Domenici calls BIA overhaul 'bold move'
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Sen. Pete Domenici (R-N.M.), a member of the Senate Indian Affairs Committee, on Tuesday called on tribes to take part in a "bold move" to reorganize the Bureau of Indian Affairs.

"I know there is some concern about tribal consultations in developing this plan and questions about its implementation," said Domenici. "But I believe New Mexico’s tribal leaders should study the plan and work with the Bush administration on this."

Domenici said stripping the BIA of its trust duties and handing them to a new agency would bring "proper oversight" and "modern business practices" to the tribal and individual Indian trusts. He pointed out that "little has changed" since Congress passed the American Indian Trust Reform Act of 1994, the law which established the Office of the Special Trustee (OST).

When asked if Domenici believed the act and the Special Trustee were failures, a spokesperson said neither one has gotten the job done. "He does not believe they have worked as well as they intended," said Chris Gallegos.

When asked why a separate agency could do what Congress and the Clinton and Bush administrations have been unable to do so far, Gallegos said Domenici would take the issue under advisement.

Another New Mexico lawmaker, Sen. Jeff Bingaman (D-N.M.) is also urging Indian Country consultation. He specifically requested Norton be present at any formal meetings, echoing tribal concerns.

"I believe that your presence at some of these consultations would reassure the tribes and pueblos that the Department takes their comments seriously," he told Norton in a letter.

As chairman of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, Bingaman oversaw Norton's confirmation to the Interior. During her hearings, she assured the panel trust reform would be a top priority.

"It's alarming to hear that we have such large amounts of money that ought to belong to the Indian people themselves that has become lost somewhere in the bureaucracy of the Department of the Interior," she said.

"I will work with this committee to try to find the best way to resolve that so that we can see that it's all straightened out at some point in the future," she added.

New Mexico is home to 19 Pueblos, two Apache tribes and part of the Navajo Nation.

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)
No Thanksgiving for Indian Country (11/21)

Relevant Links:
Sen. Pete Domenici -
Sen. Jeff Bingaman -
National Congress of American Indians -
Office of the Special Trustee -
Trust Management Improvement Project -
Indian Trust: Cobell v. Norton -

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