FROM THE ARCHIVE
Interior cutting off BIA comment period
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TUESDAY, NOVEMBER 27, 2001

Although Secretary of Interior Gale Norton says she plans to hold nationwide consultation meetings on a proposal to strip the Bureau of Indian Affairs of its trust duties, her department is cutting off a written comment period on the major change.

According to a notice published in today's Federal Register, written comments on the reorganization must be received by January 15, 2002. The document was signed by Deputy Secretary J. Steven Griles, who has also told a federal judge he is in charge of trust reform.

The short time frame would conflict with tribal leaders' views that consultation must be thorough and complete. Already, they have complained about Norton not seeking their input before announcing the overhaul, which was first disclosed to a small group of tribal leaders and a federal court overseeing a class action action lawsuit against the government.

One of the attorneys involved in the case, Keith Harper of the Native American Rights Fund, was not surprised the government wants to limit comment. He said it was indicative of the Interior's intent to "shove this through" Indian Country.

"That's typical of how they are going about this whole thing," said Harper of today's notice. "January 15 is going to end the consultation process for the most fundamental change in the government-to-government relationship in 50 years."

Harper is in Spokane, Washington, at the annual National Congress of American Indians. He is providing information about the Individual Indian Money (IIM) lawsuit to tribal leaders at a special session today.

He will also speak about the BIA reorganization tomorrow, as will Griles and Assistant Secretary for Indian Affairs Neal McCaleb. McCaleb today addresses the gathering.

The Interior had no immediate comment about the notice. One official, however, suggested the date could have been made in error, and that the department would have to issue a subsequent notice to extend the comment period.

Get the Notice:
Text | PDF

Today on Indianz.Com:
Norton failing on trust fund backup (11/27)
Interior schedules first consultation (11/27)
BIA collecting Indian preference info (11/27)

Relevant Links:
Native American Rights Fund - http://www.narf.org
Office of the Special Trustee - http://www.ost.doi.gov
Trust Management Improvement Project - http://www.doi.gov/bia/trust/tmip.htm
Indian Trust: Cobell v. Norton - http://www.indiantrust.com

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