Sunday, July 17, 2005

Tribal Abuse Follow-Up

Writing commentary, I knock out a column on something that catches my attention and then move on.  Occasionally those past columns slip my mind and then I’ll see something in the paper and have a ‘holy cow’ moment.  Such a moment occurred recently when I caught Evelyn Nieves excellent article about Judge Royce Lamberth’s scorching indictment of the Interior Department in its treatment of Indians. The dust had hardly settled on my commentary, Indian Abuse Comes Home to Roost.


Royce ordered the Interior Department to include notices in its various correspondences with Indian tribes that the government’s information ‘may not be credible.’  That, of course, is the textbook definition of incredible; something that is not credible.  We kid and joke and commiserate about our government not being credible, but it’s usually just partisan comment bitching about Democrats or Republicans up to their evil doings.  It’s pretty sobering to hear from a U.S. District Court judge that our government is not credible.


I guess Lamberth finally lost his patience. He’s sat for over ten years now, hearing the Interior Department dodge various issues.  Ten years is a long time to sit and judges get testy. He wrote last week that “for those harboring hope that the stories of murder, dispossession, forced marches, assimilationist policy programs, and other instances of cultural genocide against the Indians are merely the echoes of a horrible, bigoted government-past that has been sanitized by the good deeds of more recent history, this case serves as an appalling reminder of the evils that result when large numbers of the politically powerless are placed at the mercy of institutions engendered and controlled by a politically powerful few.”


Wow! I wonder what he’d say if he was really angry?


Nieves’ article goes on to mention that Lamberth has held Bush Interior Secretary Gale Norton, as well as Clinton’s Bruce Babbitt in contempt of court.  Lamberth added these words to his frustrated recounting of the trial; “The entire record in this case tells the dreary story of Interior’s degenerate tenure as Trustee-Delegate for the Indian trust, a story shot-through with bureaucratic blunders, flibs, goofs, and foul-ups, and peppered with scandals, deception, dirty tricks and outright villany, the end of which is nowhere in sight.”


Like most lawsuits, this one is about money.  The Interior Department is no doubt scared to death that the interest alone on 126 years of deceit is going to be a pile of money. 


So be it.



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