Jodi Rave’s series for Lee Enterprise Newspapers is a complicated story about Indian land rights and federal bureaucracy. But more than that, it’s a tale of how discrimination older than the United States conspired with neglect and malfeasance to bleed millions of dollars from a struggling people.
Rave hung the series on the peg of a remarkable event — a contempt charge brought against a presidential cabinet member — and then mined many of her stories from a single court document that proved to be a mother lode.
Rave provides insights into the universal challenges of swimming through a bureaucratic morass, and the reporting problems specific to Indian country. It’s a lesson on how a reporter can work at recognizing and mitigating biases about the government — federal and tribal — to produce a story that sticks to the facts.
Part 1 of “Broken Trust” is available in The Authentic Voice. Read the rest of the series below.
In its role as trustee for tribes and tribal citizens, the U.S. government oversees $3.1 billion in assets. The result: Hundreds of tribes and up to 800,000 past and present Native landowners have relied on bureaucrats to manage their land and income for more than a century.
Native landowners are suing the Interior Department for its inability to account for billions of dollars in land and assets it manages for hundreds of thousands of tribal citizens.
Despite widespread agreement that the native fund trust system isn’t working, tribal leaders and government officials have yet to decide how to fix it.
Despite legislation allowing greater control, tribes have been slow to invest their trust funds.
Despite past controversy as BIA head, Ross Swimmer steps back into management role.
Mini-banks encourage Native youths to aim for financial success.