your internet resource on facebook on twitter on Google+ on soundcloud
phone: 202 630 8439
The University of Tulsa College of Law - Master's in Indian Law
Advertise on Indianz.Com
Home > News > Headlines
Print   Subscribe
Obama administration to fight Indian preference case
Wednesday, February 18, 2009
Filed Under: Law | Politics

Despite promises to include more Native Americans in the federal government, the new administration of President Barack Obama plans to fight a significant Indian preference case.

On February 6, the Department of Justice filed a notice of appeal of a decision that backed a broad Indian preference policy at the Interior Department. A week later, Secretary Ken Salazar was telling Congress of his efforts to make American Indians and Alaska Natives a key part of his team.

"I'm committed to having a face of the Department of the Interior, from top to bottom, that is reflective of the face of America," Salazar told the Senate Indian Affairs Committee, citing three high-level positions being offered to Native Americans.

But the appeal sends a different message, according to the union that won the preference case during the Bush administration. "I'm very shocked," said Michael Jennings of the Federation of Indian Service Employees. "I worked on his campaign and Indian Country supported Obama big time."

"I find it completely incredible that a new Interior secretary would kick this down the line without considering the implications or even talking to Indian Country," Jennings added.

Jennings and Richard Hirn, the attorney for the union, said they have made repeated requests to meet with Salazar and discuss the issue. But they have been told the new Cabinet member is "too busy," said Jennings and Hirn.

"I think it sends a bad message that the new administration does not trust Indian to manage their own affairs because that's really what is at the heart of Indian preference," said Hirn, a Washington, D.C,. attorney.

At issue are several hundred positions at Interior that the Reagan administration, and later the Bush administration, said were not covered by Indian preference. The restrictive policy meant that qualified American Indians and Alaska Natives weren't given first shot at jobs under the Assistant Secretary for Indian Affairs at the Bureau of Indian Affairs or within the Office of the Special Trustee for American Indians.

Last March, Chief Judge Thomas F. Hogan rejected the limited view and determined that Indian preference applies to "all" posts that "directly and primarily" relate to Indian programs. He issued a final judgment in December that the new administration said it will appeal.

Indian preference became law when Congress passed the Indian Reorganization Act in 1934. Section 12 states that qualified Indian employees will be given preference for positions at the "Indian Office, in the administration of functions or services affecting any Indian tribe."

Since "Indian Office" wasn't defined by Congress, Hogan said judicial principles require him to construe Section 12 as favorable as possible to American Indians and Alaska Natives. "Simply put ... American Indians legitimately expected that the Indian preference would be applied to all positions in the Interior Department that directly and primarily relate to providing services to Indians," he wrote in the March 31 decision.

Since the Obama administration only filed a notice of appeal, it's not clear what parts of the decision they will be challenging. A BIA spokesperson was awaiting comment from higher-level officials when asked about the case.

The BIA remains without an assistant secretary, a job that usually goes to an enrolled tribal member. During the Bush administration, several of the top positions within the office were held by non-Indians.

At OST, the top two positions were held by tribal members during the Bush administration. In court papers, the union said only 17 out of 550 positions at the agency were covered by Indian preference under the restrictive policy.

Indian Educators Federation v. Kempthorne:
Decision (March 31, 2008) | Amended Decision (December 12, 2008) | Notice of Appeal (February 6, 2009)

Related Stories:
Artman acknowledges Indian preference ruling (2/15)
Judge backs Indian preference at Interior (4/4)
Court throws out suit challenging Indian preference (4/28)
Swimmer to retain control of Indian appraisals (4/6)
Indian employees to lose preference under Bush plan (11/04)
Swimmer weighs consolidation of appraisals (8/15)
Indian employees challenging DOI reorganization (06/03)

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:
Indigenous activists reclaim nation's capital in defiance of Trump (4/28)
Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe ends appeal in Dakota Access lawsuit (4/28)
Ute Tribe demands 'voice' as Trump orders review of Bears Ears (4/28)
Senate panel takes up bill to bring AMBER Alert funding to tribes (4/28)
Gun Lake Tribe prepares for grand opening of casino expansion (4/28)
Arne Vainio: We lost a fluent Ojibwe speaker in Larry Smallwood (4/28)
Native Sun News Today: Runners from Standing Rock head to Ohio (4/28)
James Giago Davies: People tell me it's better to read about pets (4/28)
Harold Monteau: Supreme Court stirs smelly pot of fish head stew (4/28)
Steven Newcomb: 'Picking Fights' book is a must-read for Natives (4/28)
Whiteclay liquor stores must close temporarily amid court battle (4/28)
Disputed leaders of Nooksack Tribe hit by Supreme Court decision (4/27)
Indigenous activists make presence known for climate march in DC (4/27)
Interior Department announces $5.7M in tribal preservation grants (4/27)
Mark Trahant: Senate candidate cites Standing Rock as 'awakening' (4/27)
Native Sun News Today: Battle over Whiteclay liquor just beginning (4/27)
Ivan Star Comes Out: Why are we still dealing with racism today? (4/27)
Albert Bender: Navajo family still waiting on justice for loved one (4/27)
Whiteclay liquor stores win surprise court ruling on liquor licenses (4/27)
Dakota Access firm faces fines for two spills of drilling fluid in Ohio (4/27)
Gathering of Nations gets ready for annual powwow in new venue (4/27)
Secretary Zinke lacks leadership team more than a month into job (4/27)
Republicans seek to avoid shutdown with temporary spending bill (4/27)
Supreme Court ruling seen as benefit to casino bus crash lawsuit (4/27)
Mashantucket Tribe charges off-duty officer for assault at casino (4/27)
Trump singles out Bears Ears as an 'abuse' of government's power (4/26)
Doug George-Kanentiio: Let's call Columbus by what he truly was (4/26)
Native Sun News Today: Lakota youth set up beekeeping business (4/26)
Cronkite News: Trump seeks to hire thousands of border officers (4/26)
Doug Pibel: New film teaches us about value of indigenous seeds (4/26)
Jenn Weddle: 'Best possible result' from court in sovereignty case (4/26)
Peter d'Errico: Oneida architect offers indigenous approach to law (4/26)
Whiteclay liquor stores aim to stay open pending fight for licenses (4/26)
Support for Standing Rock Sioux Tribe leads to recall in Alaska city (4/26)
Mishewal Wappo Tribe loses appeal in federal recognition lawsuit (4/26)
Police use tear gas & rubber bullets at indigenous protest in Brazil (4/26)
Mohegan Tribe wants gaming disputes resolved in judicial system (4/26)
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.