Groups want to see Montana judge’s racist emails

In this June 23, 2011, file photo, Chief Judge Richard F. Cebull makes a speech during a naturalization ceremony at the federal courthouse in Billings, Mont. (AP Photo/Billings Gazette, James Woodcock, File)

In this June 23, 2011, file photo, Chief Judge Richard F. Cebull makes a speech during a naturalization ceremony at the federal courthouse in Billings, Mont. (AP Photo/Billings Gazette, James Woodcock, File)

 

By MATTHEW BROWN, Associated Press

BILLINGS, Mont. (AP) — A group of American Indians wants a court to preserve and eventually release an investigative file containing inappropriate emails sent by a federal judge, including a racist message involving President Barack Obama.

Two Indian advocacy groups from Montana and South Dakota and a member of the Crow tribe filed a petition in U.S. District Court in California asking for the file to be preserved as evidence.

The groups want to know if Chief District Judge Richard Cebull made biased decisions from the bench. Their next step will be to file a lawsuit seeking public release of the documents, plaintiffs’ attorney Lawrence Organ said Wednesday.

Cebull was investigated after forwarding a racist message involving Obama. A judicial review panel found he sent hundreds of emails from his federal account that showed disdain for blacks, Indians, Hispanics, women, certain religions and others. He was publicly reprimanded and retired last year.

The investigation found no evidence of bias in his rulings. Organ said the only way to know that for sure is through the release of the emails.

“The fundamental principles of our entire legal system fall apart if a judge doesn’t come in with a neutral position,” Organ said. “If there are other decision makers involved, we’re not asking for their private email accounts. All we want to see are the emails accounts they used as government officials.”

The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals has said its file on Cebull is confidential.

Plaintiffs in the case are South Dakota-based advocacy group Four Directions, Montana-based Indian People’s Action, and Sara Plains Feather, a member of southeastern Montana’s Crow Tribe.

Four Directions was involved in a voting rights lawsuit that sought to force several Montana counties to establish satellite voting districts on reservations. Cebull ruled against the Indian plaintiffs in that case, which was later settled after the 9th Circuit overturned his ruling.

Cebull himself and 10 others requested the misconduct investigation after The Great Falls Tribune reported the judge forwarded an email in February 2012 that included a joke about bestiality and Obama’s mother. Cebull apologized to Obama after the contents of that email were published.

The investigation looked at four years of Cebull’s personal correspondence sent from his official email account.

Cebull told the 9th Circuit panel that his “public shaming has been a life-altering experience.” Nominated by former President George W. Bush, he received his commission in 2001 and served as chief judge of the District of Montana from 2008 until 2013.

Named as defendants in the case were the office of 9th Circuit Executive Cathy Catterson and the Committee on Judicial Conduct of the Judicial Conference of the United States.

Ninth Circuit spokesman David Madden said he could not comment on the pending petition.

The plaintiffs attempted in May to directly petition the 9th Circuit. That was rejected by the court’s clerk, who said the petition needed to be filed first at the district court level.

Flathead Reservation in next phase of $1.9B land buy-back program

 

Elouise Cobell, right, looks on as Deputy Secretary of the Interior David Hayes testifies in December 2009 during a Senate Indian Affairs Committee hearing in Washington, D.C. EVAN VUCCI/Associated Press

Elouise Cobell, right, looks on as Deputy Secretary of the Interior David Hayes testifies in December 2009 during a Senate Indian Affairs Committee hearing in Washington, D.C.
EVAN VUCCI/Associated Press

HELENA – The Flathead Reservation is among 21 Indian reservations that will be the focus of the next phase of a $1.9 billion program to buy fractionated land parcels owned by multiple individuals and turn them over to tribal governments, Interior Department officials said Thursday.

Besides the Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes, other Montana participants are the Northern Cheyenne Tribe of the Northern Cheyenne Indian Reservation; Assiniboine and Sioux Tribes of the Fort Peck Indian Reservation; Crow Tribe; and the Fort Belknap Indian Community of the Fort Belknap Reservation of Montana.

Government officials will work with tribal leaders to plan, map, conduct mineral evaluations, make appraisals and acquire land on the reservations from Washington state to Oklahoma in this phase, which is expected to last through 2015.

Other reservations could be added to the list, but the 21 named Thursday meet the criteria, particularly tribal readiness, said Assistant Secretary for Indian Affairs Kevin Washburn.

“We knew it wouldn’t be successful unless tribal leaders were interested in the program,” Washburn said.

The land buyback program is part of a $3.4 billion settlement of a class-action lawsuit filed by Elouise Cobell of Browning, who died in 2011. The lawsuit claimed Interior Department officials mismanaged trust money held by the government for hundreds of thousands of Indian landowners.

The 1887 Dawes Act split tribal lands into individual allotments that were inherited by multiple heirs with each passing generation, resulting in some parcels across the nation being owned by dozens, hundreds or even thousands of individual Indians.

Often, that land sits without being developed or leased because approval is required from all the owners.

The land buyback program aims to consolidate as many parcels as possible by spending $1.9 billion by a 2022 deadline to purchase land from willing owners, then turn over that purchased land to the tribes to do as they see fit.

So far, the program has spent $61.2 million and restored 175,000 acres, said Interior Deputy Secretary Mike Connor. To buy even that much land, officials had to locate and contact owners in all 50 states and several countries to find out if they were willing to sell, Connor said.

The work primarily has been focused on South Dakota’s Pine Ridge Reservation until now.

Last month, tribal leaders from four reservations criticized the buyback program’s slow pace and complained they were being shut out of decisions over what land to buy. The leaders from tribes in Montana, Oklahoma, Oregon and Washington state spoke before a U.S. House panel.

Rep. Steve Daines, R-Montana, who called for the congressional hearing, said he welcomed Thursday’s announcement by the Interior Department.

“However, I am concerned their efforts here may not provide tribes with the necessary tools to ensure the Land Buy-Back program is properly implemented,” Daines said in a statement.

He said the Interior Department should use its authority to give tribes more flexibility, and it should move swiftly to address consolidation problems on other reservations not included in the announcement.

Washburn said Thursday that his agency has entered into or is negotiating cooperative agreements with many tribes in the buyback program, though others say they want the federal government to run the program.


21 reservations next up in consolidation program

These are the American Indian reservations the Department of Interior plans to focus on in the next phase of a $1.9 billion buyback program of fractionated land parcels to turn over to tribal governments. The program is part of a $3.4 billion settlement over mismanaged money held in trust by the U.S. government for individual Indian landowners.

– Assiniboine and Sioux Tribes of the Fort Peck Indian Reservation, Montana.

– Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe of the Cheyenne River Reservation, Wyoming.

– Coeur D’Alene Tribe of the Coeur D’Alene Reservation, Idaho.

– Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes of the Flathead Reservation, Montana.

– Confederated Tribes of the Umatilla Reservation, Oregon.

– Crow Tribe, Montana.

– Fort Belknap Indian Community of the Fort Belknap Reservation of Montana.

– Gila River Indian Community of the Gila River Indian Reservation, Arizona.

– Lummi Tribe of the Lummi Reservation, Washington.

– Makah Indian Tribe of the Makah Indian Reservation, Washington.

– Navajo Nation, Arizona.

– Northern Cheyenne Tribe of the Northern Cheyenne Indian Reservation, Montana.

– Oglala Sioux Tribe of the Pine Ridge Reservation, South Dakota.

– Prairie Band Potawatomi Nation, Kansas.

– Quapaw Tribe of Indians, Oklahoma.

– Quinault Tribe of the Quinault Reservation, Washington.

– Rosebud Sioux Tribe of the Rosebud Indian Reservation, South Dakota.

– Sisseton-Wahpeton Oyate of the Lake Traverse Reservation, North Dakota and South Dakota.

– Squaxin Island Tribe of the Squaxin Island Reservation, Washington.

– Standing Rock Sioux Tribe of North Dakota and South Dakota.

– Swinomish Indians of the Swinomish Reservation, Washington.

Crow Tribe introducing new ‘Scout’ currency

Crow Tribe introducing new ‘Scout’ currency

Crow Tribe introducing new ‘Scout’ currency

By Ed Kemmick; Source: Buffalo Post

The Crow Tribe in Eastern Montana is gearing up to mint sets of copper, silver and gold coins it hopes will slowly replace the dollar as the reservation’s main currency.
Billings Gazette reporter Ed Kemmick has the full story on the “Scout”:

“We’re not looking to trade clams or wampum anymore,” Ceivert LaForge said. “We’re looking at trading gold and silver.”

LaForge, director of the tribe’s LLC Department, which helps people establish small businesses on the reservation, will join with other tribal leaders to introduce the new currency during the grand entry for the Crow Fair powwow Friday night at 7.

LaForge has been working on the project since March with Eddie Allen, director of Sovereign Economics, a Dallas-based business that helps “nations, states, communities and groups around the world” establish their own currencies, according to the company’s website.

The new currency will be introduced gradually, LaForge said, and could eventually be used to pay tribal employees.

Business that have contracts with the tribe could also be asked to accept partial payment in scouts, he said.

One obvious benefit of having a Crow currency would be to encourage tribal members to spend their money on the reservation, LaForge said, which could in turn prompt people to open more small businesses on the reservation.

Allen said the slogan of the Lakota Nation effort to use its own currency is “Keep it on the rez.”

Though the currency is designed to be used on the reservation, Allen said, it could be used by anyone anywhere who finds another person willing to accept it in return for wares or services.

To help finance the launching of the Crow currency, the tribe commissioned the minting of 1,000 silver medallions commemorating the Battle of the Little Bighorn and began selling them during Crow Native Days in June.

Those 1-ounce medallions are not considered currency and are being sold at $50 each, mainly to coin collectors or people with an interest in the Battle of the Little Bighorn, Allen said.

U.S. House committee invites Crow Tribe chair to discuss production expansion

Jul 8, 2013 4:46 PM by Q2 News Staff

BILLINGS- The U.S. House of Representatives Natural Resources Committee will meet Tuesday to discuss the expansion of coal production on public lands in the United States.

Montana Congressman Steve Daines, who serves as a committee member, revealed that Crow Indian Tribe Chairman Darrin Old Coyote will be testifying during the hearing regarding a recent agreement with Cloud Peak Energy and the hopes the tribe has for that partnership.

Committee members in favor of coal production expansion, such as Daines, plan on using testimonials to tout the benefits of coal production in the western part of the country.

An expansion could mean a change for Montana and Wyoming, as the Powder River Basin accounts for 40% o U.S. coal production.

Opponents say an increase in production might be detrimental to tax payers, as they say coal is currently undervalued.

The hearing kicks off at 2:00 p.m. Eastern Standard Time in the Longworth House Office Building in Washington, D.C..

If you would like to watch the hearing, you can find a live stream at that time by clicking here.

Feds approve 1.4B ton coal deal with Crow Tribe

The company that wants to export coal to Asia through ports in Washington and Oregon has an agreement with the Crow Tribe that would supply more coal than is consumed in the U.S. each year.

cloud-peak-Energy-is-one-of-the-safest-producers-of-coal-in-the-united-statesBy MATTHEW BROWN

June 21, 2013 The Associated Press  

 

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BILLINGS, Mont. — The U.S. government approved plans by a Montana Indian tribe to lease an estimated 1.4 billion tons of coal to a Wyoming company that’s moving aggressively to increase coal exports to Asia, the company and tribe announced Thursday.

The deal between Cloud Peak Energy and the Crow Tribe involves more coal than the U.S. consumes annually.

The Bureau of Indian Affairs’ (BIA) approval allows Cloud Peak to begin exploration work on the Crow reservation.

Cloud Peak has pending agreements to ship more than 20 million tons of coal annually through three proposed ports in Washington and Oregon. Officials in both states oppose the port projects on environmental grounds, but federal officials said earlier this week they planned only limited environmental reviews of the projects.

Cloud Peak CEO Colin Marshall said preliminary work on the so-called Big Metal coal project — named after a legendary Crow figure — has begun. The company says it could take five years to develop a mine that would produce up to 10 million tons of coal annually, and other mines are possible in the leased areas.

The Crow Tribe’s coal reserves are within the Powder River Basin, which accounts for about 40 percent of U.S. coal production. Cloud Peak paid the tribe $1.5 million upon Thursday’s BIA approval, bringing its total payments to the tribe so far to $3.75 million.

Future payments during an initial five-year option period could total up to $10 million. Cloud Peak would pay royalties on any coal extracted and has agreed to give tribal members hiring preference for mining jobs.

The company also will provide $75,000 a year in scholarships for the tribe.

Crow Chairman Darrin Old Coyote said in a statement that the project is a high priority for the impoverished tribe’s 13,000 members. It revives longstanding efforts by the Crow to expand coal mining.

A $7 billion coal-to-liquids plant proposed in 2008 by an Australian company never came to fruition.

The three members of Montana’s congressional delegation — Democratic U.S. Sens. Jon Tester and Max Baucus, and Republican Rep. Steve Daines — issued statements supporting the new agreement. They said it offers a chance to increase job opportunities on the 2.2-million-acre reservation along the Montana-Wyoming border.