22
Sep
2005

GOVERNMENT CAUGHT DESTROYING MORE INDIAN RECORDS IN VIOLATION OF COURT ORDERS

Wednesday September 21, 2005

WASHINGTON, Sept. 21 -- At the same time that the Interior Department is bragging to Congress about its Indian Trust accounting plan, the National Archives and Records Administration reports ongoing destruction of Bureau of Indian Affairs accounting records only a few blocks from the federal courthouse in Washington.

In a filing last week, NARA disclosed that it is investigating "one or more incidents...involving what may be intentional acts aimed at unlawfully removing or disposing of permanent records from the Interior Department..."

In the letter dated Sept. 13, NARA attorney Jason R. Baron said that members of the agency "noticed what appeared to be federal records in one of the dumpsters" at the main achieves building on Pennsylvania Avenue on Sept. 1. Among the records destroyed were documents from the 1950s from the Bureau of Indian Affairs, Baron said.

Subsequently, "more of what appear to be Indian records were discovered in a wastebasket in the stack areas at Main Archives," Baron said in the letter. "It is not known if these two incidents are related."

Baron said both the NARA Inspector General and the U.S. Attorney for the District of Columbia had begun investigations.

Dennis M. Gingold, lead plaintiff for the Indians who are seeking a full accounting of their government-managed individual Indian Trust accounts, called the destruction "the same repugnant, desperate actions we've come to expect from Interior Secretary Gale Norton and her unethical managers."

"Despite numerous court orders to preserve records related to the individual Indian Trust, the Secretary and the Interior Department continue to destroy irreplaceable trust documents three blocks from the federal courthouse where they were held in contempt for destroying trust records. Unless -- and until -- Norton is thrown in jail, she will continue to destroy trust documents in order to undermine this 10-year-old litigation," he said. "When a sitting cabinet level official feels that they can destroy protected trust records 60 yards from where the Constitution is displayed, we have a government that is out of control."

The Bureau of Indian Affairs runs a trust program for individual Indians. Although established in 1887, the government has yet to provide a complete accounting of funds in the accounts. A lawsuit filed in 1996 by Elouise Cobell, a member of the Blackfeet Tribe in Montana, is pressing the government over its repeated failures to give 500,000 Native Americans a proper accounting of the funds that should be in their accounts.


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