WASHINGTON — The U.S. government doesn't owe money to American Indians suing over management of their trust accounts, and their claim for $58 billion is "absurd,” the government says.
The Indians originally sued the government in 1994 seeking a full accounting of the funds held by hundreds of thousands of individual Indians, and the lawsuit should be dismissed if they no longer want that accounting, the government says in a brief filed Wednesday in U.S. District Court here. Moreover, the U.S. judge presiding over the case doesn't have the authority to award any money to the Indians and should cancel the trial scheduled for June on the matter, the government says. The government's brief came in response to one filed by the plaintiffs three weeks ago seeking $58 billion to compensate for money they say was collected by the government for individual Indian trust account holders but not paid to the accounts. According to the Indians, about $3 billion was collected in the past 120 years for the accounts but never paid. Holding on to that money has allowed the government to borrow less money to finance its spending, the plaintiffs say. And, they say, based on Treasury bill rates going back over the time period, the government's reduced borrowing costs have meant a total benefit of $58 billion.