your internet resource on facebook on twitter on Google+ on soundcloud
phone: 202 630 8439
Dynamic Homes
Advertise on Indianz.Com
Home > News > Headlines
Print   Subscribe
Scandal continues to hinder Bureau of Indian Education efforts

Filed Under: Education | Law | National | Politics
More on: 114th, bia, bie, charles roessel, cheyenne river sioux, consultation, doi, john barrasso, jon tester, oig, raise act, s.2580, scia

Charles “Monty” Roessel, the former director of the Bureau of Indian Education. Photo by All Digitocracy / Facebook

Efforts to reorganize and reform the Bureau of Indian Education continue to falter amid scandals within the agency and disagreements among key members of Congress.

Tensions resurfaced last week when the Senate Committee on Indian Affairs approved a bill that would allow Indian parents to use BIE funds to send their children to institutions of their choice. Critics of the effort say the federal government should be investing more money in the troubled agency if there is any hope at improving achievement levels among its 41,000 students.

"I do not believe in any program that would divert public education funds to private entities with limited accountability," Sen. Jon Tester (D-Montana) , the vice chairman of the committee, said at a business meeting before the bill was approved on a party-line vote. "Putting tribal education at the mercy of a voucher program is a sure-fire way to handicap Congressional oversight and take away accountability from the people most impacted by those education systems, which are tribes, Native parents and local communities."

But Congress isn't the only place where divisions have emerged. Mistrust runs deep within Indian Country, largely in part because the BIE was established by the Bush administration in 2006 with virtually no consultation of tribes.

"Construing the statute liberally in favor of the Indians, an open discussion of a proposal to reorganize Indian school administration must include a candid discussion about what funds will be used to pay for the reorganization," Judge Karen E. Schreier wrote in a July 2006 decision that prevented the Bush administration from implementing changes at BIE schools in North Dakota and South Dakota.

Despite the tainted history, the Obama administration has pressed forward with its own reorganization of the agency. The so-called Blueprint for Reform seeks to place more control of BIE schools in the hands of tribes, an idea that would normally draw support in Indian Country.

But, in a new lawsuit, the Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe is objecting to the changes, accusing the BIE of making the same mistakes all over again. Just last week, Schreier said the case could proceed, rejecting the Obama administration's attempt to have it dismissed.

Employing language eerily similar to her decision from 2006, Schreier wrote that "when construing the facts in a light most favorable to the tribe, the court finds that the tribe plausibly alleges that defendants failed to consult with the tribe in an open, government-to-government discussion regarding the proper means of BIE reform."

Acting BIE Director Ann Marie Bledsoe Downes says "Wa’iniginapsana" (Thank You in Ho-Chunk) to all the BIE teachers...

Posted by Bureau of Indian Education on Tuesday, May 3, 2016

As the case was inching forward, the Obama administration was dealing with some big messes in Washington, D.C. In March, the Obama administration removed Charles “Monty” Roessel from his position as director of the BIE after an investigation revealed that he hired a romantic partner and intervened to help a relative land a job at the BIE.

It turns out that wasn't the only problem facing Roessel, a member of the Navajo Nation. Yet another investigation showed that exercised "questionable judgment" when he tried to drum up support for the Blueprint for Reform.

According to the Department of the Interior's Office of Inspector General, Roessel directed his staff to generate letters of support that were sent to 10 tribes in New Mexico. He hoped the tribes would then send the letters to a key member of Congress who controls the agency's funds.

Even though the effort largely failed -- only four tribes sent letters of support, according to the report -- Roessel's own staff and others within the Department of the Interior were suspicious.

"That is definitely a line that we wouldn’t cross," a higher-ranking official told investigators.

At the same time, investigators said there was no evidence that Roessel awarded BIE grants to tribes and tribal organization in hopes of securing their support for the reorganization. And the Department of Justice declined to prosecute.

After his demotion in March, Roessel remained employed by the Bureau of Indian Affairs but he has since left the federal government.

Until Roessel came on board in December 2013, the BIE went without a permanent director for more than a year. His predecessor, Keith Moore, a member of the Rosebud Sioux Tribe, was hired after a nearly three-year vacancy.

Moore, a member of the Rosebud Sioux Tribe, suffered from his own ethical lapses. He too was the subject of an investigation that determined he and a top aide steered an $840,000 contract to a company run by one of their friends.

Moore left the BIE in June 2012, long before the report came out in December 2014.

The BIE, which was previously known as the Office of Indian Education Programs (OIEP), oversees 183 elementary and secondary day and boarding schools. About two-thirds are run by tribes while the rest are operated directly by the agency.

The BIE and the OIEP have seen 34 directors come and go since 1979, according to Sen. John Barrasso (R-Wyoming), the chairman of the Senate Committee on Indian Affairs. He is sponsoring S.2580, the Reforming American Indian Standards of Education Act (RAISE Act), to reform the agency.

"You wonder how an organization can survive if the leader of the organization cannot be held accountable to the students or the taxpayers," Barrasso said at a business meeting on May 11, when the committee advanced his bill despite complaints from Democrats about a cap on funding levels.

Ann Marie Bledsoe Downes, a member of the Winnebago Tribe, has been serving as acting director of the BIE since March. A permanent leader has not been selected despite attempts to recruit from Indian Country.

Inspector General Reports:
Investigative Report of Alleged Grant Fraud In Connection to BIE Reorganization (August 15, 2016)
Investigation of Improper Hiring at the Bureau of Indian Education (March 30, 2016)
Investigative Report of Brian Drapeaux (December 2, 2014)

Government Accountability Office Reports:
Key Actions Needed to Ensure Safety and Health at Indian School Facilities (March 10, 2016)
Further Actions on GAO Recommendations Needed to Address Systemic Management Challenges with Indian Education (April 22, 2015)
Bureau of Indian Education Needs to Improve Oversight of School Spending (November 13, 2014)

Related Stories:
Controversial Indian education bill advances on party-line vote (9/8)
Lawmakers set to take up funding bill for Indian Country programs (07/05)
Carlyle Begay: Native American youth deserve a better education (06/09)
Appropriations bill includes boosts for Indian Country programs (06/01)
First Lady Michelle Obama shares message of hope with Indian school (05/26)
Bill to create new Indian education agency draws Democratic fire (05/11)
Bureau of Indian Affairs reports progress in inspections at schools (05/11)
Senate Committee on Indian Affairs schedules meeting and hearing (5/5)
Cronkite News: Indian schools in Arizona going without inspections (04/25)
Bureau of Indian Affairs inches forward with school construction (04/11)
Scandals overshadow Bureau of Indian Education reform efforts (04/07)
Witness list for Senate Committee on Indian Affairs hearing on education bills (04/04)
Bureau of Indian Education racked by another top-level scandal (03/31)
Cronkite News: McCain bill diverts Indian school funds from BIE (03/22)
Senate Committee on Indian Affairs puts focus on Indian education bills (03/21)
Leader of Bureau of Indian Affairs promises to inspect all schools (03/17)
Bureau of Indian Affairs slammed for safety conditions at schools (03/14)
President Obama seeks $2.9B budget for Bureau of Indian Affairs (02/09)
SAFETY Act seeks to improve Indian schools and tribal colleges (01/27)
John Barrasso: Building a prosperous and thriving Indian Country (01/25)
Tribes seek support for Native language instruction programs (11/24)
Sen. Jon Tester: Congress must do right for Indian Country (11/13)
Ann Kirkpatrick: Fix reservation roads to help Indian students (11/09)

Copyright © Indianz.Com
More headlines...

Latest Headlines:

Tribes in for long haul as oil continues to flow through Dakota Access
Mark Trahant: Don't plan on getting sick if you're from Indian Country
Tiffany Midge: I shall joke as long as the grass grows and the rivers flow
Director of Office of Indian Energy deletes offensive Twitter account
States cheer decision on grizzly bears amid tribal concerns about hunts
Washington asks high court to overturn Yakama Nation treaty victory
New York Times editorial board reconsiders stance on racist trademarks
Colville Tribes remove council member a week before citizens go to polls
Marijuana firm promises big investments with help of ex-Seminole chair
Lumbee Tribe ordered to release voter list to opponents of chairman
National Indian Gaming Association chooses David Bean as vice chair
Eastern Cherokee citizen promoted to vice president of casino marketing
Tribes in Connecticut waiting on governor to sign bill for new casino
Secretary Zinke removes protections for grizzlies over tribal objections
Court sets final deadline for remaining payments from Cobell settlement
Mary Annette Pember: Indian Child Welfare Act strengthens our families
Peter d'Errico: Navajo authors offer fresh perspective on sovereignty
Native woman was jailed and forced to ride with assailant during trial
Ute Mountain Ute Tribe challenges new permit for uranium operation
Montana tribes get new member of Congress who pleaded to assault
Connecticut tribes welcome court decision favoring new casino law
Pueblo tribes dispute state's demand for $40M in gaming revenues
Mashpee Wampanoag Tribe remains confident of approval of casino
Nooksack Tribe accepting slot tickets while casino remains closed
Key House committee under fire for moving slowly on tribal agenda
Tribes go it alone on climate change as Trump team shifts priorities
Bryan Newland: President Trump's budget threatens tribal treaties
Steve Russell: The GI Bill changed the United States for the better
Harold Monteau: Democrats lack proactive agenda, proactive strategy
St. Regis Mohawk Tribe orders 20 non-citizens to leave reservation
Wilton Rancheria accused of working too closely with city on casino
Witness list for hearing on bill to reform the Indian Health Service
Arne Vainio: What does the princess want to be when she grows up?
Doug George-Kanentiio: 'Spirit Game' brings Iroquois lacrosse to life
Cronkite News: Navajo activist vows fight against racist NFL mascot
Eric Hannel: Addressing the health care crisis among Native Americans
Bill for tribal regalia at graduation ceremonies advances in California
Ramapough Lunaape Nation wins reversal of ruling on prayer camp
Mashpee Wampanoag Tribe still waits on casino ruling from Trump team
Another former leader of Winnebago Tribe pleads in gaming theft case
Supreme Court ruling poses hurdle for opponents of racist NFL mascot
Change the Mascot campaign responds to negative Supreme Court ruling
Secretary Zinke set for another hearing on Interior Department budget
Mark Trahant: Republicans write health reform bill behind closed doors
Jeff Grubbe: Agua Caliente Band focuses on protecting our groundwater
Steven Newcomb: Asserting our traditions in the era of Donald Trump
Shasta Dazen: 'Family Spirit' program incorporates our tribal traditions
Secretary Zinke shuffles top Indian Affairs officials at Interior Department
Choctaw Nation travels to Ireland to dedicate 'Kindred Spirits' sculpture
Nooksack Tribe closes doors to casino after being hit with federal order
Muscogee Nation asserts authority at allotment where casino was proposed
Mark Trahant: Dakota Access decision offers a chance to return to respect
Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe hails 'victory' in Dakota Access Pipeline case
Nooksack Tribe told to close casino amid leadership and citizenship feud
Kristi Noem: Enough is enough - It's time to fix the Indian Health Service
Second hearing scheduled on bill to reform the Indian Health Service
Trump nominee for appeals court seen as favorable to tribal interests
>>> more headlines...

Home | Arts & Entertainment | Business | Canada | Cobell Lawsuit | Education | Environment | Federal Recognition | Federal Register | Forum | Health | Humor | Indian Gaming | Indian Trust | Jack Abramoff Scandal | Jobs & Notices | Law | National | News | Opinion | Politics | Sports | Technology | World

Indianz.Com Terms of Service | Indianz.Com Privacy Policy
About Indianz.Com | Advertise on Indianz.Com

Indianz.Com is a product of Noble Savage Media, LLC and Ho-Chunk, Inc.