American Indians President Jefferson Keel's State of Indian Nations address earned him the title "Fat Taker," from Lakotas. Mohawk John Kane responded with a reminder that the truths within nature are always there for people to return to, when they have lost their way.

Keel’s address earned him the title “Fat Taker,” for his focus on the Rape of Mother Earth, exploiting the land and resources for profits, without regard to the health of the people or resources such as clean water for future generations.

Debra White Plume, Lakota on Pine Ridge Indian land in South Dakota, said, "Some 'Indians' are Fat Takers in disguise, think nothing about raping Mother Earth, Ina Maka, Unci Maka -- so long as they get the 'best price.'"

Mohawk John Kane said an awareness of nature is there for people to return to.

"Our culture was based on and committed to nature. Those that have tried to transform our knowledge and teachings into beliefs or religion have lost their way. The good news is that nature will always be there to teach even when we fail to."

"We could lose every word or act our ancestors ever tried to hand down and get it all back if we just can return to respecting our relationship to creation. No great spirit, no hocus pocus, no faith; just awareness. Of course we will never lose all that those that came before us tried to leave for us but we certainly can continue to misinterpret things as the last 7 or 8 generations have," Kane said.
John Kane's Native Radio, "Let's Talk Native Pride," is on the web:

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