indianz.com your internet resource indianz.com on facebook indianz.com on twitter indianz.com on Google+
ph: 202 630 8439
Indian Law Online Master Degree
Advertise on Indianz.Com
Home > News > Headlines

Printer friendly version
Tribal leaders protest increase in OST resources
THURSDAY, MAY 22, 2003

Tribal leaders on Wednesday criticized the Bush administration's plans to "grow, not shrink" a Department of Interior office headed by Ross Swimmer, the presidential appointee in charge of overseeing trust reform.

The Senate Indian Affairs Committee held a hearing to address the reorganization of the Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA) and the Office of Special Trustee (OST). The administration is moving forward with changes at the national and reservation level despite objections from tribal leaders and some members of Congress.

A primary complaint was the the beefing up of resources at OST, created by Congress to oversee $3 billion in Indian funds and 54 million acres of land. Swimmer, who was confirmed as special trustee last month, wants to hire as many as 100 new people to watch over the system.

With a nearly 50 percent boost in its budget -- from $152 million to $275 million -- tribal representatives said the office was drawing funds away from critical Indian programs. Tex Hall, president of the National Congress of American Indians (NCAI), said $71 million was coming out of tribal pockets and $32 million was being taken from school construction.

"You cannot ask for a more symbolic and ironic example of the government's callous indifference to our needs," testified Hall. "We are literally being asked to pay for the government's mistakes with our children's education money."

Keller George, president of the United South and Eastern Tribes (USET), said the BIA was "in dire straits" yet OST was receiving more attention. He said "two competing organizations" have emerged as a result of the reorganization and that both will continue to fight for authority, resources and manpower.

"Tribes have made it clear that DOI should not use program dollars to help fund the mistakes of the administration," he said. "Tribes have stressed that the BIA's funding should not be diminished in order to fund the trust effort of the OST."

The Inter-Tribal Monitoring Association (ITMA), a coalition of tribes with significant trust assets, was instrumental in helping pass the American Indian Trust Reform Act of 1994, which created OST. But Richard Sangrey, the chairman of ITMA, said OST was losing its mission as outlined in the act.

"This expansion raises questions about the effectiveness of OST's oversight role and the need for concrete independent review of its performance," he told the committee.

Clifford Lyle-Marshall is chairman of the Hoopa Valley Tribe of California, one of the founding members of ITMA. He said he "couldn't imagine" that OST, which had just two employees several years ago, would grow to an organization with hundreds of employees and an ever-increasing budget.

"Real trust reform solutions to date have come from Indian Country and have come when tribes take it upon themselves to create their own solutions," he testified.

Swimmer and Aurene Martin, the acting assistant secretary for Indian affairs, promoted the changes that will be affecting both organizations. "We plan to grow, not shrink," read one slide of their PowerPoint presentation, dispelling suggestions that employees will be laid off or transferred.

Swimmer said OST's reach into Indian Country will be as "transparent" as possible. The trust officers who will be placed at BIA agencies in the field will work closely with already existing staff, he said. As many as 80 will be hired plus six new regional trust administrators.

"We're going to approach this as a team," he said. "It will be a team project."

Sen. Ben Nighthorse Campbell (R-Colo.), chairman of the committee, wasn't worried as much about the OST expansion as much as how it is presented. "You might want to reword that," he said, referring to the "grow, not shrink" slide. "Some of my colleagues might start worrying."

Sen. Kent Conrad (D-N.D.), who voted against Swimmer's confirmation on the Senate floor, said he had "zero confidence" in the entire effort. "Over and over we've had plans with changes and organization charts, words about how they were going to finally get their arms around these problems, and over and over we are left with the same old task," he remarked.

"It reminds me very much of rearranging the deck chairs on the Titanic," he added. "We seem to keep plunging ahead and somehow, nothing fundamental changes."

Tribes have asked the Interior to resume government-to-government talks over the reorganization and the future of trust reform. The department will hold meetings across the country to talk about the changes but they are not considered part of the consultation process, officials said.

Relevant Documents:
Witness List (May 21, 2003)

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

Related Stories:
Swimmer: Don't fear changes at Interior (5/22)
On trust, Swimmer turns to private sector (5/14)
Bush reform plans debated in trust fund trial (05/02)
Reorganization: Meet the 'new' BIA (04/30)
DOI begins second transition period on Indian affairs (04/29)
Court investigator slams Interior's trust fund report (04/22)
Bunker metality evident in trust reform fight (04/22)
Ross Swimmer confirmed as special trustee (4/11)
Bush reorganization faces more obstacles (03/14)
Senate panel approves Ross Swimmer nomination (03/06)
Senate committee to take up Ross Swimmer again (3/4)
Daschle statement in opposition to Swimmer (3/4)
Senate committee to take up Ross Swimmer again (3/4)
Swimmer confirmation delayed (2/27)
Campbell asked to delay vote on Ross Swimmer (2/26)
Senate panel eager to confirm Swimmer as trustee (02/13)
Swimmer can't recall Navajo involvement (02/13)
Swimmer spoof rings true for some (2/12)
Swimmer slow to recall Reagan era 'fallout' (01/17)
Swimmer was promised BITAM job (1/16)
Tribes moving to oppose Swimmer nomination (01/06)
Unfit officials stick it to Indians again (12/09)
A super assistant secretary, in all but name (05/03)
Swimmer legacy still haunts BIA (02/12)
Reagan's Indian chief is back (11/20)

Copyright © Indianz.Com
More headlines...
Stay Connected:

Local Links:
Federal Register | Indian Gaming | Jobs & Notices | In The Hoop | Message Board
Latest News:
Native Sun News: Federal judge hears arguments in ICWA case (3/6)
James Williams: Lac Vieux Desert Band regulates online lending (3/6)
Karlene Hunter: Cultural appropriation is another form of racism (3/6)
Michael Paul Hill: Agent Orange sprayed on Arizona reservation (3/6)
In The Loop: Rep. Don Young offers a solution to homelessness (3/6)
Cherokee Nation opens $10M gaming facility by Kansas border (3/6)
Tribes in Connecticut look at multiple locations for new casinos (3/6)
Menominee Nation weighing off-reservation casino bid in Illinois (3/6)
Native Sun News: Treaty defenders to see Keystone fight to end (3/5)
Charmaine White Face: Radioactivity found in Pine Ridge waters (3/5)
Winona LaDuke: Consider marijuana and hemp in Indian Country (3/5)
Torres Martinez Desert Cahuilla Tribe launches marijuana project (3/5)
Measure reaffirms Navajo Nation policy against legal marijuana (3/5)
Lynn Armitage: Housing program aids Native violence survivors (3/5)
Oglala Sioux Tribe bans attorney in racial hockey game incident (3/5)
Military halted dig on island after questions from Pechanga Band (3/5)
Cash lenders accused of targeting tribal members in New Mexico (3/5)
Opponents not happy with land-into-trust bill for Chumash Tribe (3/5)
County can't stop Shingle Springs Band from opening gun range (3/5)
Mississippi Choctaws hold ribbon-cutting at $55M health center (3/5)
Indian skateboarding exhibit travels to Umatilla Tribes museum (3/5)
Some youth removed at center on Yerington Paiute Reservation (3/5)
Nita Battise sworn in as new leader of Alabama-Coushatta Tribe (3/5)
Laguna Pueblo supports Class III casino compact in New Mexico (3/5)
Seminole Tribe seeks approval for 537-room casino hotel tower (3/5)
Narragansett Tribe loses decision in non-Indian gaming dispute (3/5)
Ex-lawyer sentenced in Twenty-Nine Palms Band gaming scam (3/5)
Defendant pleas in robbery at Saginaw Chippewa Tribe's casino (3/5)
Editorial: Mohegan Tribe hits milestone with gaming enterprise (3/5)
Native News News: Ojibwe flautist shares message with music (3/4)
Audio: Senate Indian Affairs Committee takes up IRRIGATE Act (3/4)
9th Circuit to consider Medicine Lake sacred site dispute again (3/4)
Winona LaDuke: Ingrid Washinawatok's vision remains strong (3/4)
Tim Ballew: Northwest Indian College builds on tribal traditions (3/4)
Steven Newcomb: Domination doctrine and the Quinault Nation (3/4)
Stanley Heller: Help eliminate an Indian mascot in Connecticut (3/4)
Editorial: Mascot reflects history of violence and discrimination (3/4)
Column: Work with tribes in Washington on marijuana industry (3/4)
Navajo Nation files human rights petition to protect sacred site (3/4)
Senate fails to override Obama's veto of Keystone XL measure (3/4)
Yakama Nation woman fights tribe for custody of 12-year-old (3/4)
Chumash Tribe cheers introduction of land-into-trust measure (3/4)
Leader of Chippewa Cree Tribe ousted from office for 3rd time (3/4)
Yurok Tribe planning to debut new justice facility in the spring (3/4)
UTTC president named to panel to choose new UND nickname (3/4)
Another lawsuit filed over former federal judge's racist emails (3/4)
Cowlitz Tribe still waiting for BIA to place gaming site in trust (3/4)
Aquinnah Wampanoag Tribe hails decision in gaming dispute (3/4)
Mohegan Tribe remains interested in new casino near border (3/4)
Mashantucket Tribe joins gaming proposal in Massachusetts (3/4)
Opinion: Florida gaming expansion bill leads to less gaming (3/4)
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.