indianz.com your internet resource indianz.com on facebook indianz.com on twitter indianz.com on Google+ indianz.com on soundcloud
phone: 202 630 8439
The Rise of Tribes and the Fall of Federal Indian Law
Advertise on Indianz.Com
Home > News > Headlines
Print   Subscribe
Internal tribal disputes an issue for Obama nominees
Tuesday, December 2, 2008
Filed Under: Politics

Nominees to the Interior Department should be asked about tribal membership and leadership disputes, the Government Accountability Office said in a recent report.

According to the GAO, internal tribal disputes "seem to be occurring more and more frequently." The report recommends nominees be asked about their ability to resolve these controversial matters.

"What experience do you have in working with tribal leadership and trying to resolve these types of disputes or in trying to prevent them?" the report states.

The GAO hasn't released any investigations into internal tribal disputes. But the inclusion of the question -- one of three directly related to Indian affairs -- indicates it's on the radar of key members of Congress who will consider president-elect Barack Obama's executive branch nominees.

"This letter provides you with a series of questions that Senate committees of jurisdiction could use to help determine the management experience and capabilities of upcoming nominees," the GAO told Sen. George Voinovich, a senior Republican on the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee.

The other two questions cover topics that have been the subject of recent GAO reports. They include the land-into-trust process and the backlog of maintenance at Indian schools and at reservation irrigation projects.

Additionally, the GAO included tribes in questions about the Clean Air Act and the sharing of information to prevent terrorist attacks.

But the closest the GAO has come to tribal membership and leadership disputes was in a report that examined the federal recognition process. In some cases, disputes can delay consideration of a petition or lead to confusion in the process.

Still, Congress has been reluctant to step into such disputes out of respect for tribal sovereignty. Tribes retain the right to determine their membership and to determine their leaders.

A controversial incident involving the Cherokee Nation of Oklahoma shifted the landscape after the tribe voted in 2007 to exclude the descendants of the Freedmen, or former slaves. Some members of Congress sought to cut off federal funds to the tribe unless the Freedmen were restored to citizenship.

Other high-profile disputes -- especially those involving gaming -- have caught the eye of Congress as well. The Senate Indian Affairs Committee in 2002 held an unusual hearing into a small California tribe whose leaders were fighting over a proposed casino.

The feud led former Sen. Ben Nighthorse Campbell (R-Colorado), who was the chairman of the committee at the time, to push for a "technical" amendment to the Indian Reorganization Act that essentially resolved the dispute without referring to it. Both factions had retained teams of lobbyists and lawyers in a prelude of sorts to the Jack Abramoff scandal.

A slew of disenrollment disputes among wealthy California tribes have generated significant media coverage but so far members of Congress have not been willing to get involved. Officials at Interior have shied away too, with the exception of the San Pasqual Band of Mission Indians, whose constitution gives the Bureau of Indian Affairs authority over membership matters.

According to Indian activists, California tribes have removed at least 1,500 people from their rolls in recent years. One of them was Bob Foreman, who served as the first chairman of the Redding Rancheria before he was disenrolled in 2004. Foreman died on November 19 without seeing a resolution to his struggle.

Obama has yet to announce his pick for Secretary of the Department of the Interior, although at least two members of Congress who have experience in Indian issues have been the subject of speculation. Obama also gets to name a new assistant secretary for Indian affairs.

The GAO's other questions on Indian issues follow:
"Having land held in trust for the benefit of tribes or individual Indians is important for tribal sovereignty and economic development. GAO and the department’s Inspector General have reported that it usually takes over a year for the Bureau of Indian Affairs to process land in trust applications for both gaming and nongaming purposes. One application that GAO reviewed took almost 19 years. What experience do you have with developing an action plan to address these challenges? How would you instill a priority and a sense of urgency in the department to strengthen its performance in this area?"

"Many tribes, individual Indians, and non-Indians rely on irrigation projects managed by the Bureau of Indian Affairs to provide water for their agriculture. In 2006, GAO reported that the estimated maintenance backlog for 16 Indian irrigation projects was about $850 million, and there are maintenance backlogs for Indian schools. How do you balance priorities to ensure that regular maintenance happens, and what steps do you believe should be taken address these maintenance backlogs?"

GAO Report:
Confirmation of Political Appointees: Eliciting Nominees' Views on Management Challenges within Agencies and across Government (November 24, 2008)

Related Stories:
BIA tells San Pasqual Band not to remove group (12/2)
Strong outlook for Indian Country under Obama (11/21)
NIGC prepares for transition to new administration (11/19)
Indian gaming issues up for Obama's review (11/18)
NAHASDA clears Congress with Freedmen provision (9/26)
Judge won't free tiny tribe from BIA oversight (4/21)



Copyright © Indianz.Com
More headlines...
Stay Connected:
On Facebook

On Twitter

On Google+

On SoundCloud
Local Links:
Federal Register | Indian Gaming | Jobs & Notices | In The Hoop | Message Board
Latest News:
Tribes rest easy as Supreme Court wraps up a surprising session (6/24)
Tribes in northern California take action to protect salmon runs (6/24)
Aaron Payment re-elected as chairman of Sault Ste. Marie Tribe (6/24)
Gun Lake Tribe hosts annual Sweet Grass Moon Powwow in July (6/24)
Native Sun News: First Native hockey referee 'Butchy' passes on (6/24)
Delphine Red Shirt: Lakota people denied voting rights on our land (6/24)
Ruth Hopkins: Saving sacred Bear Butte from a massive biker bar (6/24)
Terese Mailhot: Becoming a better ally after the Orlando shooting (6/24)
April Youpee-Roll: Elizabeth Warren owes more to Indian Country (6/24)
Another land-into-trust fix reportedly being drafted in the Senate (6/24)
Federal charges filed in kidnapping of girl on Fort Peck Reservation (6/24)
Non-Indian charged for trespassing at Nambe Pueblo in New Mexico (6/24)
St. Croix Chippewa Tribe warned not to launch marijuana operation (6/24)
Eastern Shawnee Tribe breaks ground on $34M expansion at casino (6/24)
Non-Indian gaming firm loses challenge to law for new tribal casino (6/24)
Grand Ronde Tribes to finish demolition work at site of old racetrack (6/24)
Supreme Court deadlocks in closely-watched tribal jurisdiction case (6/23)
Matthew Fletcher: 'Huge win' for Mississippi Choctaw court system (6/23)
Native American Basketball Invitational draws top talent to Arizona (6/23)
Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe almost done with long-awaited theater (6/23)
Susanville Rancheria thanks lawmakers for help with land-into-trust (6/23)
Senate Committee on Indian Affairs schedules hearing on three bills (6/23)
Supreme Court backs affirmative action policy in long-running case (6/23)
Native Sun News: Senate committee takes on Indian Health Service (6/23)
Mark Trahant: A Republican plan to terminate Indian Health Service (6/23)
James Giago Davies: Welfare for corporations but nothing for tribes (6/23)
Peter d'Errico: Justice Clarence Thomas critiques federal Indian law (6/23)
Two charged for beating and setting woman from Crow Tribe on fire (6/23)
White House defends fracking regulation imposed on Indian lands (6/23)
Mescalero Apache woman hosts fundraiser for Miss United States (6/23)
Standing Rock Sioux Tribe to collect sales tax on entire reservation (6/23)
Seneca-Cayuga Nation ordered to conduct another council election (6/23)
Poarch Creek land-into-trust bill could help casino effort in Florida (6/23)
Cherokee Nation enters deal to run commercial casino in Arkansas (6/23)
Tohono O'odham Nation told to turn over casino-related documents (6/23)
Senate Indian Affairs Committee debates marijuana & sovereignty (6/22)
Major trust reform bill supported by Indian Country signed into law (6/22)
President Obama signs land-into-trust bill for Susanville Rancheria (6/22)
Chairman Jim Boyd from Colville Tribes passes away at age of 60 (6/22)
Tribes take more control of their land with HEARTH Act regulations (6/22)
Shakopee Mdewakanton Sioux Community adds another 128 acres (6/22)
Lakota Country Times: Pine Ridge Reservation graduates celebrate (6/22)
Native Sun News: Year of Reconciliation sees another anniversary (6/22)
Former Fond du Lac Band chairman Peter Defoe passes on at 77 (6/22)
more headlines...

Home | Arts & Entertainment | Business | Canada | Cobell Lawsuit | Education | Environment | Federal Recognition | Federal Register | Forum | Health | Humor | Indian Gaming | Indian Trust | Jack Abramoff Scandal | Jobs & Notices | Law | National | News | Opinion | Politics | Sports | Technology | World

Indianz.Com Terms of Service | Indianz.Com Privacy Policy
About Indianz.Com | Advertise on Indianz.Com

Indianz.Com is a product of Noble Savage Media, LLC and Ho-Chunk, Inc.