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In The Hoop
FRIDAY, DECEMBER 14, 2001

Welcome to In The Hoop, Indianz.Com's occasional column about assorted Indian issues.

Winners, Losers
Looking for this week's list of Winners and Losers? Well look no more.

Consultation Has Begun!
Like any gathering of tribes, gossip was rampant at Secretary of Interior Gale Norton's first consultation meeting in Albuquerque, New Mexico, yesterday.

One of In The Hoop's favorites was a lawsuit the Comanche Tribe of Oklahoma has filed. For some reason (perhaps to repatriate various Indian artifacts), the Comanches believe they have provisional jurisdiction over the Ft. Sill Apache Tribe. The Comanches are apparently unaware they are not on the same level as the states of Arkansas and Oklahoma.

But anyway, back to the Hyatt Hotel, Ground Zero in Gale Norton's War on Tribalism. About 600 tribal leaders, lawyers and lovers were in attendance and the smoke is still smoldering from the debris.

Conversations at Consultation
So what was the session really like? You mean beyond the fact that numerous tribes -- particularly the 19 Pueblos of New Mexico -- gave Ross Swimmer, tapped by Norton to transition the Bureau of Indian Affairs to the Bureau of Indian Trust Assets Management, the very cold shoulder?

Back in the days when Ronald Reagan was a man and not merely an airport and a train station, the Pueblos summoned Swimmer to a meeting in ABQ very much like yesterday's. Get your Cherokee cheeks out of the BIA, they told him.

Apparently, he -- and some whiz kid in the Bush administration -- did not listen. He was back at the table and many leaders who were very upset told him so to his face and behind his back.

"He has no support in Indian Country," a tribal leader was overheard saying later. "Is Norton really out of it? Is she really unaware of the opposition [to him]? Somebody is trying to insinuate that Ross Swimmer has support in Indian Country."

"I wish I knew who."

Conversations at Consultation, Part II
But if you really want a run-down of Norton's interactions with tribal leaders, In The Hoop has prepared a summary. It goes something like this:

Norton: "I am here to listen to your concerns and help to develop the best program for Trust Management in Indian Country. Both Assistant Secretary McCaleb and I, and the administration, are committed to providing the best support for Indian Country in moving away from poverty and towards self-sufficiency."

Tribal Leader: "Why didn't you consult us from the beginning?"

Norton: "The needs of American Indians and Alaska Natives has always been considered from the beginning of my term as Secretary."

Repeat 20 times. Wash. Rinse.

Tribal Leader: "What's going to happen to the BIA?"

Norton: "As with almost all organizations within the government, the President encourages innovation and change where appropriate. Trust is broken. We must fix it."

Tribal Leader: "What's going to happen with workers?"

Norton: "Some workers may be reassigned, others will be in the same place. We will be spending the next year working on the details."

Tribal Leader: "What if Interior workers are just ignorant?"

Norton: "Don't worry, they too will still have a place in the Bureau of Indian Affairs."

Tribal Leader: "What about the current litigation against you?"

Norton: "I am not going to talk about issues currently under litigation but I can speak to Indian trust in broad, general terms."

Tribal Leader: "I hate you Gale Norton"

Norton: "I will take that under advisement. I am here today to listen."

Tribal Leader: "How can you do this?"

Norton: "I am acting in the best interest of the Indian trust today and in the future."

Tribal Leader: "Why are you doing this?"

Norton: "We want Indian country to have the best expertise to manage their trust accounts."

Tribal Leader: "What about Indian preference?"

Norton: "We believe in Indian preference where appropriate and will make a strong effort to place qualified, skilled, and registered Native Americans in the Department of the Interior."

Tribal Leader: "What are you wearing?"

Norton: "The same schmata I always wear."

Tribal Leader: "What are you thinking?"

Norton: "Consultation is better and more productive with Corporations rather than Indian Nations."

In Your Hoop
If you are the first to correctly identify which statements are not correct, you will win a prize! Email In the Hoop and include a phone number where you can be contacted. Previous winners of contests are not eligible. That means you Kevin Gover.

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