WASHINGTON, Feb. 24 (UPI) -- The Interior Department has 60 days to come up with a way to account for billions in royalties American Indian tribes say they are owed.
For the second time since 2003, U.S. District Judge Royce Lamberth ordered the government to develop a detailed plan to calculate royalties owed by oil drillers, timber, cattle and other companies that have done business on Indian land west of the Mississippi River.
The Indian trust fund was established by the U.S. Interior Department in 1887 and may generate as much as $500 million annually for more than 300,000 individuals, the Los Angeles Times reported.
Several government officials have been found in contempt for failing to turn over historical records on the trust fund.
"In this case, the government has not only set the gold standard for mismanagement, it is on the verge of setting the gold standard for arrogance in litigation strategy and tactics," Lamberth wrote.