Tribal Trust Cases

Winding river with multiple canoes. Courtesy of the National Archives.

NRS | Native Americans | Current Work of NRS Involving Indian Law Litigation

Starting in January, 2002, the General Litigation Section (now “the Natural Resources Section”) was faced with "Tribal Trust" cases that had been filed in the United States Court of Federal Claims (“CFC”) and in various federal district courts. In these cases, the tribes alleged that the United States had breached its trust duties and responsibilities to the tribes by failing to provide the tribes with "full and complete" historical accountings of the tribes' trust funds and non-monetary trust assets or resources. Further, the tribes demanded compensation for the financial losses that they allegedly had suffered as a result of the United States' alleged mismanagement of their trust funds and non-monetary trust resources. In July 31, 2009, there were 50 cases pending in the CFC; five cases pending on appeal before the United States Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit; and 44 cases pending before federal district courts in Washington, D.C., and Oklahoma. The United States has engaged in not only active litigation but also alternative dispute resolution (“ADR”) of the Tribal Trust cases. Those litigation and ADR efforts are continuing. Between January 1, 2002, and September 30, 2014, the United States settled the claims of 86 tribes and paid about $2.78 billion in compensation to the tribes.


Updated May 12, 2015

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