Key Figure in Indian Trust Lawsuit to Give Talk at Colorado Law School Symposium

February 16, 2006

It's a multibillion-dollar legal battle with roots 118 years old and yet after dozens of rulings there is still no settlement in sight for the Indian trust funds management lawsuit filed over a decade ago by Blackfeet tribal member Elouise Cobell. On Feb. 23, Cobell will tell her story at a symposium sponsored by the University of Colorado at Boulder's American Indian Law Program and the Native American Law Students Association. The symposium, "More Than the Money: Restoring Government Accountability Through Cobell v. Norton," will be held from 4 p.m. to 6 p.m. in the Lindsley Courtroom of the Fleming Law Building on the Boulder campus. Cobell is the lead plaintiff in the Cobell v. Norton class action lawsuit that was filed to force the U.S. government to account for billions of missing dollars relating to lease, royalty and other payments due individual Indian land owners for the use of their lands. Cobell will talk about events leading to the filing of the lawsuit, as well as her experiences during the litigation. She will be joined by Native American Rights Fund staff attorney Keith Harper, who is lead counsel for the plaintiffs. CU-Boulder Associate Professor Sarah Krakoff, an Indian law scholar and author, will moderate the session. "The record-keeping problem began sometime after 1887 when the U.S. Congress enacted the General Allotment Act dividing tribal lands into individual parcels," said Jill Tompkins, director of the law school's Indian Law Clinic. "The act also created individual trusts to be managed by the government and royalty money made from leasing the parcels to oil, timber and grazing interests were supposed to be dispersed to Native Americans across the country but never were." According to government records, an estimated $40 billion dollars is owed to over 500,000 individual Indian trust beneficiaries, Tompkins said. The event is free and open to the public. The symposium has been approved for two Continuing Legal Education credits for attorneys. For more information contact the American Indian Law Program at (303) 492-0966 or visit the CU School of Law's Web site at http://www.colorado.edu/law/ and look under "Feature Events." Contact: Jill Tompkins, (303) 735-2194 jill.tompkins@colorado.edu Dirk Martin, (303) 492-3112