An explosive expose' of the fraud, corruption and greed in the Bureau of
Indian Affairs. Written by a man who was labeled the "Whistleblower" and
fired for his outspoken attempts to stop the abuses, this book blows the lid
off the BIA. One of the most dangerous books on Thunder Mountain Press'
list. Other traditional publishers refused to publish it because it is so
controversial. Fully documented by the author with letters, reports, and
press clippings, this one will turn your stomach and make you call or write
The telephone call did not prepare me for what was coming. The call came to
my basement apartment in Billings, Montana, from an Indian Tribal Chairman.
Chairman is the title used by the elected head of an Indian Tribe.
The call was from Richard Real Bird, Chairman of the Crow Tribe. I knew who
he was, although we had never met. He said he'd heard about me, and invited
me to "come out and talk to a few people, and have something to eat."
When I kept that date a few days later, I found several hundred people
gathered on the Crow Indian Reservation to hear me speak, and was told that
I was the guest of honor of Crow Nation. I described my experiences as a
former employee of the Bureau of Indian Affairs, what I had discovered
there, and how this resulted in my being fired as a whistleblower.
Following a feast for those many people, I was included in a "creation"
ceremony, and then the meaning of that was explained by the senior Elder
present. He said that they had linked my creation with the Crow, and from
that day forward I was marked as one of their own.
This book will explain how that all came about, but that particular meeting
is not the end of the story. It was a demarcation point, where I realized
that my actions as an employee of the Bureau of Indian Affairs had a
powerful effect on the lives of many thousands of people. I would widen my
personal search for justice, to include them also. This search would result
in personal hardships for me, and for Chairman Real Bird it would lead to a
My employment with the Bureau of Indian Affairs lasted less than a year, but
my struggle with that organization has continued, at last count, for some
nine years. You can count on the fact that the Bureau sees me as a threat,
that my words have brought strong reactions from them, and that they have
done their best to discredit my testimony and keep me silent.
As this story unfolds, you will find that it is not yet over, and you will
be offered a role in it to determine the outcome. It's not a "virtual
reality" game or entertainment, because the purpose is deadly serious, and
it is a true story, not fiction.
It's a first-person story about my experiences with the Bureau and with
Indians, not a research project by a professional writer. I am one of the
characters in this story that tells about the horror of justice denied, and
the struggle of Indians for freedom and basic human rights. There is
political scandal, billions of dollars are missing from Indian trust
accounts, and there is a major Government cover-up. Taxpayers should be
alarmed when our Government is corrupt and tax money disappears. Federal
employees will cringe at another gag-rule that inhibits their honest
behavior, and all citizens should be furious when the Bill of Rights is
defeated by Government administrators with the assistance of our courts and
federal judges, including the Supreme Court. Free speech simply doesn't
exist for Federal employees, at least not where it conflicts with political
greed for money and power.
Your help is needed to insure simple justice, make it possible for Indians
to survive, and to require the Federal Government to be responsible for its
actions. That's a huge undertaking, but by working together it can be done.
I will ask you to join me as an advocate for the human rights of America's
Indians, and to help make the world a better place for our children.
Together we can uplift humanity, and with compassion we can restore dignity
to the lives of our long abused Indian brothers and sisters.
After the events are described, and the facts and arguments presented, you
will be invited to make your judgment known. Your decisions, along with
those of other readers will be the court of last resort. You will decide the
outcome of this story and the fate of the characters in it.
The first chapter gives some background about myself to make it easy for you
to see through my eyes. We have much to see together. My life was radically
changed by this journey into Indian Country, and I believe your spirit will
be touched by the story.
In writing this section of the book I have the advantage of roughly ten
years of experience in dealing with the Bureau of Indian Affairs. You might
find this first part of the book rough going, because you don't share that
intimate knowledge, and the ideas and conclusions presented here won't all
be supported "in place" with hard evidence. As you read further, the
evidence will be presented and the basis for my conclusions will be made
clear, and you will be able to fit the pieces together. If you get over
loaded at this point, then skip ahead to later chapters that have more
appeal to you, and later return to this section. Gradually it will make
sense to you. as the bits and pieces come together in your own mind.
To first give you some idea of how these ideas and conclusions developed,
I'll provide you with two letters that appeared in an area newspaper, the
Bighorn County News. This is a weekly rural newspaper that serves the Crow
Reservation area. First, a letter I wrote that was printed in the July 29,
1992 edition of that newspaper:
To the News: Recent newspaper stories describe financial problems found by
U.S. Inspector General audits regarding slipshod accounting practices and
misuse of travel funds under the control of financial manager Bill Benjamin
and area director Richard Whitesell. This revelation is simply one more item
in BIA's history of repeated fraud against both U.S. taxpayers and the
Indian citizens they supposedly serve in a position of trust. This story
begins in 1849, the year BIA took over its role from the U.S. Army, and
since then BIA has continued as an exploiter of Indians, doing the bidding
of corrupt federal politicians. As compensation for dirty tricks it keeps a
bit of the loot for BIA supervisors, with the implied consent of the
politicians. I know this from intimate personal experience. As the first CPA
ever employed by BIA in Billings, my audit reports described millions of
dollars in cash belonging to tribes and individual Indians [that are simply
missing], and similar mischief in irrigation projects. There was fraud or
missing money in each operation I was assigned to audit. Bill Benjamin used
intimidation to get me to change my audit and "soften" the facts, but I
refused to do so and with Whitesell's approval, I was fired for
"insubordination" in 1986.
I spent the next six years on whistleblower appeals through the specified
government agencies, which was fruitless, and continued on (without legal
help) up to and including the U.S. Supreme Court. All of the agencies and
courts sidestepped the Constitution (free speech, etc.,) by refusing to hear
the case against the BIA. To do so would attack the political patronage
system. Subsequent investigations and audits fully agreed with the facts
reported in my audits, but being correct was not good enough. Although I
have written thousands of letters, and the facts have been investigated
repeatedly by the Inspector General, a Senate Special Investigative
Committee, outside CPAs and the like, the American people just don't care
enough about government corruption or the abuser heaped on Indians to insist
on a just solution. While the taxpayers allow government corruption, BIA
will continue to fleece Indians until the last one has nothing left worth
stealing. If you gag at this, or object to the lack of free speech for a
federal auditor, then write to Senator Daniel Inouye (Select Committee on
Indian Affairs), Washington, DC 20510-6450. He personally investigated my
case, and calls it an injustice.
ack-ko-shish (Whistler) David L. Henry, CPA Billings
Next, a response from another reader that appeared in that same newspaper on
August 12, 1992:
To the News: I particularly liked Mr. David L. Henry's letter to the News.
The letter shows to what lengths the BIA and other agencies, as well as the
courts, will go to cover up their unlawful, unconstitutional activities. Me
thinks that Mr. Real Bird was caught up in this web of intrigue as well. And
to add insult to injury, the BIA and courts kept Mr. Moran (former
superintendent) hidden, supposedly, in Nevada so that he could not be made
to testify to the efficacy of what Mr. Real Bird said. The result, of
course, was a foregone conclusion; do not pass go, go directly to jail. Mr.
Henry is lucky in one respect, and that is that they did not dream up some
charge against him, and give his a railroad job too. In my opinion, the
government and its agencies have become so corrupt in most cases, that the
situation will soon reach the point of being totally intolerable. (some
unrelated comments omitted).
G.L. Clark, Roundup, Montana
The name "Bureau of Indian Affairs," or BIA, doesn't mean much to most
people. Those in the Western states have heard the name, but still this is
an organization that keeps a very low profile, and for a very practical
reason. The work that this Bureau does is nothing to brag about. The Bureau
has a very important role in this story, and in the lives of Indians, so
you'll need to know what it is and what it does. You'll begin to hear some
negative things about BIA, because my knowledge is colored by later
I would uncover the largest fraud in Montana in this century, and one of the
largest in the history of the United States. It is a fraud that has been
kept concealed, and the concealment has allowed it to grow like a colony of
termites hidden inside a wall. Like many frauds it is aimed at those with
few defenses, in this case at American Indians. The fraud is so large that
it spills over to touch the pocket of every taxpayer, including yours and
mine. When I started to work, I was not aware of all that, and I just took
for granted that the Bureau of Indian Affairs operated in a way that was
supportive of Indians. I was terribly sorry to gradually find out that my
assumption was completely wrong.
People like to see the world through rose colored glasses, because reality
can be tough to face each day. The fictions that BIA covers itself with have
grown to the point of institutional madness. BIA tries to show a healthy
face to the world, but the flesh under it's skin is rotten. BIA is skilled
at creating a facade, and the people who make a living by exploiting Indians
also cover their deeds with nice words. They, not Indians, are the
beneficiaries of BIA, and this will be obvious before we are done. The word
"they" does not represent some vague conspiracy and I'll describe who these
people are as we go along.
The Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA) is part of the U. S. Department of
Interior. The head of BIA is an Assistant Secretary (for Indian Affairs),
directly under the Secretary. Both are political appointees, replaced when a
new president is elected.
Just below the Assistant Secretary is BIA's chief career employee, the
Director of Operations, who during this period was William Ragsdale. If this
was the Navy, Ragsdale's job title would be "Chief of Naval Operations," and
it would be filled by a four-star Admiral. BIA's career employees either go
along with political influence, or else get another job. This is a pyramid
shaped hierarchy, military style, which insists on political loyalty. BIA
employees devote a lot of time and energy to basic survival in this
atmosphere, trying to look good instead of trying to be good. A hierarchy is
great for commanding armies, but not the most efficient way to deliver
social services, which is a major part of the Bureau's assignment.
In the past the Assistant Secretary was called a Commissioner, and BIA was
(and sometimes is still called) the Indian Service or Indian Bureau. The
Assistant Secretary for Indian Affairs during my time of employment at BIA
was Ross Swimmer.
Swimmer was feared and distrusted by many Indians, although he was a
Cherokee. The fact that large numbers of Indians called for Swimmer's
removal from office had no effect on BIA. Turncoats are much in demand,
every society has them, and BIA is a place where Indian turncoats control
all of the higher jobs in supervision and administration. You'll see lots of
examples of this as the story unfolds.
Note..."Ross Swimmer, the former chief of the Cherokee Nation and head of the Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA) under President Reagan, will put together the new Bureau of Indian Trust Assets Management. The position was created a few weeks ago by Interior Secretary Gale Norton following threats of a possible contempt citation by U.S. District Judge Royce Lamberth who is overseeing the Cobell vs. Norton case. The Case is a class-action lawsuit on behalf of 300,000 Indians that claims more than $10 billion is owed to Native Americans due to haphazard accounting and general mismanagement since money was first put in trust for the people."
Swimmer said he is also not bothered by the allegations that the BIA destroyed records. "I don’t think it was intentional," Swimmer said. "You’ve got one hundred year old records and most agencies don’t retain then, they put them in some other form, and I think that’s what happened."
The closest estimate Swimmer would give to how much money the Indian people are owed was "between one dollar and ten billion dollars."
This, as of 12.3.01.
It is a mistake to think that since roughly 80% of BIA's personnel are of
Indian ancestry, it is a "pro" Indian organization. If you have read about
the Jewish holocaust, you know that some of the most brutal treatment came
from the "Capos," or petty officials. They were not Nazis, but were Jewish
prisoners who would torment their fellow prisoners for a reduction in the
torment and starvation that they in turn were subjected to. The psychology
is no different here; Indians are suppressed by BIA Indian employees as well
as by non-Indians. BIA employees become organization people, and most do
what is required by the organization.
It is nothing new for oppressed people to turn on their own; history is full
of such activity. It is a common human failing, not something that just
Indians do. Not all BIA employees are turncoats, but it's difficult to move
very far up in BIA without selling out. Indians call these sell-out people
"apples," red on the outside but white just under the skin. Norway had one
named Quisling, and it's a synonym for traitor.
Turncoats, sell-out, apple, Capo or traitor, they are all names that
describe a universal human weakness and failing. In human social and
political development, in particular in war, it has always been necessary to
select leaders, and then to require the followers to be loyal to those
leaders, and to who ever wields power. Serfs doffed their hats to the squire
and the "gentry," and all bowed to the prince. To this day the military
enforces a caste system, where officers are "gentlemen" and their wives are
"ladies," while the ranks are referred to as enlisted men and their wives.
Our present Indian reservations are not in the same league with
concentration camps, but the principal is no different. BIA's Indian
employees do what they are told, or else, like me, they are out of work. BIA
serves as a colonial office to exploit Indian land. When Indians object, BIA
looks for ways to make them shut up or to punish them. At many reservations,
you either work for BIA or suffer extreme poverty. Indians have learned to
live with this, and are forgiving of their own people in BIA who often
oppress them. At least they bring home a paycheck, and some find work at BIA
that does not do any direct damage to Indians.
The fact that many BIA employees are Indian does not make BIA worthy of
Indian trust. BIA is a "white man's" institution. Indians speak of their
relationship with BIA as a "love - hate relationship." They enjoy being
special Americans with their own federal agency, but at the same time resent
what they see as heavy-handed and irresponsible treatment by BIA, which is a
gentle way to describe theft and abuse.
Many Indian people and BIA employees (in private conversation) would tell
you that BIA continues the former Army role of suppression, intimidation,
and exploitation of Indians and of Indian lands. From my own experience in
working for BIA, and subsequent developments and investigations, I agree
with them. By the time you get to the end of this book, I believe you will
fully understand and accept the negative remarks that I am making here -
they will be supported further on in this book.
It's interesting to take a historical look at the federal administration of
Indian affairs and of Indian lands. The history books, records of
congressional hearings, BIA's own records, and my many conversations with
well informed Indians, all lead me to this conclusion: The record of federal
administration of Indian affairs and Indian lands is one of repeated fraud,
corruption and exploitation, with the direct or implied involvement of
federal politicians. Many Indian people say that those who gain from this
exploitation are white land owners and operators, including mineral and
timber interests, and the federal politicians who give favors (at Indian and
taxpayer expense) as a matter of political patronage, and you will find much
supporting evidence in this book. I will try to avoid the trap of saying
it's all a giant conspiracy, because it is more than that. The actual thrust
of BIA's actions are generally local in nature, involving the wishes of the
local organized white landowners and those who lease or extract minerals
from specific reservation lands. The larger conspiracy, although I'd like to
avoid that word, is simply the mind-set or general pattern that exists in
politics driven by money. Politicians will do what is wanted by those with
the means to buy them, and this is a very profitable, self-serving business,
which operates above and beyond the law.
Congress has no direct administrative control over BIA's daily operations,
but makes the laws that govern Indians, reservation lands, and BIA. Congress
controls all federal money, which gives it indirect control over BIA, and
tied to this is the motive of political patronage -- there is a pay-off.
Back in 1911, Indian Commissioner Robert Valentine stated: "Indian affairs
are ... a field for the grafter ... the land and the monies of the Indians
offer a bait which even the most sated will not refuse." In 1969, Senator
Edward Kennedy said: "The BIA is notorious for its resistance to reform, to
innovation, and to discharging its responsibilities in a competent and
Here are some of the things I learned about the Bureau that will help you as
the story unfolds.
The Bureau started out in 1849, taking over functions previously handled by
the United States Army. That year, 1849, should ring some bells, because
that's the year the "gold rush" started. Prospectors were flooding into the
Indian lands to dig for gold, and the federal government was looking for new
ways to prevent Indians from resisting this most recent invasion of their
What does this Bureau do? It is the primary federal Government agency that
has a responsibility for Indians. The words responsibility and trust always
come up when referring to the Federal Government's relationship with
American Indians. The term trustee implies a high degree of responsible
care, and BIA is trustee for Indians, as our laws and courts have decided.
We'll say more about what BIA does, but for a minute let's take a close look
at this "trustee" business.
The Supreme Court declared many years ago that the Federal government was
exempt from all lawsuits by citizens, using a legal concept or "doctrine"
called Sovereign Immunity. This came from the old days of kings in England,
where the king was not willing to let "his" judges in "his" courts and on
"his" payroll, give him a hard time or limit his authority. Serfs and
peasants in England had very few rights, and using the king's courts to make
the king behave was unthinkable. What applied to the king applied to the
king's men, so the entire English administration was exempt from lawsuits by
the people. No complaints about government administration could be taken to
court. Although many Americans came to this country to escape government by
kings, our Supreme Court imported this "common law" feature of feudal
England into the United States, simply by edict, and it applies today. Since
we don't have kings, it applies to the President and the President's men,
the entire executive branch of government. It limits the rights of all
United States citizens in relationship to government, and since Indians are
under tight control by BIA, (part of the executive branch) this "doctrine"
is something that they can't escape.
Over the years the absurdity of the doctrine led to a few exceptions, one
being a law called the "Federal Tort Claims Act," which lists some actions
for which the federal government CAN be taken to court. Still, the doctrine
of Sovereign Immunity is alive and well, and is the general rule that
shields federal agencies from lawsuits. You can see that although BIA holds
the power and authority of a trustee, there is no way the beneficiaries
(Indians) can hold it responsible for doing an adequate or trustworthy job.
This might be news to you, but Indians are painfully aware of this
limitation on their rights. It's a one way street. BIA has power OVER
Indians, but can't be held accountable for what it does TO Indians.
There is no federal law against fraud, if the fraud is done by a federal
employee under "the color of his office." In their private lives, they are
subject to state laws, so you're protected if a federal employee (in his
private capacity) does some harm to you. But if that federal employee does
something remotely connected to his job, he is fully protected by sovereign
immunity, and the person (and his agency or bureau) are untouchable. Indians
have no protection from fraud done by BIA, and as you will see further on,
there is no shortage of fraud at BIA. The result is that the words "trust"
and "responsibility" are deceptive. BIA has no liability and can not be
taken to court. This produces pretty words and empty promises to cover
irresponsible behavior. In Indian eyes, "the whiteman" can feel good about
himself while denigrating and stealing from Indians; just one more example
(in Indian eyes) of the whiteman's sickness, endless greed.
This federal Bureau, BIA, performs functions defined by law, which means
that Congress is where it all begins. Congress controls the budget that
finances BIA, and what BIA does is set by that budget, with specific
functions or operations called projects. The budget sets aside money for
each project and for general BIA administration.
In this way the budget for the Billings Area Office is produced. The Area
Office budget includes the reservations within it's area, and the dollar
amount for each "project" is known at the start of each year. A project can
be something like road building, police protection, social services, and the
BIA's responsibilities that are assigned by Congress consist of two types,
trust and direct. These are defined by treaty agreements, by past and
current federal laws and court cases, and by tradition and common usage. The
laws relating to Indians are gathered into one book, and you'll find that
volume in the Code of Federal Regulations, CFR-25. Every BIA employee has a
well worn copy of those "rules and regulations," and Indians have copies of
this "BIA Bible" in their tribal offices.
Concerning Federal Government financial accountability, the Constitution
(Article I, Section 9, Paragraph 7) requires:
.".. and a regular statement and account of the receipts and expenditures of
all public money shall be published from time to time."
If you would like to see a copy of the financial statements for the Billings
Area Office, or any of it's Indian reservations, you won't be able to find
one. BIA claims that such reports don't exist.
I can tell you that BIA does keep books, segregated by area office and
reservation. I have seen the general ledger (BIA's "books"), and a copy is
available in Billings. The general ledger indicates that BIA "keeps books,"
but if you want to understand financial transactions, you need a financial
statement. Remember that I'm a CPA and I worked there. With today's
computers, it is a simple matter to order a printout or financial statement
by location, but BIA will tell you it can't produce the reports.
Using the Freedom of Information Act, I tried to get a copy of BIA's
financial statements later, after I had been fired. I had been talking to
newspaper reporters (from the Arizona Republic) , a major Phoenix, Arizona,
newspaper, who tried to get a copy of BIA's financial statements, but none
of them had any luck.
As an accountant I knew how to describe what I wanted, and I knew the names
of BIA personnel and the offices in which the records were kept. It took
months, and I wrote to many people at several BIA office. The process wears
you down, and there were delays and referrals but not one honest answer.
Months later I received a blurred copy of several pages of numbers. As a CPA
I know how to read financial statements, but these figures shed no light on
BIA's activities, so the request was defeated and the time was wasted, like
that of the reporters before me. Score zero for the Constitution.
BIA spends a lot of time and effort to hide financial information from
reporters and critics, and even from it's own employees. There are no
financial statements for reservation employees or even for area office
accountants, which is what I had been as a BIA employee. Does BIA defeat the
Freedom of Information Act, that was designed to make government
accountable? Does it ignore the Constitution? You have some facts about that
and can reach your own conclusion.