I wrote about my experience and thoughts from the hearing last summer in Washington, DC. It was really long, but you cannot detail it simply, so I'll try it here, but you can read more at this link: http://eaglemanz.blogspot.com/2011/06/cobell-settlement-knife-in-our-backs.html
This morning, Tim Giago wrote a piece about the "Cobell Four" and I'm indebted to him for inspiring me to write in support of Kimberly Cravens, Carol Good Bear, Mary Lee Johns, and Charles Colombe. I would also encourage other writers to consider writing about the settlement. http://www.huffingtonpost.com/tim-giago/slamming-the-door-on-the-_b_1254499.html
The necessity for creating this awareness isn't something trivial. Recently, the Cobell attorneys publicly released the names, addresses, and phone numbers of the Cobell Four, and told people to ask them why they were not getting their settlement checks. This action resulted in threatening and harassing phone calls. “To put my name out there for the public, I think that's scary that these attorneys would use this tactic and intimidate me into dropping my appeal,” (Carol Good Bear) said. “I don't have protection. If somebody is upset about all this and comes at me with a gun, what am I supposed to do?” Since then, their names have been removed from the letter. http://nativetimes.com/news/federal/6766-objectors-of-indian-trust-deal-decry-open-letter
Now lets' take a look at this objectively. These attorneys, Dennis Gingold, et al., are attorneys, and it is difficult to understand that they could not explain the basis of the appeal to the members of the Cobell class members. Instead, they said "Ask them!" Pretty childish way to address a question. I feel it has more to do with the fact that any changes to the settlement would scuttlebutt their multi-million dollar payday! This tactic was a way to "punish" the Cobell Four for holding up the settlement. We usually call it divide and conquer, where you manipulate a group of people to turn on each other. With actions by these attorneys, they are worse than the snake-oil salesman I compared them to.
According to the Native Times article:
"Each objector is appealing the settlement for his or her own reasons. Craven and Johns both say the settlement does not include an accounting for how much money was lost, which is what Cobell originally set out to accomplish, and that many class members did not understand that they could have opted out of the deal. Johns and Good Bear both object to the class of landowners that the settlement creates, saying each is different and their claims should be assessed differently. Johns added that the tribes should have been involved in the process from the beginning, not just individuals."
- The federal government violated a trust, and in any case where this happens, the guardian is removed from that position. IN the early 1800's, we were decreed to be wards of the federal government, and that is why our lands are restricted or held in trust, and have Individual Indian Money Accounts. That is also why they manage our natural resources. If they were removed, they would lose control of this power. I objected and ask for dissolution of the Bureau of Indian Affairs, but it was ignored.
- The 3.4 billion doesn't all come to us, only 1.4 billion. The Interior Department will be given 2 billion to purchase selected fractionated lands, which they state will be given to the tribes. My feeling is that these selected fractionated lands will be high in natural resources, and the tribe will be leasing to some corporation with the Interior Department in the middle.
- Any unused funds from the Interiors 2 billion will revert back to the US Treasury.
- If an heir to fractionated lands cannot be found, his share will be purchased anyway. And if that person does not claim his money within 5 years, it is taken out.
- Another aspect that I raised in conjunction with the forced sale of these fractionated lands is that we have an inherent right of sovereignty attached to these lands. The real estate will be purchased at fair market value, but what is the fair market value of sovereignty? Also, didn't we once care for these lands in common, the fractionation didn't become an issue until the government made it one. When these lands are gone, it is gone.
- The 60 million dollar education fund? Lets assume four years of college is $20,000 as an average. Do the math and tell me how many students will go to college on just 60 million. You'll find that it doesn't even make a drop in the bucket.
- And opting out was a very difficult decision for many to make in light of the likelihood another attorney would take a case that resulted in a settlement that took over 14 years. And some were not allowed to opt out or didn't understand they could. It would have been better if the decision was made first if the settlement was approved or not, before allowing people the choice to opt out.
- And of the 1.4 billion awarded, subtract the expenses the attorneys, which will make it 1.3 billion, and then all the associated costs with the administration of cutting checks. The likelihood of the settlement running out of money before everyone is compensated is real.
- One of the bad deals is that everyone will waive any claims to sue the government if they discover that they were ripped off for millions and can then prove it. They will have accepted their small checks and it is over.