An appeals court has said that it would be unreasonable to require 100 years' worth of accounting for funds the government has been managing for American Indians.

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit agreed with both the federal government and the American Indians, who had jointly requested the dismissal of a lower court's ruling for a detailed tally of money owed to the American Indians dating back to 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 Department to account for every dollar received and paid to American Indians since the Dawes Severalty Act of 1887. The act sought to protect tribal holdings by dividing the land into individual homesteads and contained provisions meant to prevent Native Americans from being cheated.

The issue of how to determine what is owed to the Indians has gone back and forth in the courts for the past decade, though Congress has gotten involved in recent settlement talks.In a September report, the Interior Department said that 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.

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