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Attorneys begin gathering witnesses in American Indian farmers’ federal discrimination lawsuit November 10, 2006

Posted by C.A.R.D in American Indian, Card, Citizens Against Racism and Discrimination, Discriminate, Discrimination, Indian.

BISMARCK, N.D. – Attorneys for American Indian farmers and ranchers are gathering information and witnesses for a discrimination case against the federal government.

Attorneys planned to meet Thursday near Fort Yates near the South Dakota state line to collect data for the lawsuit, which was filed in 1999. The lawsuit alleges the U.S. Department of Agriculture discriminated against native Americans in the granting of loans beginning in 1981.

The lawsuit was granted class-action status in 2001. It alleges the USDA denied or delayed loans, or did not approve enough money to keep farms afloat financially.

The case, Keepseagle vs. Johanns, formerly Veneman, refers to Fort Yates rancher George Keepseagle and Agriculture Secretary Mike Johanns. Ann Veneman was agriculture secretary when the lawsuit was filed.

Attorneys estimate the number of Indian plaintiffs could be in the tens of thousands. A settlement figure has not been calculated, but would likely be in the “hundreds of millions,” Sellers said.

U.S. District Judge Emmet Sullivan said at a hearing in September that he believes Indian farmers and ranchers are entitled to a trial. The case mirrors a separate civil rights case brought by black farmers in 1997, and settled two years later.

Sellers said he and USDA lawyers have been meeting with a magistrate to resolve some of their differences and decide on a trial date, but no decision has been made.

USDA officials have not responded to questions about the allegations.

Source: Boston Herald

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