indianz.com your internet resource indianz.com on facebook indianz.com on twitter indianz.com on Google+ indianz.com on soundcloud
phone: 202 630 8439
Fredericks Peebles & Morgan LLP
Advertise on Indianz.Com
Home > News > Headlines

printer friendly version
Swimmer to retain control of Indian appraisals
Tuesday, April 6, 2004

Dozens of Department of Interior employees won't lose their Indian preference status under a recent decision by Special Trustee Ross Swimmer.

In a short letter to Secretary Gale Norton and other top officials, Swimmer said the employees will not join the Bush administration's consolidation of appraisal services within the department. Swimmer cited tribal opposition to the proposal, which would have impacted Indian preference, tribal priority allocation funds and self-determination contracting and compacting.

"This agreement will accommodate several concerns raised at the meetings held on this issue and submitted in writing from tribal leaders," Swimmer wrote on March 31.

Swimmer's decision comes after several months of discussion with staff and Indian Country. Last fall, the Office of Special Trustee held three meetings to take input on joining the new appraisal office, located within Interior's National Business Center.

Tribal leaders objected to the substance of the consolidation as well as the way they were being consulted. The first meeting was held on short notice in Oklahoma, drawing just a handful of people. Subsequent meetings in Las Vegas and Rapid City drew more complaints.

"To hold a consultation session in Las Vegas for Alaska Natives is insulting," said Ed Thomas, president of the Tlingit-Haida Tribe of Alaska, in Senate testimony last month.

Swimmer and other OST officials said there would be several benefits with consolidation. They argued that the process would be more independent and result in more accurate appraisals of Indian trust lands.

But tribal leaders challenged the impact on Indian preference for nearly 70 appraiser positions. A legal opinion issued last October concluded the employees would lose their status if they moved to the new office.

"What I have a hard time understanding is that you people are supposed to be dealing with the Indian tribes, with the Indian people, and so why would you want to not have our people allowed to work within our own reservations?" asked Deb Louie, a council member for Confederated Colville Tribes of Washington, at the Las Vegas session. "I don't understand that."

Tribes also challenged the transfer of nearly $11 million in tribal priority allocation (TPA) funds, a pot of money used for services on the reservation level. Under the consolidation, the money would have been mixed with funding from other agencies that don't perform appraisals of Indian land.

Another objection centered on self-determination and self-governance agreements. Tribes questioned whether they would be able to contract and compact for appraisal services under the consolidation. With the exception of the Bureau of Indian Affairs, Interior agencies are reluctant to enter into these arrangements.

Tribes also worried that the consolidation would do little to improve meager staff levels in regions where appraisals are most needed. The Great Plains and Rocky Mountain regions, for example, have just one or two appraisers for millions of acres of land.

"To me, where I come from, if I have some tracts of land that need to be appraised, I certainly ain't going to depend on the Billings area office to provide that, because there's nobody there and there's no money there," said Alvin Windy Boy, chairman of the Chippewa Cree Tribe of Montana, at the Las Vegas meeting. "If I want a little piece of land, I'm going to Havre, Montana, or Big Sandy, Montana, or Ingrown Toenail, Montana, somewhere to get it done."

Swimmer responded to these concerns in announcing his decision not to join the consolidation but to enter into an agreement with the National Business Center. The Indian appraisal staff, he wrote, "will remain at the current regional locations and OST will retain the budget for the office. Additionally, as the office stays intact under this agreement, Indian Preference will still apply to these positions ... and tribes will still have the ability to contract and compact with OST for the appraisal function."

Tribes still have a long-standing complaint against the transfer of the appraisal staff from the BIA to OST. Former assistant secretary Neal McCaleb agreed to the move in early 2002 with no prior consultation. Swimmer was not involved in the decision.

The decision meant that BIA continues to fund the appraisal office even though the employees were technically under OST. In the fiscal year 2004 budget, the Bush administration is seeking to permanently remove $10.4 million from the TPA line item and give it to OST.

Get the Letter:
Ross Swimmer to Gale Norton (March 31, 2004)

Relevant Documents:
Indian Preference Memo (October 23, 2003) | Federal Register: Tribal Consultation on Participation by the Office of the Special Trustee for American Indians in the Department of the Interior Consolidation of Agency Appraisal Functions (September 17, 2003)

Special Master Report:
SITE VISIT REPORT OF THE SPECIAL MASTER TO THE OFFICE OF APPRAISAL SERVICES IN GALLUP, NEW MEXICO AND THE BUREAU OF INDIAN AFFAIRS NAVAJO REALTY OFFICE IN WINDOW ROCK, ARIZONA (August 20, 2003)

Relevant Links:
Indian Trust: Cobell v. Norton - http://www.indiantrust.com
Office of Special Trustee - http://www.ost.doi.gov

Related Stories:
Fate of Indian preference in hands of Swimmer (02/04)
Editorial: Reform DOI, not the trust responsibility (11/26)
Tribes and Bush administration still apart on trust (11/20)
Editorial: Indian Country's Ugly Baby (11/05)
Indian employees to lose preference under Bush plan (11/04)
Self-governance tribes fear impact of reorganization (10/09)
Consolidation plan advances at Interior (9/16)
Court report finds undervaluation of Navajo lands (08/21)
Court master releases report on Navajo appraisals (8/20)
Swimmer weighs consolidation of appraisals (8/15)
Navajo trust fund manager targeted in internal probe (07/15)
Indian employees challenging DOI reorganization (06/03)
Navajo leaders criticize upheaval at trust fund office (05/09)
Confusion detailed at Interior (10/16)
DOI land swap program to be reviewed (10/11)
Norton land deal subject of dispute (10/01)
DOI approved $100M land 'giveaway' (8/19)

Copyright 2000-2004 Indianz.Com
More headlines...

Latest Headlines:

Bad River Band demands federal investigation into fatal shooting of 14-year-old
Tribes see opening under Trump to reshape agency that targets lending industry
Native Sun News Today: Lakota mother fights to keep her daughter's dream alive
Victor Swallow: Historic store was a vibrant part of the Oglala Sioux community
Gyasi Ross: Native child gunned down by police officer on his own homelands
Sisseton Wahpeton Oyate concerned about spill of oil from Keystone Pipeline
Mississippi Choctaws hail vote against new casino as they await official tally
Tribes still in the dark as Trump administration moves to roll back Bears Ears
Senate Committee on Indian Affairs adds tribal water rights hearing to schedule
Albert Bender: The original genocide continues with the Dakota Access Pipeline
Native Sun News Today: Tribal activists renew fight against Keystone XL Pipeline
Ivan Star Comes Out: We should be asking ourselves 'What's next?' at Whiteclay
Tunica-Biloxi Tribe distances film from Hollywood producer accused of assault
Morongo Band distributes 10,000 turkeys in annual tradition for Thanksgiving
Chemehuevi Tribe expects to complete work on second gaming facility in 2019
Tribes report mixed slot machine returns as they press Trump team on casino
Ponca Tribe secures victory in long-running battle over restoration of homelands
Winnebago Tribe asserts self-determination in hopes of fixing troubled hospital
Comanche Nation sees setback in effort to stop new Chickasaw Nation casino
Alaska Native corporation welcomes action on bill to open lands to development
Doug George-Kanentiio: Thanksgiving represents an indigenous gift to the world
Mark Trahant: Republicans target health care and education to pay for tax cuts
Native Sun News Today: Military service inspires Lakota veteran to bring change
ProPublica: Trump appointee resigns after report on troubled Indian loan program
Bill to end discrimination against indigenous women closer to passage in Canada
Quapaw Tribe calls for resignation of vice chairman following criminal indictment
Senior Trump administration official resigns after scrutiny of Indian loan program
Bureau of Indian Affairs makes changes to loan guarantee program amid scrutiny
Arne Vainio: For over 50 years, I blamed myself for my father's death by suicide
Secretary Zinke among those excited to take part in #RockYourMocs this year
Native Sun News Today: Homeless veterans in South Dakota share their stories
Dakota Access opponents aim to hold law enforcement accountable for tactics
Mississippi Choctaws headed to polls to vote on plans for new gaming facility
President Trump taps Bush-era official as Health and Human Services Secretary
Lawmakers easily approve tribal land bill as Supreme Court weighs major case
House panel advances bill to replace 'Eskimo' and 'Aleut' terms in regulations
Native Sun News Today: Rosebud Sioux Tribe finally welcomes war hero home
Tim Giago: There are always two sides to every story -- even in Indian Country
Mark Trahant: More Native American candidates need to run for public office
Mary Annette Pember: Try something new for Native American Heritage Month
Cronkite News: Hunters may be called into reduce bison herd at Grand Canyon
'An Indian man is on the mall' -- Statue of Ponca Chief Standing Bear is unveiled
Native Sun News Today: Food sovereignty in action on South Dakota reservations
Cronkite News: San Carlos Apache Tribe struggles to deal with mountains of trash
DVIDS: White Mountain Apache soldier proud to represent her tribe in the military
Bad River Band seeks answers after police officer shoots and kills 14-year-old boy
Tribes hit roadblocks as Trump team refuses to sanction new gaming agreements
Pascua Yaqui Tribe announces expansion projects at gaming facilities in Arizona
Appeals court won't revisit historic decision in Muscogee Nation boundary case
Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes water compact survives legal challenge
House subcommittee schedules hearing on tribal self-determination and land bills
Sen. Mike Rounds: Indian Health Service fails to live up to its trust responsibilities
Tim Giago: How 'Wizard of Oz' remains connected to the genocide of our people
Brian Lightfoot Brown: Grandmothers are the backbones of our tribal communities
Native Sun News Today: Lakota woman removed from grave by adoptive mother
Native Sun News Today Editorial: A salute to Native Americans who proudly served
Bad River Band 'deeply saddened and troubled' by shooting of boy by police officer
Gregory Ablavsky: President Trump continues dark chapter with treatment of tribes
>>> 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.