Magazine article Insight on the News

Interior Mismanagement: Custer's Revenge?

Magazine article Insight on the News

Interior Mismanagement: Custer's Revenge?

Article excerpt

Although certainly not the first or worst outrage ever visited upon American Indian peoples, the federal government's historically slipshod management of Indian programs and trust funds must rank high among the many injustices they've suffered and endure to this day.

More than three months after two Clinton-administration Cabinet members -- Interior Secretary Bruce Babbitt and outgoing Treasury Secretary Robert Rubin -- were held in contempt of court by a federal judge for failing to turn over Indian Trust Funds records, a court-appointed investigator, Alan Balaran, revealed that little had been done by the government to correct the state of disarray and "patently substandard conditions" into which the records have fallen. His findings make it amply clear why the records can't be turned over by Babbitt and Rubin -- they'd have to be delivered to court in a dumpster.

At a Bureau of Indian Affairs, or BIA, office in Anadarko, Okla., one of 108 separate locations where trust-fund records are stashed, Balaran reported finding trust-fund documents stored in wooden sheds, files spilling over and documents stuffed in unmarked boxes and strewn among old truck tires. U.S. District Judge Royce Lamberth appointed Balaran to assess the records as part of a lawsuit brought by tribes who allege that the feds for decades mishandled personal and tribal trust-fund accounts totaling more than $2.5 billion in lease revenues, royalties and other court settlements. …

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