March 29, 2010


Native Americans: Where's the money

A battle between Native Americans and the U.S. government fought since 1999 was the topic of a talk March 23 by attorney and former Congressman Elliott Levitas ’52C-’56L.

Levitas said “Cobell v. Salazar: Ensuring Justice for Native Americans,” is “really about American history, the relationship between our government and a group of citizens.”

The class action lawsuit seeks to find out what happened to the monies the federal government managed in trusts, established by the 1887 Dawes Act, for tribes and individual Indians. The case is not seeking money from the government; it isn’t a suit for damages, Levitas said. “We didn’t ask for damages. We didn’t say pay us the money you ripped off. What we asked for is an accounting,” of where the money went, he said.

The current settlement awaits “one piece of the settlement required by the government . . . that must get through Congress by the end of the year,” he said.

“It would be a tragedy for Native Americans and the government to not be able to take this good deal,” he said. “If it goes back into litigation, the exposure to the government is in he multi-billions [of dollars].

“The outcome of this landmark litigation will affect the lives of thousands and thousands of people.”

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