Historic agreement between Crow Tribe and Montana Secretary of State's Office
WASHINGTON, D.C. - Today, the Crow Tribe, the office of Montana Secretary of State Brad Johnson, and dignitaries from around the nation will celebrate the signing of the first ever agreement between a sovereign tribal government and a state government under the Model Tribal Secured Transactions Act.
The agreement for Uniform Commercial Code (UCC) interoperability will allow banks to make secured loans in reservation communities. It is the first agreement of its kind in the history of the United States, and already, other tribal governments are preparing to follow suit with their own agreements in other states.
The agreement recognizes the unique, historic trust responsibility Montana has with the Crow Nation, respects the government-to-government relationship that exists between Montana and the Crow Nation, and provides for future economic growth opportunity on the Crow Reservation.
The ceremony will be held at 5 p.m. in the Mansfield Room of the U.S. Capitol on Feb 6. Crow Tribal Chairman Carl Venne, Montana Secretary of State Brad Johnson, U.S. Senators Max Baucus and Jon Tester, U.S. Congressman Denny Rehberg, and many officials from the executive branch will attend.
Cherokee Nation tribal council approves Arts and Crafts Act
TAHLEQUAH, Okla. - The Cherokee Nation Tribal Council recently approved an act requiring truth in advertising for Native American art during their monthly meeting held at the tribal complex in Tahlequah.
The act requires anyone selling Native American art in the Cherokee Nation to be a citizen or a member of a federally recognized Native American tribe.
"This act has been a long time in coming," said Tribal Council member Cara Cowan-Watts. "For far too long, non-Native Americans or others claiming to be members of non-recognized tribes have sold art as true Native American art. This act will help to stop some of these sales. Anyone buying Native American art in the Cherokee Nation can be better assured that the piece was created by a true Native American."
The council also passed an Indian housing plan that will help the tribe create attainable Cherokee communities. Parts of the plan include land acquisitions for the tribe and for housing needs throughout the 14-county jurisdictional boundary of the Cherokee Nation.
In other business, the council passed a resolution honoring the accomplishments of Mary Ross, a 100-year-old Cherokee citizen who became one of the first female Native American engineers. Ross worked for the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) and assisted with the first lunar moon landing in 1969.
The next regularly scheduled council meeting will be on Monday, Feb. 11 at 6 p.m. in the Tribal Council Chambers at the Cherokee Nation complex south of Tahlequah.
Indian plaintiffs victorious in trust lawsuit
WASHINGTON, D.C. - Indian plaintiffs in the long-running lawsuit over the government's mishandling of their individual trust accounts achieved a major victory this week when a federal judge declared the government's accounting plans are a sham.
"Indeed, it is now clear that completion of the required accounting is an impossible task," declared U.S. District Judge James Robertson as he rejected the government's proposal.
With his 165-page ruling, Robertson became the second district court judge to describe the government's handling of the Indian trust accounts as a breach of trust that was "irreparable."
Lead plaintiff Elousie Cobell expressed delight at the ruling, which upheld one of the plaintiff's main arguments. "We've been saying for years that the government's accounting plans will not work and will not give Native Americans the accounting that they have been promised by the government repeatedly."
"Hopefully, this ruling sets the stage for the final phase of our lawsuit," she said. "We look forward to the hearing Judge Robertson has planned on "determining an appropriate remedy" for the government's mishandling of our trusts and our monies."
"This is a great day for Indian Country," Cobell added. "We've argued for more than 10 years that the government is unable to fulfill its duty to render an adequate accounting, much less redress the historical wrongs heaped on individual Indian Trust beneficiaries." Filed in 1996, the Cobell v. Kempthorne lawsuit is a class action proceeding that has successfully secured rulings on behalf of an estimated 500,000 individual Indian Trust beneficiaries.
Judge Robertson's ruling followed a 10-day trial this fall. The government argued at the trial that its method for reconstructing account balances would be a slow, costly process.
Lawyers for the Indian plaintiffs countered that there were less costly and quicker methods of reconstructing the records, such as the use of third-party records.
The judge agreed the government's plans were fatally flawed because they could not accurately state what were the opening balances for the Indians' accounts. That is a simple requirement that any accounting must consider, the judge said. The entire decision by Judge Robertson has been posted at www.indiantrust.com.
Flandreau Santee Sioux Tribe to benefit from $1 million SMSC grant
PRIOR LAKE, Minn. - Tribal elders are considered wisdom keepers and the guardians of tradition. Their knowledge and insight provides guidance for leaders to remember where they came from in planning for the future. To help improve the standard of living for tribal elders, the Shakopee Mdewakanton Sioux Community (SMSC) recently announced a $1 million grant for Fiscal Year (FY) 2008 to the Flandreau Santee Sioux Tribe in Flandreau, S.D. to fund the Senior Independent Living Project.
In FY 2007 the SMSC helped provide startup construction costs for the project, which is desperately needed to give tribal elders a safe and comfortable place to live on the reservation. It will also help provide more and better jobs for tribal members.