Sunday, July 20, 2008

Bay Area Native Americans Due for Unclaimed Funds

Bay Area Native Americans Due for Unclaimed Funds

SAN FRANCISCO (CBS 5) ― The federal government is looking for approximately 10,000 Native Americans living in the Bay Area who have money coming to them. It turns out tribal property they left in other states is earning millions of dollars and it is sitting unclaimed.

The Office of the Special Trustee for American Indians is now launching a national campaign to find 80,000 WAUs or Native Americans with whereabouts unknown. They have $72 million dollars coming to them.

"These accounts have 10 cents to hundreds of thousands of dollars in them," said Ross Swimmer, Special Trustee for American Indians.

One of the people the Department of the Interior is looking for is Martin Waukazoo. He is a member of the Lakota tribe who migrated from South Dakota to California 30 years ago. Over the years, the government lost his contact information.

"I didn't know I was lost. Now, I'm anxiously looking forward to finding out what partial land or how much land I do have," Waukazoo.

CBS 5 ConsumerWatch went to the Department of the Interior website, typed in Martin's name and was directed to toll free number. Within a few minutes a live person, not a recording, tells Waukazoo he owns a small share of land - .0006 percent to be exact and it is making money for him.

"I have $13.11!" he said. While it's not a lot, it is acknowledgement from the Federal Government.

"It's not the money. That's not the issue. There is a completion there," Waukazoo said. He feels he is now recognized by the government which promises better outreach and communication with his community. He's not lost. And neither are his grandchildren and great grandchildren.

"The land passed down to them may be a handful of land but they belong to this Earth. They belong somewhere in this world," he said.

For Swimmer, locating WAUs is important work and so is reuniting them with money owed. His father was a member of the Cherokee tribe. "They feel that's their heritage even if it's a tiny slice," Swimmer said. "It's that piece of their Indian heritage."

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