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Native Alaskan family awarded $4.9 million in damages for trespass

February 17th, 2011 by Joseph William Singer

A federal judge awarded the Oenga family of Barrow, Alaska $4.9 million dollars in damages against the United States because the Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA) authorized BP oil company to cross the Oenga’s property to obtain access to 3 of BP’s oil fields when the family had only granted permission for access to one of those fields. Judge Awards Alaskan family $5M (U.S. News, Feb. 9, 2001)

While the case is, in some sense, an ordinary trespass case, it is complicated by the fact that the BIA has legally-enforceable fiduciary obligations to protect the property rights of Native Alaskans. The Oengas are Inupiats (Eskimos).

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