Norton defends BIA overhaul
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Promising to work with Indian Country on her controversial reorganization, Secretary of Interior Gale Norton today said her proposal to create a separate trust assets and management agency will not bring about an end to the Bureau of Indian Affairs.

Reorganization "gives the Bureau of Indian Affairs the opportunity to really focus on some very important functions," Norton said during a brief appearance on Native America Calling.

The BIA "will not have the distraction of trying to deal with the computer system and the accounting, and so forth," she said. "It will really focus on exactly what it should be doing which is service to tribes and Indians."

"That's something we feel will be strengthened by this," she said, pointing to areas like economic development and law enforcement.

Norton also addressed criticism that she has not provided details about a plan that will affect more than 500 tribes and a million American Indians and Alaska Natives.

"The reason we haven't," she said, "is because we are consulting on how exactly this should be put into effect, how our proposal will work in the real world."

Appearing later on the program, Assistant Secretary Neal McCaleb said formal consultation with Indian Country on the reorganization will begin November 28 in Spokane, Washington, at the annual convention of the National Congress of American Indians.

McCaleb said he and Deputy Secretary J. Steven Griles, who told a judge in a sworn declaration that he is in charge of trust reform, will engage in serious discussion with tribal leaders there.

Native America Calling is broadcast from Albuquerque, New Mexico, Mondays through Fridays.

Today on Indianz.Com:
Reagan's Indian chief is back (11/20)
McCaleb faces Indian preference question (11/20)
Campbell supports BIA overhaul for now (11/20)

Relevant Links:
Native America Calling -
Office of the Special Trustee -
Trust Management Improvement Project -
Indian Trust: Cobell v. Norton -

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