Department of the Interior

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September 20, 2005
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New Progress Report Now Available on
Individual Indian Monies Historical Accounting
Report explains the basics and reveals preliminary results of Interior's historical accounting efforts.

The Department of the Interior has released a status report on its $100 million historical accounting effort that continues to examine account transactions relating to the Indian trust accounts of thousands of individual Indian beneficiaries as required by federal law. The progress report is being delivered to members of Congress, Indian tribal leaders, and posted for the public on Interior Secretary Gale A. Norton says the historical accounting effort is unprecedented.

"No other federal financial system-not the tax collection system, the Social Security system, or the Medicare system-has ever been tasked with an undertaking of this type and scope," Secretary Norton said in the report's introduction. "The resources necessary to accomplish this task are staggering-estimated at more than $12 billion. Although the district court's order has been stayed pending appeal, Interior has nonetheless continued its accounting work, consistent with its own 2003 accounting plan and the funding provided by Congress, and has made substantial progress.

The report reaches a number of conclusions based upon historical accounting work completed thus far:

  • Supporting records exist and can be located for a high percentage of individual accounts and transactions.
  • Differences between supporting records and recorded transactions are few in number, small in size, and not widespread or systemic.
  • There is no evidence that historical records have been altered or that hackers have tampered with electronic records.
  • There is ample evidence that monies collected for individual Indians were distributed to the correct recipients-contrary to the claims of Interior's critics.
Associate Deputy Secretary Jim Cason, who has been spearheading the Department's Indian Trust management reform and historical accounting work, says the report reveals basic information about Interior's historical accounting project and provides a window on its scope.

"This report explains the basics of historical accounting and provides a summary for the public and for Congress," Cason said today. "So far, Interior has collected a quarter of a billion pages of Indian records and has begun digitally imaging and archiving millions of pages of relevant documents. The effort has identified some accounts in which too little was paid to Indian beneficiaries and some in which the government made excess payments to individuals. These examples tend to be few in number, small in size, and, to this point, have not revealed any evidence of systemic fraud or abuse."

Historical Accounting for Individual Indian Monies: A Progress Report is available online at