June 10, 1996

Class Action Suit to Address Largest Financial Scandal Ever Involving Federal Government...Billions of Dollars Potentially at Stake

BOULDER, CO - Three hundred thousand individual Indian account holders filed a class action lawsuit against the Secretary of the Interior today in federal court demanding a full accounting of a Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA) trust fund through which billions of dollars in Indian money have flowed for decades. Independent sources say the fund, comprised of fees paid for the use of Indian lands, is in total disarray.

In the largest financial scandal lawsuit against the federal government, attorneys including the Native American Rights Fund (NARF) hope to force the Secretaries of Interior and Treasury to determine what has happened to money the government holds for individual Indians throughout the country.

"The BIA has spent more than 100 years mismanaging, diverting and losing money that belongs to Indians," says John Echohawk, Executive Director of the Native American Rights Fund. "They have no idea how much has been collected from the companies that use our land and are unable to provide even a basic, regular statement to Indian account holders. Every day we wait they are losing more and more of our money."

A press conference to announce the major class-action lawsuit against the Secretary of the Interior Bruce Babbitt, Assistant Secretary for Indian Affairs Ada Deer, and the Secretary of the Treasury Robert Rubin, will be held TODAY, June 10th, at 10:00 a.m. (EDT) in the First Amendment Room of the National Press Club (529 14th Street, NW, Washington, DC). John Echohawk, Executive Director of the Native American Rights Fund, and Elouise Cobell, Project Director for the Indian Monies Trust Correction and Recovery Project will be available for comment.

Bob Peregoy or Keith Harper
at 202/785-4166

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