100 Years (2016) Movie Script

What a glorious day
the Grandfather Spirit
and Creator of all things
has given us.
I am reminded of the stanzas
from the Navajo chant
of the Beauty Way.
"In the house of long life,
there I wander.
In the house of happiness,
there I wander.
Beauty is before me,
beauty is behind me.
Beauty is above me,
and beauty is below me.
Beauty is all around me.
With it, I wander.
In old age, traveling,
with it, I wander."
How much we can learn
from them...
and yet, with
all their collective wisdom,
could not have known
that Earth Mother would be
someday called "real estate."
[train whistle blows]
The government always wanted
the Indians
to be good little Indians
and behave
like we were children.
And they always wanted
control over us,
that they could lease
your land out to oil companies
and timber companies
and make sweetheart deals
and nobody held them
And the more that Indian people
were dependent,
the more control they had.
[man] I used to raise hell
at the B.I.A.
And one of my cousins, he said,
"You're a mad dog."
I said, "I know I'm a mad dog."
I said, "My great grandfather
was a mad dog."
We had 330 acres, my dad did.
And they all got wells on them.
Now, I'm going to show you
oil and gas payment,
uh, report.
This one here, it's ridiculous.
They're supposed to pay us
a going rate,
Indian land estate,
and what did I get?
See this column right here,
right there.
Eighty-nine bucks
over $6,000 worth of oil
taken out of there,
and I get 89 bucks.
[man] America said,
"We will manage
these lands for you,
and we will make you farmers,
and we will lease them,
and we will give you that check
as long as the grass grows,
the water flows,
and the wind blows."
They basically told
the Indian people that,
you know,
"You're all really stupid
and you can't manage
your trust,
so we will manage
your trust for you."
[speaking Navajo]
[speaking Navajo]
She says nobody's ever
approached her about that.
[dog barks]
People do not understand
what I live like.
This is what we use
to watch TV at night.
The outlet goes inside.
We hook this
to the battery right there.
I do not have electricity,
I do not have running water,
and I do not have gas.
I gotta use propane
for my gas.
See, I have a gas line going
through the land.
It would be nice if they could
just run a free gas line to me
if they're
going to use the land.
[Keith] The Navajo Reservation,
for example, they're living
on one of the largest
gas reserves,
not only in this country,
but the world.
Yet they are among the poorest
people in this country.
Abject poverty.
How can that be?
Who's getting rich?
It's not them.
[children shouting]
[Elouise] I was the treasurer
for the Blackfeet Indian Tribe
for 13 years.
And early on
is when I started recognizing
these serious problems
with the trust accounts.
I've tried for years and years,
and I couldn't get any answers,
but I just continued to beat
on all the doors,
and I remember the government
called all the treasurers
and finance officers
from every tribe
that had accounts
and brought us all
to Albuquerque.
They were telling us,
"This is the way that
we're going to be accounting
for the tribal trust accounts."
So, then, they said,
"Does anybody have
any questions?"
And I said,
"Yes, I have a question.
I... You know, I...
There's problems
with this trust account
that I don't understand."
And I told him what it was,
and the fellow
just looked at me
and said, "Well, you don't know
how to read a report."
So, I was a little embarrassed,
you know.
It was like I don't know
how to read a report.
But, after
the meeting was over,
there were several
of the tribal people
who came over
and said, "Elouise,
we're having the same problem."
And then, we banded together.
There was a small group of us.
It was the chief financial
officer from Red Lake.
It was the finance officer
from Jicarilla Apache,
and the CPA
from Turtle Mountain,
the White Mountain Apache,
their finance officer,
and it was through that process
that we were able
to get hearings
with the Congress.
We need your support
to stand up for the many
Indian beneficiaries,
like Mary Johnson,
a Navajo grandmother,
who relies almost exclusively
on a few dollars
in her allotment
to receive support
for her family.
She receives pennies
of what a non-Indian is paid
for gas from her land.
[James] The Department
of Interior is responsible
for managing
56 million acres
of individual Indian land
and tribal land,
and, on average,
about $3 billion in cash
and about a billion dollars
of throughput
from leasing activities.
[Keith] They want
to be able to dictate
what happens to Indian lands,
when to sell oil and to whom,
but they don't want
the responsibilities to ensure
that there's accountability.
I've always called it
a "trust me" trust.
They have
a self-reporting mechanism
with the Mineral
Management Service,
so oil companies
report themselves
how much they have extracted
from Indian lands.
They then pay based on how much
they say they extracted.
That's an extraordinary
situation for a trustee
not to figure out on its own
how much has been taken
from the land.
And then, I found out
from my cousin,
who worked down
in the oil fields and stuff
for the tribe.
He said, "Mad Dog,
you know what's happening?"
I said, "No."
He said, "They're coming
in at nighttime,
emptying that tank.
And just drive out.
Nobody there to catch them."
And I go out there,
and you can see the tire tracks
of the truck.
This is a quarter...
little over a quart of oil
in this one.
There's no meter on this.
We have no idea how much is
being pumped out of this.
See? They can take
what they want, you know,
and get away with it.
And the B.I.A.
won't do nothing.
It's like talking to a post
when I talk to them.
[Elouise] My parents lived
quite a ways out in the
country, a rural area.
So, all of our neighbors
and relatives would
come to visit,
and stories would always
come out about,
"I can't get my money
from the Indian agent,"
and I would think, in my mind,
"This must be
an awful mean person,
this Indian agent."
[Leon] All the money
from the oil company
went to the superintendent,
which he kept a ledger sheet
that showed
how much money you had,
but, every time you wanted
to spend some money,
you had to go and ask him
if you could spend this.
If you heard
he was in a good mood,
he'd be going around
and they figured, when they'd
go through the door,
if they heard that,
it was gonna be
a good day for them.
But, if it was all quiet...
If you wanted to buy a cow,
you had to go to the person
that owned the cow.
You made the deal.
You found out
the price of the cow.
You went to the agency,
you said,
"I want to buy this cow,
this milk cow,
to help my family."
It was just awful,
and that was his own money.
Like he said, my grandmother
begging for her own money,
so she could set a good
Christmas table for the kids.
[woman's voice]
Dear Mr. Hector,
I'm writing you a few lines,
asking if you would send us
$25 for Christmas.
Our children are coming
to eat dinner with us.
Now, I want you to be sure
and mail it to us
so we will get it Friday,
if you please.
Yours truly,
Mr. & Mrs. Mose Bruno.
And right here, this is
the famous Grisso Mansion.
This was built in the 1920s,
or around the same time
that oil was found also
on my great grandfather's land.
While my great grandfather was
being swindled
out of his money,
you can see what
that family was able
to do with their oil money.
I've never been
this close to it.
It makes me even more angry
to be this close to it.
[Elouise] The Blackfeet people
call this "Ghost Ridge."
Right in this particular area,
over 500 Blackfeet died
from starvation.
There was an old agency,
where the Indian agent
was housed
to make sure the Indians didn't
get off the reservation,
and that was right down...
right down here a ways.
So, as time went by, they would
not allow the Indian people
to carry arms or hunt
because they wanted them
to be very dependent
on the Indian agent.
People were made
to just hang around
and wait for rations.
And the story goes
that the Indian agent
was selling off the rations
that were supposed
to come to women and children
and the men that had to stay
confined to this area
without any means to hunt.
And so, as a result,
we ended up with
which is called
"the Starvation Winter."
Right in this particular area,
over 500 Blackfeet died,
and all the people that died,
they just threw them
into these open pit graves.
But the Blackfeet always
used to bury their dead
above the ground.
They felt that their bodies
would go back to the animals
and to the birds,
and so it was hard
for them to get accustomed
to something
that was foreign to them.
And that's why they had
the boxes above the ground.
In some places,
you can just see
pieces of the wood
from the boxes that were here.
[bird cawing]
[Elouise] I always
liked numbers,
so I went
to a commercial college,
a business school
in Great Falls, Montana.
I had an emphasis
on accounting.
The FDIC came in
and closed down the existing
bank that was here.
We said, "Well,
why don't we start a bank?"
And we now have
the Native American Bank.
We're really proud
of what we were able
to accomplish.
These are homes
that were financed
by Native American Bank
and are owned
by individual people.
Uh, financing, home mortgages,
it's all new
to Indian communities.
[Charles] The country
was moving west.
People wanted farmland,
people wanted timberland
and mineral land,
and tribes had those things.
And this was at a time, also,
when people saw Indians
as a disappearing race,
as the vanishing Indian.
And so, Congress passed
the Dawes Act of 1887.
[Anthony] What was once
an Indian reservation,
or once a solid mass of land
that belonged to the Indians,
is now divided up
into 500 different parcels.
When allotment happened,
Indians had 150 million
odd acres.
When allotment ended,
Indians had 55 million acres.
It was a clear acceleration
of the dispossession of
Indian lands,
no doubt about it.
President Roosevelt's
State of the Union speech
a hundred years ago,
and he said,
"The General Allotment Act
pulverized tribal governments.
It's meant to civilize
the Indians. Give them a plow."
But Indians... Most tribes
aren't farming tribes.
And so, land was leased out
to non-Indians,
and the same is true
with tribal timber sales
and tribal oil
and gas operations.
Those monies went
to the United States
to be held in trust.
The United States received
real dollars directly
and has lost the dollars.
I have a report here
that was done by Congress,
for example, in 1915.
"There is left an inducement
for fraud, corruption,
and institutional incompetence,
almost beyond the possibility
of comprehension."
So, Congress recognized
that the fraud going on,
in 1915,
was almost beyond
the possibility
of comprehension.
What did they do? Nothing.
Nothing, for a hundred years.
My folks and other people
in the neighborhood
really fought hard to get
a country school
because, prior to that,
all the kids had to go
off reservation.
They would go to government
boarding schools,
and my mother would
be really sad
because she wouldn't be able
to see her kids
for nine months.
I wanted to go to school,
and I was only four years old,
and they kept telling me I was
too young to go to school.
And a new teacher came in,
and so my dad went up
to greet her,
and because he was
on the school board,
I tagged along.
And I spotted
a little tiny desk,
and it was just, like,
the cutest little desk ever.
And it was my desk.
That was my desk.
And I wouldn't leave
until both of them promised
that I could go to school
the next day.
So, I guess that's sort of
my first encounter
of being an activist.
The teachers, they would be
like from back East,
and this one teacher
ordered the Sunday
New York Times for us,
and it would come
maybe a month late,
but I would read
the New York Times
in the third grade
in this
one little country school,
and I used to think about...
"One of these days, I'm going
to be out in that world,"
and I could not imagine
what it would be like.
When the Clinton administration
got in, I was just,
like, really ecstatic.
I thought, "Oh my God,
this is great
because they're
gonna listen to me.
They're going to really do
something about it."
I was doing a talk on banking
with the attorney general,
and, at that time
it was Janet Reno,
so I used that opportunity,
and I said,
"Miss Attorney General,
you have got to listen to me.
We have a really serious
problem here."
And she said, "Well, Elouise,
go home, write me a letter,
and request a meeting."
Finally, one day,
I got a call back
from the Department of Justice,
and said, "We have
your meeting for you."
And there was an entire room
full of attorneys.
The attorney
that was conducting
the meeting told me,
"Now, Elouise,
don't you come in here
with any false expectations."
And I got
so upset with that man.
I said, "People are dying
in Indian communities
every single day,
and you tell me,
'Don't come in here
with any false expectations'?"
And right then and there,
I thought,
"It is time to draw
a line in the sand.
Enough is enough."
And I remember
coming to Washington
on June 10, 1996,
and I walked up from my hotel
to the Lincoln Memorial,
and I looked,
and all I could see
was government.
Big cement buildings,
and, oh, my God,
at the end was the Capitol.
And I just got
goosebumps all over,
and [stammers]
I was so frightened.
And I ran back,
and I thought to myself,
"You know what?
You are taking on
the United States government."
I ran back to my hotel room,
I picked up the phone,
and I called a friend,
and I told my friend,
"I can't do this.
I'm so frightened."
And, um, my friend said,
"Well, Elouise,
if you don't do it, who will?"
This was not an Indian issue.
This was mismanagement
of money owned by people.
And I am a banker.
I understand how other
people's money is managed,
and this was criminal.
I had never filed a lawsuit
in my entire life, so, finally,
on June 10, 1996,
I filed the largest
class action lawsuit
in the history
of the United States.
No matter who it was,
if you were
at the agency level,
or you were...
they would say, "Just sue us."
And the reason
that they would say that is,
they knew individual Indians
didn't have any money to sue.
And so, that was a real cop-out
for them to use.
And I think that they've told
many people that
through the years,
"just sue us," you know.
So, we just sued them.
[John] When the
litigation was filed
to correct
this broken trust fund system,
it was because we realized
that we did not have
to live like that anymore.
We didn't have to live
on our knees.
You know that mountain
over there?
That mountain over there
is one of the sacred mountains
of the Navajo nation.
Dzil Na'oodilii.
[dog barks]
[speaking Navajo]
[speaking Navajo]
She had to go clear
to Gallup for that,
to ask those questions,
to research that one.
To Gallup,
we're talking over...
well over 100 miles
in one direction.
[speaking Navajo]
The only way they can tell,
basically, is...
what company is drilling
on their land, is...
And, basically, that's how
the allottees get
all this information
and go into the B.I.A. office
to find out
who's doing
what on their property.
This is, uh,
my grandma's house.
They had their corrals
over there.
-Nice, huh?
-Oh, those guys over there.
Where the roads are.
Those are survey teams.
This is going on now
all over in this valley.
[speaking Navajo]
[Ervin] Livestock gets
into a lot of these locations.
Livestock drink oil and gas,
or poisoned water.
And they lose their livestock.
[Mary speaking Navajo]
And then, um, I remember
when I was a little girl,
it was never like this.
And this...
We can't drink this water
it's contaminated water.
They literally came in here,
destroyed something
that came out of the earth
on my mom's property.
This area was their farm area,
where they used to grow corns
and watermelons and squash,
but since they moved in
and the water wasn't
no good anymore,
they had to let go
of the farm area.
My mom, she should be
pretty well off with four wells
on her allotted land,
and then all the
surface damages
that she's entitled to
and the right-of-way payments
and all these things,
and yet here, she's 83 years,
and she still doesn't have
no running water.
You don't see Texas oil
millionaires live like this.
[Ervin] Look at some
of these roadways.
Look how wide the vegetation
has been disturbed.
Once it's disturbed,
it doesn't grow back.
And that's where
the Bureau of Indian Affairs
was supposed to come back--
and-and come back
and reinforce-- reinforce
those kinds of policies.
But it hasn't happened.
It's not that we're opposed
to this kind of developments.
It's more of...
doing things right.
And it's not right.
On Wall Street,
they're reporting
billions and billions
in profits.
But yet, the people
that are paying the price,
they're out here with nothing.
That's really
the frustrating part of it.
You're out there fighting
this whole system
without a face.
And you wish you could
just find that person,
the government, "Washingdon,"
as Navajo people says that.
Indian people say that,
"Washingdon, Washingdon."
When I filed the lawsuit
in 1996, with other--
four other plaintiffs,
I was the talk of the town
in Bureau
of Indian Affairs offices,
and Department
of Interior offices is like,
"What is she doing this for?
What does she know?"
You know?
Um, "She's stupid.
I mean, how could she sue
the United States government?"
I came in from Washington,
and I was really exhausted
and they had lost my luggage,
and so I had to stay overnight
in Great Falls.
And I didn't have a toothbrush,
nothing, you know.
And the next morning,
I was like,
"Oh, I got to wait
until my luggage comes in,"
and the phone rang,
and this woman said, you know,
"I'm from
the MacArthur Foundation,
and I just want to tell
you that you have
won the Genius Award."
And so, I'm really faking it,
I'm going like,
"Yeah, okay, well, thank you
very much," you know.
Finally, she said, "You
don't have a clue what
I'm talking about, do you?"
And I said, "No, not really."
[laughs] I love
the name "genius"
because then, immediately,
it sprinkled holy water on me,
because the
government laid off.
They said,
"Oh, my God, she's a genius.
She's not stupid." [chuckles]
Anyway, so, um, the majority
of the money that I won
went back to the lawsuit,
which was very unique
because a lot of the people
that receive these awards,
they go lay--
they're the smart people.
They go lay out on the beach.
When Judge Royce Lamberth
was chosen to be the judge
and when I read
all his background,
I was, like, a little nervous
because he was appointed
by Ronald Reagan.
He was a Republican,
and he was conservative.
And so, um, it worried me
a little bit about him.
I'd never been in the courtroom
to really think this out,
and so everything was
so new to me.
Sometimes, you look at judges,
and it looks like
they're sleeping
or not paying attention,
but he turned out
to be, probably,
one of the most
intelligent persons
that I have
ever, ever encountered.
[Keith] We asked
for information for
a handful of beneficiaries,
and we said, "Give us the trust
records for these individuals."
And they said it would take,
millions of man-hours
just for these few individuals,
and just
for a limited period of time.
[Elouise] Arthur
Andersen was hired
by the Department of Interior
to do this reconciliation audit
and certification.
They came back and said,
"There's no way we can audit.
There's nothing to audit.
Records are lost.
Everything is in just shambles
and a chaotic mess."
The individual tribal accounts
were audited
by Arthur Andersen.
And the government,
in that case, couldn't find
some 30,000 documents,
or $2.4 billion in checks
and deposits
that came out
of these accounts.
And the judge just, basically,
had enough and said,
"Well, I'm going to appoint
a special master to oversee
the production of records,"
and so, um, he appointed
Alan Balaran.
I'm sort of what you
don't want to see.
You know, I'm the guy
that's hired in many situations
when there's been a breach
of a court order,
and the court wants
to make sure that its orders
are complied with
in a reasonable manner.
The problem here was,
in some locations, for example,
they were kept
in these wooden shacks,
out in the field,
and just piled in boxes.
They weren't numbered,
they weren't named.
In another location,
I remember seeing--
it was in this huge warehouse
that had garden equipment,
mulch, etc.
It was absolutely
in shambles.
If your social security
were kept in such a manner,
there would be an outcry
that would be insane.
There would be riots
in the street.
There's no lesser duty
simply because these people
are invisible.
[Ruby] We had been looking
for the production totals
on the three wells
on my grandfather's property.
We had been unable to find it.
I'd started to do research
on the Internet
to see if I could find anything
about this,
about the records.
And I searched many, many hours
on the Internet,
until, one day, I finally found
a listing that told me
that the records were
in Fort Worth, Texas.
I was elated, I was--
"At last! At last,
we found it!"
I called them.
We were all crying.
We were so happy.
Leon said, "Let's go!
Let's get in the car
and go right now!"
We all went.
We all piled in the car,
and we went to Fort Worth,
and we began our search.
We've talked about this
all our lives,
what happened with
the great-grandparents'
I've heard
these stories forever.
That's what I grew up with.
So, we're in this room,
and we're finding this,
and we're pulling these out,
and we're going,
"Wow, this is it.
We know this is it.
We've found a gold mine.
We've found the story."
We're jumping around
talking about this,
looking at each other.
"Oh, look at this!
Look at that!" And then,
we look over to the table,
to where...
To where my mom and Leon
and Theda and Aunt Mildred
are sitting...
and they're weeping.
They lived with them.
And they were seeing
Mose Bruno
and Frances Bruno's
original signatures,
that those people touched,
and you could tell
from these files
the day-to-day happenings
in that family.
You could tell when they bought
a pair of socks,
you could tell when they bought
a bushel of peaches,
and it brought back
so many memories for them.
All rise for the Honorable
Judge Lamberth.
The power of that decision
to win an accounting
from 1887 forward,
it felt like we really had
a huge victory.
It gave me huge hope
that the government had
to fix the systems.
And that was what
the judge said
and that was the law.
I remember
when I got the decision,
I was driving down the road,
and I pulled over,
and, you know,
I just sat there and cried
because I thought
we had a great victory.
I thought,
"Gosh, we've really won."
Some days, you know, you feel
like you're in a battle
that is really difficult
when you're fighting
the United States government.
And so, you have to look over
to Ghost Ridge.
You have to look over here,
and you have to--
you have to get
the real feeling of the pain
that the people went through,
in order for us to survive.
And so, I look over here
on some really trying days
and pray to them for support.
And then, I also look
over here sometimes
when we have a huge victory,
and I turn over to Ghost Ridge,
and I think about
all the people
that were here, and I think,
you know, "Well, we got them
for you this time."
The government
argued that this
was a different type of trust,
that they didn't have
to comply with
common trust law standards.
They lost that argument.
That meant that we won
for all the people that died.
And that was a really, really
tremendous victory for me.
So, that means
that my grandparents
and my parents
would get their accounting.
[cattle bellowing]
[dog barks]
Come on. Get up here,
come on, let's go.
All of the entire
state of Montana
was Blackfeet territory.
So, when the government
came in and tried
to confine the Blackfeet people
to reservations,
it was hard
for my great-great-grandfather,
who was Mountain Chief,
and he just did not believe
that the Blackfeet had to be
confined to a certain area.
And so, he fought it.
They wanted to make him conform
to be a good little Indian.
So, I always hope
that Mountain Chief
trickled down to me.
And, uh, we're fighting
the government, specifically,
that come in and try
to dictate to you how
your lives should be lived.
And so, that's how--
that's what he fought for.
And I think
that's very similar to, um,
what a lot of us
are fighting for
in this lawsuit.
[Lamberth] There were--
There were a number
of boxes of documents
relating to Indian accounts
that had been destroyed
and that the court was not told
had been destroyed.
And, uh...
it was a...
just a gigantic fiasco
from beginning to end.
[Elouise] The judge sent
a serious message
to the defendants
that he was no longer
going to tolerate them
disobeying court orders,
that they had to comply
with his court orders.
And when they continued
to destroy documents,
continued to not
produce documents,
um, we had a contempt trial.
Oh, man, he kicked
the shit out of us.
Judge Lamberth ruled
that Secretary Babbitt,
Treasury Secretary Rubin,
and I were in contempt of court
for having failed
to produce the documents
that had been--
that had been promised.
Um, and he was right,
of course.
[cheering and whistling]
[man] The Indian Trust issue,
another broken promise.
When I talk to my colleagues,
they sit and say,
"Well, you know,
but that's a long time ago."
I said, "You need
to stop and think what
you would do to somebody
if it was your
grandmother's estate
and it had been plundered."
You would go after them
with everything you want
because that was a legal
obligation undertaken by
the United States of America.
There is no excuse.
How long is it going to take
for Congress to act?
And we see things like Enron
and, uh, WorldCom and Telcom,
whereby Congress
immediately took action
and passed the Corporate
Responsibility Act.
And when I asked
a member of the Senate--
I said, "Well, why
can't you do this
here with the Indian trust,
the Cobell litigation?"
And their response was, "Well,
there was an emergency there.
The CEOs and the
management were stealing
from the shareholders."
I said,
"What's the difference?"
[Elouise] Mary Johnson,
she was so upset about the fact
that they weren't getting
any royalty money
off of any of their wells.
And they would go
to the B.I.A. office,
and they'd say,
"Well, how come we're not
getting any royalties
because the oil pump
is still pumping?"
[Mary speaking Navajo]
And all the other
local police came over,
and they told them
that they had no right
to do that.
[speaking Navajo]
So, Mom says, "Okay,
I'll go to jail for it."
[speaking Navajo]
[Elouise] It is the government
that has caused this problem.
In a fit of paternalism,
they imposed this trust on us.
They mismanaged our assets.
They lost billions of dollars.
Our only role was
to suffer the consequences
of their mistakes.
The Cobell case
is about saying,
"No longer will we tolerate
this abuse."
we must always bear in mind
that this is our money,
and this is our land.
This committee has worked
with account holders
and administrations
of both parties
to clean up
the management problems
and atone for inaccurate
account balances.
Frankly, we've been impeded
by administrations
of both parties
who have sought
to protect their own
interests in this debacle.
For some reason,
the administration,
regardless of who
is in the White House,
is convinced that if they just
move some authority
from one office to another,
or buy another new
computer system,
it will all be fixed.
I've watched
this happen and fail
under every president
since President Reagan.
There's such
a sour history here.
And I'm wondering
if you can suggest
some positive actions to help
to increase trust,
to the extent that's
possible on either side.
What I think
we and the department
have attempted to do
is to not personalize
the issues that are involved
and to actually be open
and candid and forthright
in what we're trying to do
and what we
think is reasonable.
[Inslee] Can I interrupt you
just for a second?
I really am looking
for a positive statement here.
I want to tell you there's
a lot of anger about this,
'cause I'm very angry
about this.
I'm very angry
that the federal government
treated these people
like Enron treated
its shareholders.
I'd like you to explain
to me what you can do
to try to get this
off dead-center,
to do more
than you have done to date,
if there's anything
that could possibly get
this thing moving forward.
What could you do?
What additional thing
could you do
to increase the trust level
of the people
on the other side
of this dispute?
Do you want
to comment on that?
[clears throat]
If I might... I think,
as Mr. Cason has stated before,
there's been a lot
of disagreement in the past
about the level
of responsibility
in this trust.
[David] I was finding
missing money,
and I was finding
the books did not balance.
What comes into our office,
uh, is a lot more
than what comes back
out of our office.
What we've learned
from the accounting
is that money came in,
money was paid out.
And we can account...
for the dollars that came in
and that went out
to the individual Indians.
Somehow, there's
a huge missing portion here.
Maybe 20% of the amount
we collect never turns up.
From oil and gas royalties
to land exchanges,
to tribal trusts,
this department has just been
a walking disaster.
Ross Swimmer,
the head of B.I.A.,
he told me and a group of us,
in person, in Billings,
he came to town, he said,
"Now, you may
contact me directly
if there are any problems.
There will be no reprisal
for contacting me
with any problems."
There was a reprisal,
by golly.
I did contact him,
I wrote him,
and there was a reprisal,
I was fired.
I can no longer
find a job as a CPA,
or a financial manager,
or controller,
or what-have-you.
I end up working
as a handyman,
reading about
other whistleblowers.
This is the way it goes.
We often say
that if you go public,
you can never
go back to Kansas again.
A plaintiff's lawyer,
I believe, wanted me
to give IT security a grade,
A through F.
And the judge basically said,
"Humor us."
So, it was at that moment
when I said "F."
I could have done anything.
I could have changed your
social security number to mine.
Um, and just putting my name
on the system was enough,
and just, you know,
making sure the system
would kick out a check to me
on a monthly basis.
As a result of it, the judge
completely shut them down.
You can imagine what it's like
to shut down a computer system
of an entire branch
of the Federal Government.
The government then said
that they could not get
the checks out to our clients,
the beneficiaries,
because they needed access
to the Internet to do that.
That created more heartbreak,
havoc, and disruption
in Indian country
than anything
that one could imagine.
The Individual Indian
Money Account beneficiaries,
uh, called
the Bureau of Indian Affairs
and asked about
where their checks were.
The Bureau of Indian Affairs
referred them over
to the Native American
Rights Fund
and said, "You go ask them."
And so, our offices
were besieged with calls.
I think they got a lot
of phone calls, too. [chuckles]
So, they basically
took his order
and used it to retaliate
against our clients.
Most of them rely
on those checks
for their everyday
living expenses,
paying rent, buying food,
paying bills.
They were severely impacted.
[dog barking]
[speaking Navajo]
[woman] My husband,
he did not want...
anybody to come in.
He said,
"This is embarrassing.
Don't show them nothing.
Just keep them outside."
And I told him, I said, "Larry,
somebody's got to hear this."
I may not have everything
that everybody has out there,
but this is home to me.
It's not much,
but it's home.
I've had livestocks,
I've had chickens.
All of that is gone
because I cannot afford...
to provide
for my animals anymore.
Because I do not have
the money.
The money is all
tied up somewhere.
I wish they could just
release the money.
A lot of this depression
and a lot of stress
would be taken off
of my people.
[siren wails]
[Elouise] Of course,
the United States government,
they have
the extreme resources
of all of our taxpayers' money
in their pocket,
that they don't run out
of money,
and so, they have a group
of attorneys that just sit
and wait for a decision
to come down to appeal.
Their house of cards fell apart
on February 21, 2001,
when the court of appeals
affirmed Judge Lamberth
in all material respects.
At that point in time,
they realized
that not only Judge Lamberth,
but the judiciary, in general,
was going to stand by justice.
[people chanting]
[drums beating]
[man] All right, there,
ladies and gentlemen,
let's give our dancers
and our singers,
the Blackfeet Confederacy,
a round of applause.
Okay, ladies and gentlemen,
let's hear it
for Elouise Cobell.
I'd like to thank
everybody here
that has been waiting
for so long, for justice,
for the Indian
trust funds lawsuit
that we've been working on
for over ten years.
All we're asking for
is accountability,
for the United States
government to come forward
and give the Indian people
an accounting of their money.
So, with that, we will hold all
the politicians accountable.
Thank you.
[Elouise] But it'd be nice...
nice for your mom
and everybody
to try to get some sort of
on their property
and, at least, know
what kind of money
to expect
from your property, so...
Elouise, don't give up.
Yeah. We can't give up.
And we're glad
that you're doing this
and staying with it.
I know my husband
would sure like
to see it over with.
He's tired of me
talking about it.
[man] Everybody feels
just like he does.
They'd like to see it--
see it get finished, you know,
and get something out of it
before-- before it's too late.
Especially for all these...
you know, the older people
and stuff.
You know,
we're not prejudiced people.
We think of everybody else.
The tribe here,
the whole people,
if you came to our door,
we would welcome you in,
give you what we have,
but the government
won't do that to us.
And I'm wondering why.
We are people,
we have feelings.
We're just like
everybody else.
The only thing is, we don't
holler loud enough, you know?
And, with this one here,
she does the hollering for us.
But you'd better believe
we're going to be behind her.
Because they owe it to us.
They owe us this money.
[drums beating]
[horse whinnies]
[gun fires]
[men yelling]
Good luck.
You'll be finished, yeah.
[drums beating]
This is my son.
My son put himself
through college
by being, um, a rider
at the Excalibur
in King Arthur's Tournament.
Quite proud of him.
He graduated from UNLV and is
in the hospitality industry.
Um, I guess maybe
we should move right
from there, over to here,
Elvis Presley, the king.
I gotta talk about the king.
Everybody that knows me knows
that I'm an Elvis fan.
Everybody. I've been
an Elvis fan forever.
In fact, Elvis Presley
came through Browning, Montana,
and, um, he was on the train.
The train slowed down,
and he went and waved,
and I was, like,
totally in shock,
I was so happy.
But everybody knows
that Elvis, the king,
is something special to me.
This magic night
A night
With you
[man] Everybody stand
and look up to God here
in this real special meeting.
Our heavenly Father,
we thank you for this gathering
this morning.
Lord, that you will
just guide us.
We want this case to be settled
as soon as we can.
In Jesus' name
we pray together. Amen.
[people] Amen.
[Keith] I see there's still
a couple people in the back
standing up.
There's a lot of seats
up front, and, uh...
You know, I'm a Cherokee
and a lawyer,
so you may be here awhile,
so you may want to have a seat.
[people laughing]
Um, I'd really like
to give special recognition
to Keith Harper.
And I remember, that first day,
Keith rolled in a stroller,
and he had
his baby girl with him.
And, today, that baby girl
is walking around,
handing out information
for you on this case.
And so, she's grown up
with this case.
We need to have
the American people understand
how this is affecting
all of us.
How it affects people
on this reservation
when you have a lease
in which you are getting
five cents for every dollar
a non-Indian gets.
How it affects you
when you get a check
with no explanation
Uh, Congress kept saying,
"Give us a figure.
Give us a figure
of what you will settle for."
Um, so, we proposed a figure
of $27.5 billion,
a much discounted figure.
Was it an amount
that every penny
that is owed us?
No, it wasn't. But, at least,
we had a figure out there
that we would settle for.
One of the problems
that we struggle with is...
what if it takes
another five or six years?
What does that mean
for the older people
that may never see
any benefit of it?
That weighs on my mind,
and I know that probably weighs
on a lot of people's minds.
We think about you
all the time.
And, you know,
you see things change,
and you hear
that so-and-so is sick
and can't get out
for the meeting today.
You see people that have canes
that didn't have canes
when we first came to Navajo.
But I got your message
loud and clear,
and one thing
that we've got to remember
and we've got to hold
in our minds,
is, "This is our money.
It's not the
government's money.
It's our money."
Thank you for coming.
I fully support
what you're doing
with the litigation.
Thank you very much.
We need that support.
One, two...
[chuckles] Victory!
[all chuckle]
I was really encouraged
when Senator McCain became
the Chairman of the Senate
Committee on Indian Affairs.
And I met with Senator McCain,
and he said, "Elouise,
I'm going to work
as hard as you have."
All the witnesses
have testified
in favor of the court
being the ones
who would be responsible
for the distribution of money.
And, in the 50 principles,
you say the court would conduct
a, quote, "fairness hearing."
What will the court be testing
the fairness of?
In our testimony
and most everybody's testimony,
they feel that the court
is more fair and impartial,
and I believe
that the treasury
is a named defendant,
Mr. Chairman,
and so,
the impartiality is not--
You know, that's the thought.
It's not there.
I think you're asking
a district judge
to take on a task
which is incredibly complex.
The courts
do this all the time,
and distributing--
[McCain] Not with this amount
of money, they don't.
On a class action lawsuit,
yes, they do.
-No, they don't.
-And... And...
No, they don't decide
what's fair and unfair.
I don't know
if a district judge
has the kind of assets
to make those kinds
of judgments.
They weigh the evidence...
[McCain] Courts also decided
what attorneys' fees are.
Yes, and that was my answer
that I was going to tell you.
It's my understanding
that the courts will decide
the attorneys' fees,
and that...
that was done as a result
of a congressional act
that took out the states
and wanted to make sure
that the Federal Government--
Excuse me. Native Americans
will be reimbursed first,
and then attorneys,
if I have anything
to say about it.
I've been interested in what
the attorney fees have been
by the Federal Government
in fighting this case.
We cannot find out.
Just come to the courtroom.
There are hundreds
of attorneys
that are sitting
in that courtroom
day after day,
and there was a rider approved
by the Congress
in the appropriation bill
that allowed for
the government officials
that were accused
of this wrongdoing
to hire their own attorney,
private firms.
And I see those people
every single day.
So, vice versa,
I really would like to see
what the government
is spending on attorney fees.
My attorneys haven't been paid
in years, let me tell you.
[McCain] Well, if there's
$27.5 billion at play,
I'm sure they will be,
Ms. Cobell.
There is no huge contingency
firm amount
that has been negotiated
with attorneys,
let me assure you that.
[McCain] Then there should
be no problem, then,
of telling us how much
of the $27.5 billion.
[Elouise] I'd be very happy
to do that, sir.
Thank you very much.
[Elouise] There was certain
problems with the legislation.
Number one,
the numbers were all blank.
Where it was
the settlement dollar amount,
it was left blank.
On behalf of the chairman
and myself and other members
of the committee,
thank all of you
for taking the time to come
to Washington, DC, today
and to give us
the opportunity to continue
talking with you
about this important issue.
If you're ever going to take
on an adversary in life,
I would not suggest
you pick Elouise.
The fact is, in this case,
she is dead right.
She feels aggrieved,
but not just for herself,
for all American Indians
who have been victimized.
[sirens wailing]
[Elouise] DC is a little bit
different from the country
and the landscape
that I come from
on the Blackfeet nation.
[dogs barking]
[Elouise] When I would
leave Washington
after spending
a lot of time in trials and...
I would drive home, and...
I would look at the
Rocky Mountains when
I'd drive into my driveway,
and, um, all of a sudden,
all of the stuff
in Washington went away,
and the mountains
pumped you up with
all kinds of energy, and...
and I was, once again,
ready to go back to war,
ready to ride
right into the middle
of the cavalry again.
It's been a long process,
but I never, ever forgot
who I was fighting for.
[Lamberth] "For those harboring
hope that the stories of murder
dispossession, forced marches,
policy programs,
and other incidents of cultural
genocide against the Indians,
are merely the echoes
of a horrible bigoted
government past,
this case serves
as an appalling reminder
that, even today,
our great democratic enterprise
remains unfinished."
I've never been
so ashamed of anything
than to see
the Federal Government
bring him up
on charges of bias.
He's a very
outspoken character.
He says what's on his mind.
And it's almost refreshing
to see it in print...
because, so often,
you wonder about
the smoke and mirrors
that come from the department
and how it could possibly be
that up is down and...
and, uh, in is out.
[Elouise] I don't think
that any race of people
would ever have to fight
the fight that we're fighting.
You know,
where could you go and find,
uh, that a judge
would be removed
because he based
his decisions on facts
and Native people
were winning?
And it's very disappointing
that the appellate court
would remove our judge,
but they did.
And I think that people
will look back upon that
as one of the darkest days
for the DC Circuit
Court of Appeals.
I hope I will ultimately
be known as a judge
who just calls them
as he sees them.
And, uh, you know,
I did what I thought was right.
It doesn't mean
I always was right. Uh...
But I did what I thought
was right under the law
that applied to the facts
as I understood them.
You think about,
every day that you live
in your Indian communities,
every single day,
four or five older people die.
And you haven't got them
any money.
You haven't done anything.
You've worked
ten years and-- plus,
and you haven't got them
one cent.
You haven't got them
one cent.
And they've died.
[clears throat]
...you compromise.
So, um, $8 billion.
Well, maybe...
maybe we can settle
for $8 billion.
But, um, right before,
um, the day before,
in the late hours
before Senator McCain
was going to do
the markup on the bill,
um, the bill was pulled
by the White House,
by the administration.
And the administration said
that they needed more time
to review the bill.
Yeah. Ten years of litigation.
Ten-plus years of litigation.
They had...
The bill was introduced
over a year ago.
But they needed more time.
And so, basically, we all knew
what the tactic was
of the administration.
It's to stall again,
stall it again until
a new administration comes in,
and it's not
on George Bush's watch.
They know they owe it.
They know they have
the liability.
But they're stalling.
They continue to stall.
[man] And Senator Obama
will carry the state.
Right now, take a look
at the actual vote.
51% for Obama,
49% for McCain.
He's up by 61,820...
[Elouise] I've always
told people
over and over,
the stars are aligned
for individual Indians
to get justice.
I want to start
by acknowledging a few people
who have worked so hard
to allow us to be here today
on this wonderful occasion.
It began when Elouise Cobell,
who is here today,
charged the Interior Department
with failing to account
for tens of billions of dollars
that they were supposed
to collect
on behalf of more than 300,000
of her fellow
Native Americans.
Elouise's argument was simple.
The government, as a trustee
of Indian funds,
should be able to account
for how it handles that money.
Now, after 14 years
of litigation,
it's finally time
to address the way
that Native Americans were
treated by their government.
This bill will provide
a small measure of justice
to Native Americans
whose funds were held in trust
by a government charged
with looking out for them.
And that's why I am
so extraordinarily proud
to sign this bill today.
Thank you very much.
[drum beating]
[drumming and chanting]
It's our victory march.
[chanting continues]
[Tom] The strength
you find in Elouise
comes from her words,
comes from her resolve,
comes from the inner strength
that she exudes
every time you talk to her,
comes from the confidence
in knowing
how determined she will be
to fight this until it is won.
We'll go that way
and up the stairs.
[drums beating]
[Tom] We're going
to be talking
about Elouise Cobell
the way we talk
about Rosa Parks
50 years from now.
She's a great American,
who stood up
for the rights for her people,
and in doing that,
that expands the rights
for all Americans.
Today was a very special day.
Let's give the legal teams
a nice round of applause.
[drums beating]
-And thank you, thank you all.
If you'll make a big circle,
we'll do a round dance
and hold hands.
[Elouise speaking
over speaker phone]
What we have accomplished
is historical.
It has been one of the most
difficult challenges
I have ever faced.
...to some of the most
honorable people
in this country,
I am deeply grateful
that this court
has not failed us.
Sometimes, far across
The winter plain
Call my name
Softly, tears of rain
Run down my cheek
A power full of fear
And nowhere left to run
A cold and lonely end
And promises undone
Before the rising sun
Hold on and take my hand
A falling star
Into the spirit land
Far across
The winter plain
Call my name
[man] Come on!