Facebook Twitter Email
Tribal leaders raise doubts about overhaul
TUESDAY, JUNE 18, 2002

Last Updated: 6:55 p.m. EDT.

Tribal leaders today voiced skepticism about recent efforts to correct mismanagement of Indian trust funds and said alternatives endorsed by a task force presented few avenues for meaningful change.

At the National Congress of American Indians, government officials were told that options for reorganizing the Department of Interior looked too similar to a controversial proposal unveiled last fall. Tribal leaders said the Bureau of Indian Trust Assets Management (BITAM) was still alive despite the work of a panel that was supposed to come up with alternatives.

"If it looks like a duck, acts like a duck and walks like a duck, it's a duck," said Rosemary Landis, a council member of the Siletz Tribe of Oregon.

Last November, Secretary Gale Norton offered BITAM as a means to correct more than a century of mismanagement of Indian funds. It was roundly rejected by tribal leaders for a number of reasons, including the department's lack of prior consultation.

Norton has since taken the idea off the table. "The department does not plan to pursue BITAM in its original proposal further," she wrote in a June 4 letter.

But Clifford Lyle Marshall, chairman of the Hoopa Valley Tribe of California, said the joint federal-tribal task force has endorsed a set of options that accomplish exactly what BITAM would have done.

"The Secretary is withdrawing the BITAM proposal but we have a task force report that includes a similar proposal in all five of them," he said.

The complaints came as attendees of NCAI, which is being held in Bismarck, North Dakota, were given an update about the task force. The panel, composed of 24 tribal leaders from all parts of the country, performed most of its work in private so many in Indian Country are hearing about its progress for the first time.

Judging by some of the comments, the tribes which weren't part of that process aren't entirely satisfied with the effort undertaken on their behalf.

Their doubts also gave a preview of what Norton will hear tonight as she hosts a consultation session on trust reform. Tribal leaders and tribal members from throughout the region are expected to attend the meeting, which starts at 7 p.m. CST.

Today on Indianz.Com:
Trust fund monitor accused of bias (6/18)

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

Related Stories:
Task force met with skepticism (6/17)
Norton pressed on Indian funds (6/14)