Court reviews GIS analysis of American Indian trust data

A geographic information system analysis is helping the U.S. District Court in Washington review data about land holdings that are at the heart of the dispute over the Interior Department's management of American Indian trusts.

The plaintiffs in Cobell v. Norton hired Farragut Systems Inc. of Lafayette, Colo., to apply a GIS for trust asset analysis.

Farragut used ArcView 3.2 from ESRI of Redlands, Calif.
The analysis is based on a Bureau of Indian Affairs data set detailing the location of reservation boundaries. To determine the quantities of petroleum produced on the American Indian's land, the consultants overlaid privately generated production data, and to find mineral output, they used Geological Survey data of mine activity.

The government provided the reservation boundary data and the USGS mine data in GIS format.

The GIS approach to estimating the value of trust assets contrasts with the approach Interior officials have proposed: to attempt to reconstruct trust records'many of which have been destroyed'by forensic accounting, historical analysis and anthropological research.

The Cobell plaintiffs have combined the GIS analysis results with other consultants' estimates of the value of forestry, mining and petroleum assets on American Indian lands to create databases describing the disputed assets.

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