When trying to convince tribes to place their money in the care of his private investment management firm, or indeed any private investment firm, advisor Dean Parisian certainly has a case–especially if any of the tribe’s money is currently being managed by the U.S. government. It’s a bad sign when Interior Secretary Gale Norton gets hauled into court, as she did earlier this year, to face contempt charges for having allegedly covered up or lied about the failures to overhaul a system intended to improve the management of Native American funds. It’s even worse when such failures only come to light after Native American plaintiffs spend six years suing the Interior Department for loss and/or mismanagement of trust funds intended to distribute to as many as 500,000 Native Americans the annual revenues from the leasing of grazing, oil, mineral, or timber rights of their own land. Thanks to mismanagement, sloppy accounting, and systematic destruction of documents, as much as $100 billion of Native American money has been lost, says Dennis Gingold, lead counsel for the plaintiffs. As Judge Royce C. Lamberth, U.S. district judge in Washington, D.C., wrote in a 1999 ruling on the case, “It would be difficult to find a more historically mismanaged federal program that the Individual Indian Money (IIM) trust. The United States, the trustee of the IIM trust, cannot say how much money is or should be in the trust…. An accurate accounting cannot be rendered for most of the 500,000-plus beneficiaries. It is fiscal and governmental irresponsibility in its purest form.”
Sadly, there are more stories like this. In an effort to persuade Native American tribes to choose his firm over Uncle Sam to manage their investments, Parisian has detailed a similar story in a letter that he has presented to tribes and tribal publications. The letter goes like this:
Louis Bad Wound and Larry Red Shirt would surely cry. Both were part of the original group who worked so hard for the return of the Black Hills to the eight Sioux Tribes. In June of 1980, the Supreme Court of the United States upheld an award of $105.9 million to the Sioux for the value of land taken by the U.S. government plus accrued interest. The assets have been held “in trust” by the Bureau of Indian Affairs ever since. The money has been invested in bonds guaranteed by the U.S. government, the same government that has violated almost every treaty ever signed with tribal leaders. That original investment has grown to around the $500 million mark.