WASHINGTON (CN) – A federal judge handed Indian tribes a narrow victory, granting them $455 million of the $48 billion they claimed the government owed them for siphoning money from a trust account system created more than 120 years ago.
U.S. District Judge James Robinson stopped short of ordering the government to pay the $455 million to the estimated 500,000 descendants of the original trust holders. He said the government is liable for that portion of the funds they sought, in part because trust law applies differently to government trustees than it does to private citizens.
His opinion noted decades of government mismanagement, saying the historical wrongs “could have been – and should have been – settled by the same political branches in recognition of their own failure.”
However, Robinson rejected the plaintiffs’ argument that the amount owed should reflect how much the government gained by using the Indians’ money for its own benefit over decades.
Indian descendants filed the class action in 1996.