Judge halts sale of Indian lands

Sept. 2, 2004 at 5:15 PM
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WASHINGTON, Sept. 2 (UPI) -- A judge in Washington has temporarily halted the Interior Department's sale of some oil-rich Indian lands in Oklahoma.

U.S. District Judge Royce Lamberth put a hold on the sale at the request of attorneys in the Cobell case, a 1996 class-action lawsuit that demanded an accounting of royalties owed Indians from oil production and mining on their lands.

Keith Harper, an attorney for the Indians, said Thursday they want to ensure that the owners are fully informed and they have an appraisal of their land.

The 26 parcels of Indian-trust land are in the Anadarko, Okla., area, which is rich in oil and gas. Members of the Kiowa, Comanche, Caddo, Apache, and Wichita tribes are owners of the parcels that range up to 160 acres.

Lamberth has found malfeasance by the Interior and Treasury Departments in their administration of Indian trust funds. His initial ruling was upheld on appeal, but his subsequent orders are currently under appeal.

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