Navajo Nation slams BIA reorganization
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The largest tribe in the country is speaking out against the Bush administration's proposed reorganization of the Bureau of Indian Affairs.

The Navajo Nation council on Friday passed a resolution condemning the plan. Tribal officials said it was developed without tribal input and does not address longstanding mismagement problems.

"It is clear that the Department of the Interior lacks the organizational ability and will to manage its trust responsibilities," said Ed T. Begay, speaker of the Navajo Nation council, in a statement.

The Navajo Nation was part of the tribal-federal task force on trust reform that was created to come up with ways to fix the broken Indian trust. But the tribe walked out in late September after Bush officials said they were moving forward without tribal consent.

Earlier this month, Assistant Secretary Neal McCaleb unveiled the proposal. It is part of a larger trust reform strategy that will be submitted to U.S. District Judge Royce Lamberth, who is overseeing several trust lawsuits, next month.

George T. Arthur, a Navajo Nation council delegate who sat on the task force, called the reorganization a sham. "The December 4, 2002, proposal is just a shuffling of organizational boxes," he said. "I very much doubt that Judge Lamberth will be fooled by this shell game."

The Navajo Nation instead supports the creation of a Department of Indian Affairs to handle all Indian programs and responsibilities. But while many tribal leaders supported this alternative, the task force rejected it for political reasons.

But Ervin M. Keeswood, another council delegate who took part in task force talks, said that shouldn't dissuade an effort to change. "The dire circumstances which necessitate the establishment of a Department of Indian Affairs are very smiliar to those which resulted in the Department of Homeland Security, except here we are talking about circumstances which threaten the survival of the first inhabitants of the United States," he said.

"Our plight deserves no less attention and no less decisive and effective action by Congress," he added.

The task force is holding its last meeting today and tomorrow in Washington, D.C. According to several tribal leaders, the Navajo Nation was invited to attend.

Relevant Documents:
Navajo Nation Statement (December 13, 2002)

Relevant Links:
Indian Trust, Department of Interior -
Indian Trust: Cobell v. Norton -
Cobell v. Norton, Department of Justice -
Trust Reform, NCAI -

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