A Ruling Shortchanges Native Americans

Sunday, August 17, 2008

I appreciated the article on the lawsuit that Native Americans had filed against the U.S. government ["Judge Rules Indians Owed $455 Million," news story, Aug. 8] and the news that a federal judge ruled that the government owes Native Americans millions of dollars for profits made from lands the government held in trust.

The decision, however, will be a disappointment to native peoples and their supporters who argue that the first Americans are owed a good deal more -- $47 billion, a figure that was already negotiated down from the original U.S. government estimate that its potential liability was more than $200 billion.

By ruling that the government can return a drastically reduced amount of money to Native Americans, the courts have allowed the government to profit from the mismanagement of these trust accounts. This is appalling. If your bank claimed to be collecting money for you, paid you some of it, but said it couldn't tell you whether the count was accurate, what would you do?

Presidential candidates John McCain and Barack Obama have both expressed support for Native American rights. Where do they stand on the federal government's responsibility to carry out its charge as trustee for Native American lands?

RUTH FLOWER

Legislative Director

Friends Committee

on National Legislation (Quakers)

Washington


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