Home > News > More Headlines > Lawmakers push for reform of Indian trust
Printer friendly version
Lawmakers push for reform of Indian trust
MONDAY, JULY 28, 2003

A bipartisan group of lawmakers in the House and Senate introduced legislation on Friday that includes a number of trust reform proposals embraced by tribal leaders before negotiations with the Bush administration broke down.

Standards, greater tribal involvement in trust management and elevation of Indian affairs within the Department of Interior are some of the major components of S.1459, the American Indian Trust Fund Management Reform Act Amendments Act of 2003. The package is sponsored by Tom Daschle (D-S.D.), Tim Johnson (D-S.D.), John McCain (R-Ariz.) in the Senate, and Nick Rahall (D-W.Va.) and Mark Udall (D-Colo.) in the House.

"This legislation is a step in the right direction," said Johnson in a statement. "The federal government has work to do to live up to its treaty and trust obligations to Native Americans."

The bill is a follow-up to one that was first introduced last summer. At the time, tribes and federal officials were wary of it, citing their ongoing work on the trust reform task force.

After talks between the two parties ended, tribes took a bigger role in lobbying Congress for changes they consider essential. The National Congress of American Indians (NCAI) and the Inter-Tribal Monitoring Association (ITMA) were the key players in development of the new package.

One of the major features is Congressional affirmation of standards by which trust funds and assets are managed, a provision in response to the Bush administration's stance in litigation that it has a limited set of obligations to Indian beneficiaries. The bill codifies all of the common law trust principles -- such as the duty of loyalty and the duty to maximize trust assets -- and adds Indian specific ones such as promotion of tribal self-determination and protection of treaty rights.

But in a more significant move, the bill counteracts the ongoing reorganization of the Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA) and the expansion of the Office of Special Trustee (OST). Citing substantive and procedural problems with the initiatives, tribal leaders have spoken out against them.

By abolishing OST and elevating the assistant secretary for Indian affairs to a deputy secretary position, the bill responds to tribal complaints about the impact of trust reform on Indian programs. The deputy secretary would have line authority over trust matters and BIA programs -- like education, law enforcement and economic development -- instead of segregating them to competing agencies. OST would be replaced by a new Office of Trust Reform Implementation and Oversight.

Competition between OST and BIA has fueled much of the debate in Indian Country over the past year. Under the reorganization, OST emerged with the lion's share of new funds and resources, to the dismay of tribal leaders.

Another area of concern for tribes is their relationship with Interior. Since the task forced ended last September, the Bush administration has not committed to new talks, instead choosing to implement the reorganization without further tribal input.

The bill would not restart the task force, which had been one suggestion offered by tribal leaders. Instead, it creates an eight-member Congressional commission that will examine and report on trust management issues within 32 months of first meeting. At least five members of the panel must be tribally-enrolled and at least one of the five has to be an Individual Indian Money (IIM) account holder.

Other sections of the bill would protect the ongoing Cobell v. Norton lawsuit by preventing; authorize tribes to enter into agreements to manage trust funds and assets without diminishing the federal government's trust responsibilities; and require Interior to develop regulations by consulting Indian Country.

"The bill we are introducing today is not intended to either whitewash or redress past wrongs, and it will not forestall the courts from resolving matters properly before them," said Udall in a floor statement. "Instead, it is intended to take an important first step toward a better future for the Indian tribes and individuals in whose behalf the government is duty-bound to act."

Relevant Documents:
S.1459: Trust Standards | Statement: Sen. Daschle | Statement: Sen. McCain

Relevant Links:
Trust Reform, NCAI - http://www.ncai.org/main/pages/
issues/other_issues/trust_reform.asp

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

Related Stories:
Congress not ready to embrace Bush accounting plans (07/16)
On trust, lawmakers take Bush officials at face value (06/25)
House bill targets Cobell trust fund lawsuit again (06/20)
Tribes focus energies on 'core' trust reform issues (05/30)
Effects of trust budget on Indian programs debated (05/28)
Swimmer: Tex Hall's testimony 'was not true' (5/23)
Tribes oppose OST expansion into Indian County (5/22)
Daschle testimony on Indian affairs reorganization (5/22)
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)
Bunker mentality evident in trust reform fight (04/22)
Bush reorganization faces more obstacles (03/14)
BIA initiatives to impact Indian education (03/11)
Norton says trust forced 'tough choices' in budget (02/12)
At Interior, Indian affairs in a state of flux (02/11)
Bush budget restricts spending on Indian Country (02/10)
BIA agencies face new trust rating system (02/10)
New Bush budget aims to improve trust fund (02/04)
McCain asked to halt BIA reorganization (01/16)
Tribes debate response to trust reform plans (01/13)
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

Stay Connected

On Facebook

On Twitter

On Google+

On SoundCloud

More Headlines

National campaign launched to stop tribal disenrollment epidemic (2/9)
President Obama seeks $2.9B budget for Bureau of Indian Affairs (2/9)
Office of Special Trustee budget request remains steady at $140M (2/9)
Bureau of Reclamation emphasizes tribal water rights settlements (2/9)
Lakota Country Times: Indian health at center of Medicaid debate (2/9)
Mark Trahant: Native candidates fall behind in the big money wars (2/9)
Vi Waln: Arrogance keeps Keystone XL plans alive in South Dakota (2/9)
Charles Kader: Haudenosaunee territory will always be Indian land (2/9)
Mike Myers: Indigenous teachings still guide our ways of life today (2/9)
Albuquerque Indian Center faces closure without additional money (2/9)
Leader of Bois Forte Band promises fight against substance abuse (2/9)
Coushatta Tribe wins ruling in long-running dispute with contractor (2/9)
Pamunkey Tribe looks to a stronger future with federal recognition (2/9)
Isle de Jean Charles Band to relocate with help of $48M HUD grant (2/9)
Nambe Pueblo hopes small casino stands out in a crowded market (2/9)
St. Regis Mohawk Tribe sends fewer gaming funds to communities (2/9)
Tribes in Connecticut still working on process for potential casino (2/9)
Girls basketball team proudly wears Navajo hairstyle during game (2/8)
National Indian Gaming Commission slated to get a third member (2/8)
Senate committee to host roundtable on Tribal Law and Order Act (2/8)
Senate Indian Affairs Committee postpones field hearing into EPA (2/8)
Senate designates National Tribal Colleges and Universities Week (2/8)
Bill John Baker: Cherokee Nation invests in our people's wellbeing (2/8)
Kevin Washburn: Republicans punish tribe in public lands measure (2/8)
Harold Monteau: Democrats stack the deck for only one candidate (2/8)
Cutcha Risling Baldy: Don't let Leonard Peltier die in prison system (2/8)
Robert Jumper: Keep Eastern Cherokee council meetings on record (2/8)
Brian Pierson: Menominee Nation loses decision at Supreme Court (2/8)
Probe continues into unsolved homicide of 11-year-old Native girl (2/8)
Burns Paiute Tribe might seek to reopen judgment for stolen lands (2/8)
Shinnecock Nation approves plans to join medical marijuana field (2/8)
Teams protest corporate sponsor of Native basketball tournament (2/8)
Rosebud Sioux Tribe faces obstacles with repatriation of students (2/8)
Wallace Coffey resigns as chair of Comanche Nation after 25 years (2/8)
Broker accused of lying to tribal client about $190M in investments (2/8)
Seminole Tribe showcases long-lost declaration of independence (2/8)
Pope Francis to celebrate mass at Indian church for trip to Mexico (2/8)
California communities go without as casino revenue fund dries up (2/8)
Non-Indian firm looking to block Mashpee Wampanoag Tribe casino (2/8)
Umatilla Tribes raise gambling age as sales of liquor start at casino (2/8)
Apology offered to girls who were forced to change Native hairstyle (2/5)
Mark Trahant: Bernie Sanders campaign starts Indian policy group (2/5)
Charles Trimble: Taking responsibility for upkeep of our cemeteries (2/5)
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.