Interior changes mind on NCAI appearance
Facebook Twitter Email

Despite public statements to the contrary, this week's presence by two top Department of Interior officials at the National Congress of American Indians is not a true consultation session, a spokesperson has acknowledged.

During a radio appearance last week, Assistant Secretary for Indian Affairs Neal McCaleb said he and Deputy Secretary J. Steven Griles were going to engage in "formal consultation" at NCAI's annual convention. But instead, they will only provide a "presentation" on the Bureau of Indian Trust Assets Management, said Nedra Darling.

Both officials also aren't looking to discuss the overhaul with Keith Harper, the lead Native American Rights Fund attorney on a class action suit against the government, Darling added. Due to ongoing litigation, there are good reasons why neither would want to participate on a panel discussion featuring an attorney from the opposing side, she said.

Harper, however, wasn't fazed by the Bush administration's reluctance to discuss the issue with him before what he expects to be a hostile crowd. He still plans on informing tribal leaders of the "radically different" statements Norton has presented to the court and to Indian Country.

On the one hand, said Harper, Norton tells a federal judge the organization is "underway." But along with her top officials, she has told tribal leaders the new agency is merely a proposal.

Presenting these conflicting views is clearly "disingenuous," Harper said.

To account for the Interior's obstinance, Harper will discuss his lawsuit and the implications of a receiver for the Individual Indian Money (IIM) trust at a session on Tuesday. Originally, he and Griles had been scheduled to appear on a panel on Wednesday.

The panel is still intact, according to the most recent NCAI agenda, but Harper has been separated from Griles and McCaleb. Even so, Harper said the change wouldn't stop him from voicing his concerns at the panel and during a follow-up session in the afternoon.

"The bottom line is," said Harper, "I hope they are ready to get pounced on."

NCAI's annual convention is taking place in Spokane, Washington. It concludes on Friday, the same day U.S. District Judge Royce Lamberth will consider holding Norton and other officials in contempt.

Today on Indianz.Com:
Norton faces big week on trust (11/26)
Norton's BIA overhaul blasted (11/26)
Norton sends letters to tribes (11/26)
Editorial: Give Norton plan a chance (11/26)
Norton's attorney decries unfairness (11/26)
Norton's choice raises questions (11/26)

Relevant Links:
Native American Rights Fund -
National Congress of American Indians -
Office of the Special Trustee -
Trust Management Improvement Project -
Indian Trust: Cobell v. Norton -

Related Stories:
Judge holds secret hearing (11/23)
Indian Country slams 'sham' consultation (11/21)
Top trust fund official questioned (11/21)
No Thanksgiving for Indian Country (11/21)
Domenici praises Norton's 'bold move' (11/21)
BIA reorganization a focus of NCAI (11/21)
Reagan's Indian chief is back (11/20)
McCaleb faces Indian preference question (11/20)
Norton defends overhaul of BIA (11/20)
Norton promises fast start (11/20)
Developing: Swimmer tapped by Bush administration (11/19)
Few answers on BIA overhaul (11/19)
Norton challenges trust fund receiver (11/19)
Gover: Indian Country had it coming (11/19)
BIA reorganization focus of radio show (11/19)
Norton defends quarterly reports (11/19)
Norton's 'runaway train' denounced (11/17)
Norton stripping BIA of trust duties (11/16)
Tribal leaders in uproar over proposal (11/16)
Top Democrat calls for hearings (11/16)
Bush officials to speak at NCAI (11/16)
Norton files contempt defense (11/16)
Q&A on BIA Reorganization (11/16)
Developing: BIA stripped of trust duties (11/15)
Interior might need year on new agency (11/15)
Gover: Indian Country now 'weaker' (11/15)