In a report to Congress, the Interior Department said there is no need for a detailed accounting of federal money paid to American Indians since 1887.
In 1996, a group of American Indians filed a class-action lawsuit arguing that they were cheated out of more than $100 billion due to mismanagement of oil, gas, grazing, timber and other royalties from their lands. A federal judge then ordered the Interior to account for every dollar received and paid to American Indians since t he Dawes Severalty Act of 1887. The act sought to protect tribal holdings by dividing the land into individual homestead and contained provisions meant to prevent Native Americans from being cheated.
In the report, the Interior Department said its own audits of accounts it manages for thousands of American Indians have found few errors (making up less than 1 percent of the dollars reconciled) and little evidence that anyone tampered with the records. The department estimated a full-blown audit would cost $12 billion.A federal appeals court is currently deciding whether to reverse the order for a full accounting, but a bill filed in July by Senators John McCain, R-Ariz., and Byron Dorgan, D-N.D., would settle the case for an amount of money still to be determined. Reports have said the American Indians have offered to settle for $27.5 billion.
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