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Special Trustee Tom Slonaker leaves DOI
TUESDAY, JULY 30, 2002

Last Updated: 4:39 P.M. EDT.

Special Trustee Tom Slonaker, the federal government's top Indian trust official, resigned from the Bush administration today.

Slonaker, an appointee of former President Bill Clinton, came to the Department of Interior in June 2000. He was subsequently retained by the White House when President Bush took over in January 2001.

Slonaker released a statement this afternoon announcing his resignation. "Since I was confirmed in June 2000, I have had the opportunity to work with many people within both the Clinton and Bush administrations and the Indian community who are committed to trust reform," he said.

"I believe that the department is working to effectively fulfill the Secretary's fiduciary trust responsibility with respect to the Indian trust assets for which the department is responsible," he added.

Secretary Gale Norton accepted Slonaker's resignation. "Tom has had the extraordinary experience that few Americans have of serving two different administrations in senior position in government," she said in a statement.

"His service came at a time of significant activity in Indian trust issues and I thank him for his service and wish him well in his future endeavors," Norton stated.

Slonaker's resignation comes days after he broke with the administration's silence on a controversial spending bill approved by the House. One provision directs him to fire his board of advisers, a group of Indian Country leaders and trust experts.

At a Senate Committee on Indian Affairs hearing last Thursday, Slonaker said he wouldn't fire the board members and find replacements. Associate Deputy Secretary Jim Cason, on the other hand, said the department had no views on the legislation.

Slonaker also said the department's 10-year, $2.5 billion historical accounting proposal would not satisfy its obligations to more than 500,000 American Indians. The Bush administration released the plan earlier this month.

With Slonaker's departure, Donna Erwin will take over the Office of the Special Trustee. She is currently a deputy within OST and has been working closely with Ross Swimmer as the department restructures its Indian trust duties.

"Ms. Erwin has 33 years of experience in all facets of private and public trust and fiduciary duties, including administration, operations and investments," said Norton.

The first special trustee was Paul Homan, who quit in a huff in early 1999 over funding and support with former Secretary Bruce Babbitt.

Slonaker, like Babbitt, hails from Arizona. Sen. Jon Kyl (R-Ariz.) introduced Slonaker to the Senate Committee on Indian Affairs for his March 2000 confirmation hearing.

Relevant Documents:
Tom Slonaker Statement (7/30) | Gale Norton Statement (7/30) | Neal McCaleb Statement (7/30) | McCain Statement (7/30) | Tom Slonaker Biography (OST)

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