Cobell v Norton
Copied below is Page 1 of the September 9, 2001 cover story in Parade Magazine; about Elouise Cobell and the class-action suit against the government regarding Indian Trust Monies. The original Parade story is in 3-column format; did not take time to do that here. Or you can download exact copies of the originals in PDF format:
PARADE: page 1 (3MB), page 2 (950KB), page 3 (423KB).
When the U.S. government took control Native Americans' property rights in 1887, the Indians were assured they would receive the income from their land. They never did—and now they're fighting for it.
The Broken Promise
ON THE WALL NEXT TO Elouise Cobell’s desk is a blown-up reproduction of a famous Peanuts cartoon strip. After Lucy assures Charlie Brown, “Trust me,” she once again snatches away the football he’s about to kick, and he ends up flat on his back. “I decided to stop being Charlie Brown,” Cobell told me. For her, “Lucy” is the U.S. government. Now 55, barely 5 feet 4, a wife and mother, Cobell is a member of the Blackfeet Indian tribe sequestered in the northwest corner of Montana. As a result of a lawsuit she filed on behalf of her fellow Native Americans, they finally are about to collect a staggering sum of money — as much as $40 billion—from Washington. “It’s not as if we’re taking money from the government,” she explained, a steelyedge creeping into her normally softspoken voice. “It’s our money that was taken from us.” Indeed, a federal judge declared, “I have never seen more egregious misconduct by the federal government.” And were it not for Elouise Cobell, it would still be going on. What she finally could not take anymore was the betrayal for more than a century— “a shocking pattern of deception,” as the court put it—regarding the property rights of the Blackfeet and many other Native American tribes. This betrayal began in 1887, when Congress opened up previously established tribal reservations to white settlers. In return, individual Indians were granted land allotments—general ly ranging from 40 to 320 acres. But they were judged to be incapable of managing their own affairs, so the federal government decided to do it for them. As a result, Indians could not lease or sell their property without government approval. This included grazing and quarrying rights as well as leases for timber, agriculture, oil, natural gas and minerals. The government would make all the deals. The income would be held in trust and distributed to each Indian family. The Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA) in the Department of the Interior was to be in charge, and the Treasury Department would send out the checks.
The Blackfeet Tribal Council
meets with the government 's
Indian agent (far left),circa 1900.
Seated in the foreground
is the interpreter.continued - click here
B Y P E T E R M A A S
COVER AND LARGE PHOTOGRAPH ABOVE BY GWENDOLEN CATES PAGE 4 •SEPTEMBER 9,2001 •PARADE MAGAZINE
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