December 09, 2009

Cobell settlement unsettles Indians

Many Indians are happy the US government finally settled the Cobell lawsuit. Not that many are happy with the settlement's details. Here are some reasons why:

For starters, the $3.4 billion settlement isn't as beneficial to the Indian account holders as I thought it was. Jacob T. Levy explains:

More on Cobell[T]he $3.4 billion headline figure for the settlement is misleading.

$1.4 billion will go to the plaintiffs. I think this is on the low end of conscionability: better than nothing, but nothing to be especially proud of on the government's part. I do think that the Clinton and Bush administrations bequeathed the Obama administration an exhausted plaintiff and plaintiff class, willing to settle for much less than they should have received.

$2 billion will go to a related cause: cleaning up the inalienable fractionated property holdings that plague Indian Country.
Levy goes on to explain why buying the fractionated land is good. It should help Indians in the long run, but it won't pay the account holders for the money they lost.

So the account holders went from wanting $48 billion to hoping for $8 billion to settling for $1.4 billion. That's only three times the ridiculously low figure a judge said was proper. It's quite a comedown from the plaintiffs' original goals.

Some comments posted on Rob Capriccioso's article in Indian Country Today:To offer the documented heirs of an atrocity such a paltry payment is in line with the Colorado award of 1$ to Ward Churchill for "winning" the suit. If America truly wanted to settle the problem honorably America would pay enough for a genuine” capital nest egg” to those documented individuals who held out for so long and fought the fight so that they could start their business and feed their children.

A mere thousand dollars for each member, this is a national spit in the face of the Creator, the Son and the poor among our people and all living things. The IRA Tribal Governments shouldn't get one cent of this money to maintain the oppressive and repressive systematic Imperial structure of BIA and IRA that is killing our people, cultures and “Way of Life.”

Thank you Eloise Cobell for having the back bone to stand up to the Bureau and holding them accountable. We did not get what was entitled to us, but it was never for me, it was for our ancestors. They were the ones ripped off.
Reactions from the AIM/activist end of the spectrum:

US Coyote at Work:  Trust Fund Settlement Scam

By Brenda NorrellThe same US government that brought us the home mortgage, seize-everything-you-have scam, and the bail-out-the-billionaires programs, now says it will benevolently buy up Indian land and give it back to Indians?


In the so-called settlement of the US Trust Fund lawsuit, the US says it plans to buy up Indian parcels and give the land back to Indian Nations.

The US has also made a big deal out of $1,000 or $1,500 payments to land owners for all the resources it has stolen.

What a joke. It is a bizarre agreement which prevents the US from paying Indian people what they are owed.
Some comments from Norrell's readers:$47 billion gonna pay $1.4 and then use $2 billion to buy our lands ... dayum ... the fat takers are at work!!

Sounds like "fork tongue."

$2 billion to buy land from us? How much more land do they want to take away from us? They need to give back what was taken already, not thinking of making our reservations even smaller.

Do we have any tribal leadership that is going to back our interests? Or is it status quo?

That is just a drop in the bucket as far as I am concerned. That is only a portion of the interest that they are paying. The caretakers say their rent is way over due.

What about (1) the interest lost and (2) a penalty of mismanagement! Did I read individuals will receive $1,500? I wonder how much the lawyers will get off the top?

A prophecy says we will get our land back. It is just detail right now.

This deal smells as sweet as cow patties.
Comment:  There's only one problem with complaining about Indians getting the shaft. I haven't heard anyone suggest what the plaintiffs should've done differently. Hire better lawyers? Litigate for another 16 years? Hold out until the courts, Congress, and the public became so liberal they'd willingly pay 14 times what they're going to pay now? (48/3.4 = 14.1.) Wait for every account holder to die so the lawsuit became moot?

If someone came up with a solution that had a reasonable chance of working, I'd be the first to endorse it. Until that happens, this settlement is about the most the plaintiffs could accomplish. That's why we call it a "settlement"...because both sides have to settle for something they'd rather not.

For more on the subject, see Why the Cobell Plaintiffs Settled and Obama to Settle Indian Trust Lawsuit.

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