Rahall: No Thanksgiving in Indian Country
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The top Democrat on the House legislative panel with jurisdiction over Indian issues criticized Secretary of Interior Gale Norton on Tuesday for her continued "refusal" to consult with tribes on a plan to strip the Bureau of Indian Affairs of its trust responsibilities and hand them to a new agency.

"There will be no Thanksgiving in Indian country this year, at least in terms of recent actions by the Interior Department," said Rep. Nick Rahall (D-W.Va.).

The ranking member on the House Resources Committee, Rahall has already called for hearings on the reorganization because Indian Country has been "kept in the dark" about its development. By not keeping tribal leaders informed, he said Norton "appears to be intent on running roughshod over the concerns of those to whom she has a trust responsibility in this matter."

In particular, Rahall said Norton didn't consult with tribes or Congress on deciding to name former Assistant Secretary Ross O. Swimmer to head up the transition to a new Bureau of Indian Trust Assets Management (BITAM). Norton announced Swimmer's appointment yesterday.

"This is increasingly looking like a shell game," said Rahall of the development, "and like all such games there are only losers at the end of the day."

Responding to complaints about consultation, an Interior spokesperson today said the administration was working on a schedule for nationwide meetings. Nedra Darling also said Assistant Secretary Neal McCaleb and Deputy Secretary J. Steven Griles would work with tribal leaders next week at the annual convention of the National Congress of American Indians.

Tribal leaders opposed to the overhaul have said they would look to Rahall's committee to hold hearings. Rahall has often taken a lead on Indian issues, including the recent introduction of an energy development bill for Indian Country.

He also criticized the Bush administration for allowing drilling to take place on a site in Montana sacred to dozens of tribes.

Today on Indianz.Com:
Indian Country slams 'sham' consultation (11/21)
Top trust fund official questioned (11/21)
BIA reorganization a focus of NCAI (11/21)

Relevant Links:
Rep. Nick Rahall -
National Congress of American Indians -
Office of the Special Trustee -
Trust Management Improvement Project -
Indian Trust: Cobell v. Norton -

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