Tags: Computer | Shutdown | Ordered | Judge | Hurts | Indians

Computer Shutdown Ordered by Judge Hurts Indians

Wednesday, 20 February 2002 12:00 AM

Many tribal members have not received a payment in three months, some for as long as four months, said Gary McAdams, president of the Wichita and Affiliated Tribes and a member of a task force working on reforms of the Individual Indian Money Trust.

Some Indians depend on the payments to pay their living expenses. For many others the money is essential to pay utility bills, buy food and clothing, and make housing payments. Some members have already had their cars possessed, he said.

"I think there were about 31 people that were identified that were in long-term nursing homes who depend on their oil and gas royalties to pay for their care," he said. "We haven't received any information that they have been evicted, but certainly they are the most needy. That income is critical to them."

McAdams said his information comes from the seven tribes served by the Bureau of Indian Affairs agency in Anadarko and was probably true across the state, where many Indians lease their lands to oil and gas companies. Oklahoma has about 40 tribes.

The payment stoppage began after U.S. District Judge

The shutdown, among other things, prevents access to popular Web sites about the national parks.

The Washington judge has been in charge of a class-action lawsuit filed three years ago on behalf of American Indians seeking billions of dollars because of mismanagement of their trust accounts. Attorneys are seeking billions of dollars dating back more than 100 years.

In an opinion issued Dec. 12, Lamberth accused the federal government of negligence in the administration of the program. "It would be difficult to find a more historically mismanaged federal program," he wrote.

The accounts were created to pay Indians for the use of their land by oil and gas companies, timber operators or others. In Oklahoma, most Indians have individual allotments of land and there are many oil and gas leases across the state.

In the Anadarko agency, McAdams said an average of 1,600 checks totaling about $880,000 go out each month. The agency serves seven tribes; the Wichita, Apache, Caddo, Comanche, Delaware, Fort Sill Apache, and Kiowa. Checks can range from a few dollars up to $3,000 to $4,000 a month, depending on the use of the land.

McAdams said his tribe and others have written Judge Lamberth, reporting the problem. In an interview Tuesday with the Daily Oklahoman, Neal McCaleb, the head of the Bureau of Indian Affairs, said the agency was working to solve the problem.

McCaleb has asked Congress to approve a one-time payment until the new computer security system is approved by Lamberth. He said the payment would be for one and a half months.

"We're trying to get something in their hands," he said.

Lawyers representing Indians in the class-action lawsuit wanted the trust-fund system taken away from the federal government and placed into a receivership, but Lambert chose to force the government to fix the system.

Copyright 2002 by United Press International.

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Many tribal members have not received a payment in three months, some for as long as four months, said Gary McAdams, president of the Wichita and Affiliated Tribes and a member of a task force working on reforms of the Individual Indian Money Trust. Some Indians depend on...
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Wednesday, 20 February 2002 12:00 AM
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