To free the land, you must first free your mind...

This is a conceptual platform for the expression of ideas and issues initiating discussion and action. The communiqué's are my perceptions, opinions and vision about contemporary issues/causes, people I admire & respect, and my goals for the future. My main focus is on the Chahta People by sharing our past to plan for the future today!

Monday, February 6, 2012

The Cobell Four: standing firm for justice

There is no doubt about how important the Cobell case is to so many people, but take a moment to weigh how really important this case is, and if the settlement is really the kind of justice your ancestors really deserve? I know some people have been upset with some of the class members appealing the settlement and putting the disbursement checks on hold indefinitely. I've spoken with a few people who have said that in some cases, they weren't allowed to file their own lawsuit, and if they did, it was consolidated in the Cobell case. The first round of hearings is scheduled for February 16, in Washington, DC.

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:

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.

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.

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."
Internet gossip states that they are only after more money. A few months ago, I spoke with a woman whose family has been fighting to be paid from a mining company that has been taken resources from their lands, which would amount to millions. When she contacted Gingold about opting out and why, she said Gingold told her that he would fight her on it. When the Cobell Four were filing their appeals, Gingold attempted to force them to put up a multi-million dollar surety bond. The court ruled against this request.

Here are just a few of the points about why the settlement is like a term of surrender, and more info on the settlement can be found at

  • 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.

These are just some of the downfalls to the Cobell Settlement. Some people will get more than the $1,500 people have heard about. I could use even that amount, I won't lie, but I don't believe that is what our ancestors suffered for all across this land in trying to hold on to what we have left, nor is it what our children deserve. I hear a lot of arguments that we can't wait because people are dying who will never see a check. You know what? People have been dying since this injustice started over a hundred years ago. It isn't about us, it is about our children and this lawsuit was about getting a full accounting so we could have justice for once.

Only for lack of having the finances to file my own appeal, the Cobell attorneys could not put my name out there as a target. My communications to the court went unanswered as to whether I could file an appeal without paying fees. I couldn't afford justice, but fortunately these four warriors have stood up for us and maybe this despicable settlement will be scrapped, and the fight for true justice may continue.

And for all those who are badmouthing and threatening these people, three whom are women, I know your mother did not raise you to threaten or speak badly of women like these. You only bring shame to your family and your nation. This is not how Native people are suppose to act, like rats being thrown pieces of rotten meat to turn on another. I expect better than that, so remember who you are and that this battle is for the birthright of our future generations!


  1. hey look man...why didn't these 4 people present their own lawsuits before the cobell class action lawsuit was filed? they wait until this is all settled & then cry "no fair"...this settlement isn't fair nor will it rectify all past wrongdoings but to me it will prompt the BIA or whomever to take corrective action so that IIM accounts will have proper accounting, monetary & otherwise. These 4 appellants are just in it for more money (greed) the expense of everyone else, including those eldery people who are dying off slowly but surely, who will never get the chance to see any monetary benefit, however small! I have no compassion for those "four"...signed, Choctaw Native, Oklahoma.

    1. The suit was certified as a class action which included all those similarly situated and entitled to similar relief for the actions taken by the defendants. If anyone filed, they would have been consolidated under the Cobell case. We believed that this would have been a fight for justice, not to be paid off in crumbs with the perpetiators being left off without even a look. The case originally called for a full accounting. We were all led to believe this, but due to the circumstances I've mentioned, they failed us.

  2. At the end of your "diatribe" you spout off about people dying off 100 yrs ago...this isn't a damn treaty that was breached! this is a class action lawsuit about terrible IIM accounting, if so much money was unaccounted for by these 4 "Warriors",WHY didn't they speak up YEARS before? And they sure don't speak for me nor most of the native people i speak don't publish that b.s.! Matter of fact, don't speak for most Native Americans so quit using us in your "true fight for justice"...

    1. I will publish what I chose, there is no reason why you should feel threatened by my opinions. If you disagree, then that is all there is to it.
      When it comes to "us", exactly who is us? Really, we as Native people area diverse group of people. We don't come in one package.
      The nature of treaties and the fiduciary relationship created the foundations of the IIM and the BIA, and it was obviously breached by the embezzlement of the IIM accounts by the federal government.
      And in a last comment, this blog is mine and I made it clear when I wrote: "This is a conceptual platform for the expression of ideas and issues initiating discussion and action. The communiqué's are my perceptions, opinions and vision about contemporary issues/causes, people I admire & respect, and my goals for the future." I am more than happy to have a discussion with anyone who is willing to hold an intelligent one.

  3. My Uncle Charlie Colombe passed away on June 9, 2013. I just want to state that he got a lot of backlash for standing up to the government from even our own people here on the Rosebud. Peanuts... its all I can say, peanuts for the people. He told me back in 1994 that our monies were lost. He was not in it for himself. In 2010 he told me that it was ridiculous that the attorneys were going to make more than any Tribe after the waters settled, and he was right.

  4. I apologize for the delay in approving your comment. I also offer my condolences to your family.
    Yes, the attorneys served as "snake oil salesmen" the case was being reversed on many grounds so they sold out and spent millions in settlement money to convince people they we won. People may eventually realized this was the biggest and most important battle we had fought.