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Government calls payout proposal ‘absurd'

By Chris Casteel Modified: April 11, 2008 at 12:02 am •  Published: April 11, 2008

Equitable relief sought
Aware that U.S. District Judge James Robertson cannot require the U.S. government to pay damages, the Indians say the money owed isn't damages but "equitable” relief that any financial trust would have to provide if it improperly benefited from the use of trust funds.

The Indians also are asking the judge to return to the trust all the land that has been sold since the trust's inception in the late 19th century. An estimated 40 to 54 million acres were allotted, but only about 10 million acres remain.

The land is the source of most of the money in the individual Indian trust accounts. Robertson recently ruled that it would be "impossible” for the government to perform an historical accounting reaching back more than a century and provide accurate account balances to about 300,000 account holders. In its brief this week, the government rejected every argument the Indians made about why the trust is owed money and how much is owed.