Richardson Babbitt pledge support
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NOVEMBER 14, 2000

On Monday, Secretary of Energy Bill Richardson and Secretary of Interior Bruce Babbitt promised continued support of Indian tribes and issues after they leave office.

"Regardless of the outcome of this election, I will be active with Native American tribes," said Richardson.

Richardson and Babbitt addressed tribal leaders at the annual conference of the National Congress of American Indians. The week-long gathering is taking place in St. Paul, Minnesota, this year.

Both department heads are planning departures come January. Neither has said exactly what he will do, but both hail from states with significant Indian populations.

Babbitt is a former Governor of Arizona. Richardson is a former Congressman from New Mexico and represented a district with a 20 percent Native American population.

As head of the Department of Interior, Babbitt has already left a direct mark on Indian issues. Besides being the boss of Kevin Gover, one of the most progressive and controversial heads of the Bureau of Indian Affairs, Babbitt has closed lands to protect Indian cultural traditions, recommended several national monuments to preserve Indian archaeological sites, and issued a decision to repatriate Kennewick Man to five tribes in the Northwest.

Richardson's role in the Department of Energy has been less clear. But this year, he brokered an agreement with the Northern Ute Tribe of Utah in order to return 84,000 acres of land taken from them by the government earlier this century.

He also recently revised the DOE's policies on sovereignty and government-to-government relations with tribes. Nuclear sites like Los Alamos National Laboratory in New Mexico and the Hanford Nuclear Reservation in Washington sit near present-day reservations and include former Indian lands.

The statements made by both officials echo one made by President Bill Clinton earlier this year. In April, Clinton vowed to spend the remainder of his term in office and his life attempting to improve the lives of the country's first Americans.

For now, Clinton's statement appears to be a reality. Last week, he signed a revised tribal consultation order and said he will decide if Leonard Peltier will go free before he leaves office.

Related Stories:
Clinton: I'll decide on Peltier (The Talking Circle 11/9)
Text of Clinton's remaks on Peltier (The Talking Circle 11/9)
Clinton renews tribal commitment (Tribal Law 11/7)
More waste cited at nuclear site (Enviro 11/3)
Report: DOE wasting cleanup money (Enviro 11/2)
DOE revises tribal policies (Enviro 11/1)
Clinton Pledges Indian Country Support (The Talking Circle 04/14)

Relevant Links:
The National Congress of American Indians -