Home > News > More Headlines > Senate energy bill draws objection from Navajo Nation
Printer friendly version
Senate energy bill draws objection from Navajo Nation
FRIDAY, JUNE 6, 2003

The largest tribe in the nation voiced opposition this week to the energy policy bill under consideration in the Senate, calling it a "severe weakening" of the federal trust relationship.

In a letter to the Sen. Pete Domenici (R-N.M.), Navajo Nation President Joe Shirley Jr. said he supported the overall goals of the legislation. But he told the chairman of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee that certain provisions pose significant risks to tribes that want to develop their mineral resources.

"If successful, this attempt would be a virtual endorsement by the Indian tribes' trustee itself, of the fraud, dishonesty and unethical treatment that was the subject of the Navajo Nation's claim against the United States, and would open the door for future similar conduct by federal officials," Shirley wrote on June 4.

Shirley referred heavily to his tribe's $600 million breach of trust claim that was before the Supreme Court this year. In a 6-3 decision issued March 4, the justices said the Department of Interior did not have a fiduciary obligation to ensure the tribe received the best return on a highly valuable coal deposit. The court cited a federal law, much like the one the Senate is considering, that relegated the government to a limited role on Indian energy matters.

The ruling cost the tribe at least $600 million but it also generated significant debate in Indian Country. At a Senate hearing in March, Indian leaders said they supported the bill's goal of increasing tribal control but cautioned against an erosion of the federal government's responsibilities.

The concerns led Domenici to include language in the energy bill, S.14, that seeks to preserve the trust relationship while allowing tribes to develop their own energy development regulations, subject to initial approval by the Interior. Supporters, including Sen. Ben Nighthorse Campbell (R-Colo.), point out that tribal participation is voluntary.

During a conference call with New Mexico-based reporters earlier this week, Domenici said he expected "major debate" on the Indian title when it comes up on the Senate floor. He characterized the issue as a clash between self-determination and keeping "strings" on tribes.

"I'm hopeful that we will say to the Indian people, 'You get your clearance just like everybody else but you only have to do it one time and then you're free to develop the properties as other people develop their properties,'" he said on Monday.

Sen. Jeff Bingaman (D-N.M.), the ranking member of the Energy committee, led an effort to strip the bill of the provisions in question. While he objected on trust grounds, other Democrats said it would allow the Interior to skirt the federal National Environmental Policy Act.

Bingaman was defeated on a straight party-line vote in April. But he intends to introduce an amendment that would strike the language the Navajo Nation objects to.

The Council of Energy Resource Tribes (CERT), which represents more than 50 tribes with significant trust assets, has worked with Domenici's committee to address some of the concerns. Shirley, however, wrote that recent changes were "unacceptable." The Navajo Nation belongs to CERT.

Debate on the energy bill began on Monday. Domenici said it will last for two weeks.

Get the Letter:
Navajo Nation to Domenici (June 4, 2003)

Energy Legislation Documents:
Summary of Indian Energy Title III | Indian Energy Title III | S.14 | Bush Administration Statement

Navajo Nation Decision:
Excerpts | Syllabus | Opinion [Ginsburg] | Dissent [Souter]

Relevant Links:
Navajo Nation - http://www.navajo.org
Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee - http://energy.senate.gov
Council of Energy Resource Tribes - http://www.certredearth.com

Related Stories:
Indian energy title adopted without changes (04/30)
Tribes weigh effects of energy legislation on trust (03/20)
Navajo Nation tussles with new trust 'philosophy' (03/20)
Interior opposes oversight in energy bill (03/20)
High court ruling makes 'passive' trustee of U.S. (3/5)

Copyright © Indianz.Com

Stay Connected

On Facebook

On Twitter

On Google+

On SoundCloud

More Headlines

Proposed rule brings LGBT equality to Indian housing programs (5/24)
Chairman of Quapaw Tribe endorses Democrat Hillary Clinton (5/24)
Appropriations bill blocks new federal recognition regulation (5/24)
Native American Children's Safety Act clears final Hill hurdle (5/24)
9th Circuit won't rehear Tohono O'odham Nation gaming case (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)
Mark Trahant: Tulalip citizen lands role in Democratic platform (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)
Families of missing Native women in Canada still await justice (5/24)
Menominee Nation considers options after losing hemp lawsuit (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)
more headlines...

Advertisement

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.