Tribal leaders still seeking trust fund report
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Despite claims made by the Department of Interior, many tribal leaders are still unable to get a copy of a consulting report Secretary Gale Norton relied upon to propose stripping the Bureau of Indian Affairs of its trust responsibilities and hand them to a new agency.

Interior officials last week gave conflicting answers about the report's availability. Some claimed it has been publicly available since November 15, the day Norton announced her plan, while others said only a select group of tribal leaders who monitor the government's handling of trust assets were given the document.

However, almost all members of the Inter-Tribal Monitoring Association on Indian Trust Funds, said they have been denied the report. When asked about this discrepancy, an Interior spokesperson said it must have been a different set of leaders who got the report.

Deputy Secretary J. Steven Griles told tribal leaders at the National Congress of American Indians the report is available online. The Interior has since failed to put the document on its web site since his announcement.

Norton hired EDS this past summer to assess two trust reform projects. Initially, EDS was to receive $900,000 to look at a $40 million computer system widely seen as a failure and data cleanup, another failing project.

But Norton expanded the EDS contract to nearly $3 million so the company could look at all trust aspect. A direct result of that effort was a recommendation to to "immediately appoint a single, accountable, trust reform executive sponsor," first reported by Indianz.Com on November 7.

Norton expanded this suggestion to create an Assistant Secretary for Indian Trust Assets Management. The person would oversee $3.1 billion in tribal and individual assets and 54 million acres of trust land.

Tribal leaders have insisted the report be made public and readily available, including five pages Norton wants to keep secret, since it affects their own money. "Tribes clearly feel that were not dealt up front here in terms of the consultation process and also what the EDS report recommends," said Tex Hall, chairman of the Mandan, Hidatsa and Arikara of North Dakota.

Hall was recently elected president of the National Congress of American Indians, the largest tribal organization in the country.

Today on Indianz.Com:
Norton set for 'worst nightmare' (12/3)
Judge holding secret trust fund hearing(12/3)
McCaleb to discuss trust fund on radio (12/3)
Okla. leaders question Norton's plan (12/3)

Relevant Links:
Inter-Tribal Monitoring Association on Indian Trust Funds -
Office of the Special Trustee -
Trust Management Improvement Project -
Indian Trust: Cobell v. Norton -

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