Feds to Pay Tribes $492 Million for Mismanaged Trust Funds; New Book of Ojibwe Stories; Tribes OK’ed to Collect Plants in National Parks

The mistreatment and exploitation of Native American communities is not a thing of ancient history, but has continued to the modern era. The latest example is how the federal government failed it is duty to be a good steward of the lands it was supposed to hold in trust for Native nations.

The Native American Rights Fund announced that the U.S. government has agreed to pay 17 tribes $492 million “to compensate for decades of lost income due to government mismanagement of tribal trusts.” According to its statement:

Starting with treaties signed in the 19th Century, the United States was named as trustee for large areas of tribal land.  Under the treaties, the United States was to hold the Indian lands and money for the benefit of the Native American people.  As trustee, they handled leasing the land for uses such as grazing, oil, and farming.  However, the government did not prove to be a good trustee.

A story from National Public Radio said:

The settlements mark the end of a push by the Obama administration to resolve what the U.S. says is more than 100 lawsuits totaling more than $3.3 billion brought by American Indian individuals and tribal governments against the federal government. The policy of reaching settlements on the disputes, some of which date back more than a century, is part of a campaign promise the president made to American Indians before he took office.

This is the second round of such settlements, and the total number of cases settled now is 95.

For more on a new book of Ojibwe stories and a federal rule that allows tribal members to collect plants in national parks, read on.

Fire in the Village: A Book of Ojibwe Stories by Anne  M. Dunn

Anne Dunn of Leech Lake, 75, has published a book of Ojibwe stories before she can no longer pass them on, according to a story from Minnesota Public Radio. The book is called Fire in the Village, and it is a collection of both traditional Ojibwe stories as well as personal reflections from Dunn’s life in the north woods.

Dunn had never written down her stories before, the MPR story said. Her mom had told her that “A story only lives while you’re telling it.”

She began rethinking that view as she got older and wanted to preserve the stories: “… if our kids don’t have their stories they’re going to get lost on the journey,” she told MPR. Click here for the full story.

New Rule Allows Tribal Members to Collect Plants in National Parks

A new federal rule allows tribes to begin entering into agreements with the National Park Service to collect plants in national parks, according to an announcement from the Department of Interior. The rule allows “members of federally recognized Indian tribes to gather and remove plants or plant parts for traditional purposes,” the announcement said.

“The changes to the gathering rule support continuation of unique cultural traditions of American Indians and support the mission of the National Park Service,” said National Park Service Director Jonathan B. Jarvis. “This also respects tribal sovereignty and the government-to-government relationship between the United States and the tribes. …”

However, the federal government still maintains significant discretion and control over the collecting process. The announcement said:

To be eligible under the rule, the tribe must have a traditional association to lands within the national park system and the plants must be gathered only for traditional purposes. The agreements between tribes and the National Park Service will identify what plants may be gathered and in what quantities, and be subject to permits that identify the tribal members who may conduct these activities.

The rule went into effect in August.

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