Remarks of Assistant Attorney General Ignacia S. Moreno
Environment and Natural Resources Division
United States Department of Justice
On the Occasion of the Ceremony to Commemorate Historic Settlement Agreements Resolving Tribal Trust Claims
Eisenhower Executive Office Building – South Court Auditorium
April 11, 2012
Thank you very much, Charlie. Good afternoon. My name is Ignacia Moreno, and I am the Assistant Attorney General for the Environment and Natural Resources Division of the United States Department of Justice.
Two years ago—in April 2010—we embarked on an ambitious journey to right the wrongs of the past and to begin a new chapter in the United States’ history with its First Americans.
Today, we come together in the spirit of partnership and mutual respect to recognize an important milestone in our relationship.
I am honored to join the distinguished tribal leaders, senior Administration officials, and colleagues from the Departments of Justice, Interior and Treasury who are here to commemorate these historic settlements.
Under these settlements, the United States will pay a total of more than $1 billion to 41 Tribes in compensation for the Tribes’ claims regarding the government’s management of trust funds and non-monetary trust resources.
The settlements also set forth a framework for promoting tribal sovereignty and improving or facilitating aspects of the Tribes’ relationship with the United States, while reducing or minimizing the possibility of future disputes and avoiding unnecessary litigation.
Under the settlements, the parties will implement measures that will lead to strengthened management of trust assets and improved communications between the Department of the Interior and the Tribes.
The Tribes and the United States also have established an alternative dispute resolution process to address any disputes that may arise regarding the future management of the Tribes’ trust funds and non-monetary trust resources.
In the course of these negotiations, the government developed certain methodologies that enabled us to evaluate and determine, in an expedited manner, possible settlement values for the Tribes’ trust accounting and trust mismanagement claims, based on reliable and readily available data about the Tribes’ trust accounts and non-monetary trust resources.
These settlements demonstrate the United States’ strong commitment to resolving the pending tribal trust accounting and trust management cases in an expedited, fair and just manner.
They are a powerful example of how, together, we can work to settle conflicts that have long defied resolution, despite decades of costly and burdensome litigation.
They are an important legacy of the Obama Administration and set a path forward for reaffirming the trust relationship of the United States with tribal governments. This is truly a defining moment.
We will seize upon this momentum to ensure that our work will be enduring. At the Department of Justice, we will continue to manage the United States’ trust obligations with both care and respect, and through litigation, we will vigilantly protect tribal sovereignty, safeguard tribal lands and resources, and honor tribal treaty rights.
I would like to recognize the vision, creativity, tireless efforts, and unwavering commitment of the many people in this room who made this resolution possible, including: the tribal leaders and their counsel; Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar; Deputy Secretary of the Interior David Hayes; Solicitor Hilary Tompkins and her team at the Department of the Interior; General Counsel George Madison and his team at the Department of the Treasury; Attorney General Eric Holder, former Associate Attorney General Tom Perrelli and Acting Associate Attorney General Tony West, Deputy Associate Attorney General Sam Hirsch and my colleagues at the Department of Justice.
I also would like to especially recognize and thank my Principal Deputy Assistant Attorney General Robert Dreher, Section Chief Lisa Russell, Deputy Section Chief Tom Clark, Senior Counsel Tony Hoang, as well as the Environment and Natural Resource Division’s trial attorneys and support staff. In closing, let me thank you for your trust as the Obama Administration continues to press forward to right historical wrongs and fulfill the promise of the government-to-government and trust relationship between the United States and the Tribes.
Let me thank you as well for your commitment to working with this Administration and for being a voice and an advocate for your communities back home.
We acknowledge that there is more that needs to be done, and I assure you that we are on it!
Next, it is my pleasure to introduce Acting Associate Attorney General Tony West. Many of you may know Tony from his dedicated work in Indian Country as the former head of the Civil Division.