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
The Rise of Tribes and the Fall of Federal Indian Law
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...
Stay Connected:
On Facebook

On Twitter

On Google+

On SoundCloud
Local Links:
Federal Register | Indian Gaming | Jobs & Notices | In The Hoop | Message Board
Latest News:
Chairman of Quapaw Tribe endorses Democrat Hillary Clinton (5/24)
Native American Children's Safety Act clears last hurdle on Hill (5/24)
Lakota Country Times: Army promises return of tribal children (5/24)
Native Sun News: New business sprouts up at Wounded Knee (5/24)
Brandon Ecoffey: Pine Ridge unites for search of missing men (5/24)
Men who went missing found dead on Pine Ridge Reservation (5/24)
Billy Mills: Flawed poll can't justify use of team's racist mascot (5/24)
Richard King: Mascot poll reflects pervasive anti-Indian racism (5/24)
Marco Alvarez: Voices of indigenous people usually go unheard (5/24)
Indian Health Service facility cited for treatment of 6-month-old (5/24)
Tribes meet to discuss sale of ancestors and property in France (5/24)
Dental group appears to relent on therapists in Indian Country (5/24)
Alaska Natives welcome removal of 'Eskimo' from federal laws (5/24)
Joba Chamberlain lands on disabled list after joining new team (5/24)
Coquille Tribe awaits environmental review for gaming project (5/24)
Seminole Tribe still going strong despite lack of new casino deal (5/24)
Long wait hints at tie in closely-watched tribal jurisdiction case (5/23)
Another Indian Health Service facility in Great Plains threatened (5/23)
Senate Indian Affairs Committee schedules hearing on wildfires (5/23)
Supreme Court delays review of Seneca Nation land case again (5/23)
Native Sun News: Pine Ridge school hosts meth awareness day (5/23)
Lakota Country Times: Native men still missing after two weeks (5/23)
Tim Giago: Some good old days really were the 'good old days' (5/23)
Doug George-Kanentiio: Jay Silverheels was more than 'Tonto' (5/23)
Delphine Red Shirt: It's our duty to teach the Lakota language (5/23)
Ernestine Chasing Hawk: A vendetta in the death of Anna Mae (5/23)
Native Sun News: Rapid City group aims to address disparities (5/23)
Tara Houska: Mascots hurt Native youth despite results of poll (5/23)
Vincent Schilling: Mascot poll doesn't reflect true Indian voices (5/23)
Wenona Wolf: Native people are invisible in our own homeland (5/23)
Roger Birdbear: Obamacare can help address shortfalls at IHS (5/23)
Harold Monteau: Lessons from Canada in Native law and policy (5/23)
Steven Newcomb: Church edicts lead to centuries of domination (5/23)
Robert Jumper: Gaming leads Eastern Cherokees to bright future (5/23)
Naomi Schaefer Riley: Hold tribal leaders accountable for schools (5/23)
Benjamin Madley: Acknowledge the genocide of California tribes (5/23)
Jasmine Heiss: Leonard Peltier's fate lies with President Obama (5/23)
Santa Fe Indian School preparing for First Lady Michelle Obama (5/23)
All charges dropped for murder of Cheyenne man in New Mexico (5/23)
Donald Trump claims 'Jack Abrahamoff scandal' proves him right (5/23)
Kickapoo Tribe added to lawsuit over deadly casino bus accident (5/23)
Settlement opens door to tribal casino at popular Oklahoma lake (5/23)
Lakota Country Times: Pine Ridge youth learn about martial arts (5/20)
Native Sun News: Oglala Sioux Tribe halts referendum on alcohol (5/20)
Clara Caufield: Off to a new adventure in the Montana mountains (5/20)
Washington Post conducts poll on Native views of racist mascot (5/20)
Warm Springs Tribes see marijuana as means to boost economy (5/20)
Miccosukee Tribe agrees to $4M settlement with former law firm (5/20)
Osage Nation signs compact to address adult protective services (5/20)
Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes prepare for $21M casino (5/20)
Former Seneca Nation gaming official jets around world after plea (5/20)
Alabama-Coushatta Tribe welcomes back former casino workers (5/20)
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.