Native Leader To Be Honored
Ms. Cobell, a member of Montana's Blackfeet Tribe and executive director of the Native American Community Development Corp., will be presented with the exchange's Compass Award during a conference in New York. Lesley Visser, a CBS-TV Sport analyst, Dr. Kathy Magliato, a heart transplant surgeon from Los Angeles andRenetta McCann, chief executive of Starcom North America, a Chicago-based advertising agency will also be cited by the group.
"I am honored to be in the company of these women," said Ms Cobell. "And I am happy to accept this honor, not for myself, but for the thousands of American Indian women who have contributed so much to the welfare of their tribes and native people for so many years."
"I hope that with this award I can call attention to our continuing, seven-year fight with the federal government for the full and complete accounting of monies that the government has held in Individual Indian money accounts for decades," she said. "Despite repeated court orders, it is shameful that the government still has to yet to provide a complete accounting of the first Indian account."
Ms. Cobell, who lives in Browning, Mt., is the lead plaintiff in a class-action lawsuit that has secured court rulings that the Interior Department breached its trust responsibilities to American Indians by its incompetent handling of the Indians' trust accounts. The accounts were established in 1887 to handle the proceeds from government-arranged leases of Indian lands in the West.
Unfortunately, language inserted in an Interior Department spending bill, on the day the above story was released, may force lawmakers to choose between urgently needed funds to battle wildfires and delaying a federal court-ordered accounting of billions of trust fund dollars that American Indians say have been misplaced.
“This is a cynical and shocking development to Native people," Miss Cobell said. But opponents of such an accounting have pointed in part to studies showing it would cost taxpayers an extra nine to 12 billion dollars to retrace and verify all the transactions for every account.
It is against this backdrop and the backdrop of catastrophic wildfires this year in California and Arizona that a Senate-house conference committee quietly inserted the Language into the Interior Department bill delaying the court--ordered accounting by a year, to December 31st, 2004.
Government officials have conceded that many of the records needed to reconcile the accounts have been lost and it will take years for them to discover of how much money should be in the accounts.
To view the latest information concerning this case, go to