By Thomas M. Wabnum Jan. 2010
First, I would like to thank Ms. Cobell for the strength and courage to fight the U.S. on our behalf for the past 13 years.
This proposed settlement fixes nothing, the U.S. won by legal weaseling. This lawsuit maybe settled but the mismanagement and corruption continues. The centuries old broken government trust is still broken.
The IIM accounts are still not reconciled. Some IIM accountholders will get paid and some will not. OST has violated the Indian Preference policy and hire non-Indians in Indian positions. The Cobell and numerous investigations on DOI/BIA/OST by OIG, GAO and the courts that proved numerous times they are either unwilling or unable to fix their broken trust. They went unpunished and will continue to operate into the future as if nothing happened. As if Indian Affairs has not been commissioned to death, this settlement adds another one.
If all Individual Indian lands are bought off and transferred over to tribal trust property, the same historical broken trust is there not to protect it or improve it. The same slumlord mentality, scalawag management and Judge Roy Bean justice prevails all because we are Native Americans.
The U.S. did send a message to Indians in Cobell. They will extend Indian claims in courts indefinitely until the claimants die, exhaust funding and cave into perennial stonewalling.
The historical damage done to Native people, their land and money goes unchecked and without consequence. Not one employee faced criminal charges, was removed or fired for deliberately wasting billions in taxpayers dollars in cover up schemes. The U.S. wont even apologize for inflicting termination and terrorism on the people they are legally bound to protect. At least, Canada and Australia apologized to the Natives of their countries.
After the starting Judge and court appointed investigators proved that DOI/BIA/OST wasted billions of dollars trying to fix the broken trust they too were removed from the case. The U.S. was found in contempt of court for lying to a federal judge, filing false reform reports, destroying records and for 13 years of federal failure.
Honest American federal employees who reported such fraud, waste and abuse termed whistleblowers were also squeezed out of service and replaced with puppets.
On June 20, 1867, Congress established the Indian Peace Commission to negotiate peace with Plains Indian tribes who were warring with the United States.
The official report of the Commission to the President of the United States, dated January 7, 1868, describe detailed histories of the causes of the Indian Wars including: numerous social and legal injustices to Indians, repeated violations of numerous Treaties, acts of corruption by many of the local agents, and culpability of Congress itself for failing to fulfill certain legal obligations. The report asserts that the Indian Wars were completely preventable had the United States government and its representatives acted with legal and moral honesty in dealing with the Indians.
In short, this 1867 Commission also recommended that the intercourse laws with Indian Tribes be thoroughly revised. This sounds like trust reform to me.
Second, But it is insisted that the present Indian service is corrupt, and this change should be made to get rid of the dishonest. That there are many bad men connected with the service cannot be denied. The records are abundant to show that gents have pocketed the funds appropriated by the government and driven the Indians to starvation. And still today, the U.S. Courts, its investigators, GAO and OIG all exposed corrupt employees in Indian Affairs.
Third, That Congress pass an act fixing a day (not later than the 1st of February, 1869) when the offices of all superintendents, agents, and special agents shall be vacated. Such persons as have proved themselves competent and faithful may be reappointed. Those who have proved unfit will find themselves removed without an opportunity to divert attention from their own unworthiness by provisions of party zeal. This 1867 Commission told the President how to get rid of corrupt employees and even today it has not been done. Why?
Fourth, We, therefore, recommend that Indian affairs be committed to an independent bureau or department. Whether the head of the department should be made a member of the President's cabinet is a matter for the discretion of Congress and yourself, and may be as well settled without any suggestions from us.
This 1867 Commission told the President that there should be a Department of Indian Affairs separate from the Department of Interior.
Two other recommendations by this 1867 Commission talked about State encroachment on tribal sovereignty and shady traders.
In 1973, Senator James Abourezk introduced Senate Joint Resolution No. 133 to establish a Federal commission to review all aspects of policy, law, and administration relating to affairs of the United States with American Indian tribes and people. The Senate and the House of Representatives both adopted S.J. Res. 133 and on January 2, 1975, the Resolution was signed into law by the President, thus establishing the American Indian Policy Review Commission [Public Law 93-580]. There are other Commissions in 1928, 1934 and 1992.
But after 141 years and Commissions, this proposed settlement still does not protect our land, money, fleecing or our natural resources and culture but promotes tribal sovereignty erosion and U.S. failure to enforce treaty rights and their federal trust responsibilities according to their own U.S. Constitution and Congressional obligations.
The U.S. can send a man to the Moon and maybe Mars, travel to the bottom of the deepest Ocean, fight wars on opposite side of the world, clone animals but cannot fix the broken trust problem with Indian services.
If the U.S. initially worked with earnest and full trust with Native Nations using their own money plus the promised federal appropriations, there would not be a financial burden on either party, national dishonesty or worldwide disgrace of American ideals.
It has been settled for me to forget all that happened within DOI and accept the $1,500.00 minus reserves/taxes (unknown amount) and attorney fees (unknown amount) as if nothing happened.
Thomas M. Wabnum
Prairie Band Potawatomi
Former Tribal Councilperson
Viet Nam Veteran