Magazine article Insight on the News

Restoring Indian Trust Will Be Costly. (Waste & Abuse)

Magazine article Insight on the News

Restoring Indian Trust Will Be Costly. (Waste & Abuse)

Article excerpt

A century of mismanagement, malfeasance and mistrust won't be reversed or rectified quickly or cheaply, according to a new report from the Department of the Interior (DOI) indicating that making sense of badly jumbled Indian trust accounts dating to the late 1800s will take at least a decade and cost $2.4 billion [see "DOI Speaks With Forked Tongue," June 10; "Bureaucrats Circle Their Wagons," Dec. 31,2001; and "Total Lack of Trust," Sept. 17, 2001]. And even then that probably won't fully account for all the royalties and fees that American Indians were supposed to have paid to them for the use of their land.

So badly managed by the Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA) were 1,400 tribal and 300,000 individual accounts that it will cost taxpayers about $900 million just to reconstitute and reconcile trust records dating back to 1985. "The magnitude of the historical accounting is enormous," according to the report. Paper trust records dating from 1906 have been stored in 120 different locations, often in a state of decay and disarray, and so may be impossible to reconcile completely.

The magnitude of the task and the high probability that it will fail to achieve a full and complete accounting (and almost certainly fail to satisfy lawyers for American Indians suing to sort out the trust accounts) have reportedly made Congress reluctant to allocate full funding to the effort. …

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