Plaintiffs William Fletcher, Tara Damron, Richard Longsinger, and Kathryn Redcorn, individual holders of Osage headrights, filed suit against the United States in the Court of Federal Claims (Claims Court) seeking damages resulting from breach of fiduciary duties relating to royalties from the Osage mineral estate. Fletcher v. United States, 151 Fed. Cl. 487 (2020) (Claims Court Decision). Because the Claims Court incorrectly concluded that the plaintiffs had no standing and had failed to identify a source of money-mandating obligation as required under the Tucker Act, we reverse the dismissal of the complaint. We also vacate the Claims Court’s decision on the availability of a damages accounting and the striking of declarations.
After settlers displaced the Osage Nation from its native lands, the federal government shunted the tribe onto the open prairie in Indian Territory, part of what later became the State of Oklahoma. At the time, the government had no idea those grasslands were to prove a great deal more fertile than they appeared. Only years later did the Osages’ mammoth reserves of oil and gas make themselves known. When that happened, the federal government appropriated for itself the role of trustee, overseeing the collection of royalty income and its distribution to tribal members. That role continues to this day. In this lawsuit, tribal members seek an accounting to determine whether the federal government has fulfilled the fiduciary obligations it chose to assume. The district court
dismissed the tribal members’ claims. We reverse.