Native American Press / Ojibwe News

August 30, 2002
Federal government seeks whereabouts of Indian account holders:
Many IIM accounts remain unclaimed

By Jean Pagano

The case of Cobell v. Norton brought the Office of Historical Trust Accounting (OHTA) into existence to help sort out years upon years of governmental mismanagement of Individual Indian Money accounts (IIM). The Federal government set up IIMs because that self-same government believed that Native peoples were either incompetent or incapable of managing the trust monies.
IIMs are defined by the federal government (25 CFR § 115.1) as: “those accounts under the control of the Secretary of the Interior or his authorized representative belonging to individuals.”  Sources of the funds in these accounts include royalties from oil, gas, and mineral leases; leases of land and grazing rights; stumpage payments; and per capita payments from land settlements for Indian people who are minors or are designated as “incompetents.”  The property which generates these trust monies is legally owned by the United States government, “in trust” for the benefit of a federally recognized Indian tribe or individual Indians.

Congress’ implementation of the American Indian Trust Fund Management Reform Act (25 USCS § 4001 et seq.) stipulated that the Secretary of the Interior “shall account for the daily and annual balance of all funds held in trust by the United States for the benefit of an Indian tribe or an individual Indian which are deposited or invested pursuant to the Act of June 24, 1938” (28 U.S.C. 162a).  In Cobell v. Norton (240 F3d 1081) it was established that the U.S. government has “preexisting fiduciary duty to perform complete historical accounting of trust fund assets.”

The Department of the Interior, in their report to Congress dated July 2002, states that there are 235,984 IIMs worth $348.3 million. As part of the effort to reunite money and Native peoples, the Office of Trust Fund Management (OTFM) has instituted a Whereabouts Unknown program. Whereabouts Unknown asks people to help match names from government documents to addresses so that money due to people can be assigned to the individuals in question.

The Department of Interior has set up a web site,, which has a set of lists of names, in alphabetical order, of people who have IIM accounts. OTFM asks that anyone having addresses or information about the names listed contact:

Office of Trust Funds Management
ATTN: Whereabouts Unknown
505 Marquette, Suite 1000
Albuquerque, New Mexico 87102

When writing to OTFM, the letter needs to contain the full name of the person from the list (last, first, and middle initial), date of birth (if known), the current address of the account holder, and the signature of the person supplying the information. New names will be added to the website monthly. Names on the list represent each letter of the alphabet, from “A”, A Nau Des Bah to “Z”, Steven L. Zylstra.

screenshot of "Whereabouts" website



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