Tribe asks federal judge to stop BIA from seizing money

SIOUX FALLS (AP) – The Lower Brule Sioux Tribe has asked a federal judge to stop the Bureau of Indian Affairs from seizing millions of dollars from the tribe in a dispute over accounting methods.

The Sioux Falls Argus Leader reported the tribe filed a request for an injunction Friday, saying the federal government is pushing the tribe toward insolvency.

According to the filing, BIA auditors accepted the tribe’s explanation for how it was using federal payments for future expenses. But the tribe’s practices don’t comply with new BIA guidelines, prompting the agency to issue a collection order for $6.1 million. The agency has already seized more than $4 million of that.

The tribe's attorney, John Hinrichs, said the money would have been used for COVID-19 relief, education and public services.

The federal government hasn't filed a response.

Human Rights Watch, an international nonprofit organization that works to highlight human rights abuses, released an investigation in 2015 that accused tribal leaders of diverting $25 million earmarked for essential services between 2007 and 2013. The money went unaccounted.

That report led to several other federal audits that found misuse of grants, water projects and other programs.



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