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
Indian Law Online Master Degree - University of Tulsa College of Law
Advertise on Indianz.Com
Home > News > Headlines

Printer friendly version
Interior's number two takes lead on trust reform
MONDAY, NOVEMBER 5, 2001

With a showdown looming in federal court, the Department of Interior is in a rushed but concerted effort to prove to a skeptical judge that the government is in charge of trust reform.

By all accounts, it is a tough task for Secretary Gale Norton, her aides and her top officials. In just a little over a week, her defense team -- which has already faced criticism from U.S. District Judge Royce Lamberth -- must submit a response showing why she shouldn't be held in contempt for her handling of the assets of an estimated 300,000 American Indians.

But Norton must also argue why Lamberth shouldn't place the system into the hands of a receiver, or outside caretaker. The government has so far resisted the notion and although Norton's new attorneys could change course, it is unlikely the Justice Department would make such a drastic move.

To that end, Deputy Secretary J. Steven Griles has quickly inserted himself into the debacle over the Individual Indian Money (IIM) trust since being sworn in to his post in July. As number two in command at the Interior, Griles has taken the lead to reform -- for lack of a better term -- trust reform.

By at least one public and embarrassing incident, the effort hasn't been a bursting success. A mass mailing Griles sent to 11,000 Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA) and Office of Special Trustee (OST) employees in response to special master Alan Balaran's recommendation of contempt caused a stir over anthrax in the Southwest as employees were sent home and told to burn a court order.

Still, officials and senior management have noted potential breakthroughs. Mindful of a November 30 court hearing with Lamberth that could serve as the start of a criminal and civil sanctions trial, Griles will be looking to have the Interior speak in "one voice" and avoid a collision course with contempt, they said.

"He has taken the lead in a very determined fashion," said one official in close contact with Griles.

A key component of Griles' effort is an independent assessment of the government's High Level Implementation Plan (HLIP) -- the blueprint to trust reform -- by EDS Corporation, a management consulting firm. Last Wednesday, top officials received an oral briefing from EDS, which is making a dozen or so specific recommendations covering everything from a $40 million software system widely seen as a failure to the cleanup of records dating back to 1887, when the IIM trust was initiated.

According to officials familiar with the private briefing, none of the recommendations are a surprise to the government and are similar to concerns Congressional investigators have recently relayed to the Interior. The recommendations also follow steps Special Trustee Tom Slonaker has been taking since Norton in July issued a secretarial order to "streamline" trust reform, they said.

Having cost the government $3 million, the review will include a "road map" that Norton's lawyers are expected to file in court next week. All told, it is hoped that EDS will bring "quite a bit of credibility" to the government's case, according to one official.

Beyond Griles' undertakings, Assistant Secretary Neal McCaleb has focused on reports by court monitor Joseph S. Kieffer III that have spelled out a particularly rocky relationship between the BIA and OST, which is overseen by Slonaker. To remedy problems that have festered over the years, McCaleb will be looking to make changes among his senior management team, which includes Deputy Commissioner Sharon Blackwell, that will demonstrate proof of leadership to Lamberth.

Whether these latest rumblings will have an impact is an open question. A former lobbyist for the mining industry, Griles was a member of the Reagan administration, serving at the Interior -- along with Norton, incidentally -- when Congressional reports in no easy terms began broadcasting the failures of the IIM trust.

Yet not much has changed since Griles was last in a position of leadership. Despite numerous investigations, acts of Congress, secretarial orders and court decisions, the government still can't provide any beneficiary with an accounting of his or her funds.

But within the coming weeks, Interior officials insist the government will demonstrate its dedication to the trust. Changes that are occurring are "the reaction to some of the criticism" the department has faced, said spokesperson Keith Parsky.

"The main message is: 'Yes, everyone takes this seriously,'" said Parsky.

The Interior, of course, faces serious credibility problems that leave little room for failure. Whatever response the Bush administration has will depend on something that has so far proven difficult for the government to show: commitment.

"We've got to follow through and do what we told the court we're going to do," said one official, acknowledging past failures.

Department of Interior Profile:
Deputy Secretary: J. Steven Griles (3/9)

Relevant Links:
Office of the Special Trustee - http://www.ost.doi.gov
Trust Management Improvement Project - http://www.doi.gov/bia/trust/tmip.htm
Indian Trust: Cobell v. Norton - http://www.indiantrust.com

Related Stories:
Norton's defense off to a 'bad start' (11/2)
Judge ready to hold Norton in contempt (10/31)
Interior promises trust fund defense (10/31)
Judge: Norton's actions 'contemptuous' (10/30)
Trust fund defense team scrapped (10/30)
Action on Norton urged 'on all fronts' (10/29)
Norton views broken trust fund system (10/29)

Copyright © 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:
Native Sun News: Deadly storm hits Crow Creek Sioux Reservation (7/3)
Lakota Country Times: Rosebud youth hold suicide awareness walk (7/3)
Delphine Red Shirt: Speak the Lakota language to carry on culture (7/3)
Senate Indian Affairs Committee schedules trust reform hearing (7/3)
Chumash Tribe wins dismissal of suit over status of reservation (7/3)
Four groups in Oklahoma seeking federal recognition through BIA (7/3)
Little Shell Chippewa Tribe welcomes federal recognition reforms (7/3)
Leader of Duwamish Tribe calls denial of recognition 'devastating' (7/3)
Editorial: Other tribes in Virginia deserve federal recognition too (7/3)
Ojibwe hockey star excited for transfer to team in nation's capital (7/3)
Jamestown S'Klallam Tribe wants sacred rock on national register (7/3)
Rosebud Sioux Tribe won't give up on wind energy despite delays (7/3)
Catawba Nation fought against British during Revolutionary War (7/3)
Kootenai Tribe of Idaho revives powwow after 15-year absence (7/3)
Taos Pueblo man sentenced to seven years in prison for stabbing (7/3)
Disputed leader of Chukchansi Tribe sentenced for clash at casino (7/3)
Aquinnah Wampanoag Tribe starts work on Class II gaming facility (7/3)
Tohono O'odham Nation faces state in court in new casino lawsuit (7/3)
Cherokee Nation to open hotel at $80M casino near Arkansas in fall (7/3)
Brian Pierson: Tribal labor sovereignty could land in Supreme Court (7/3)
Pierre Bergeron: Judges split on federal labor law at tribal casinos (7/3)
Native Sun News: Lakota riders complete journey to Little Bighorn (7/2)
Lakota Country Times: Newspaper takes home top honors at NAJA (7/2)
Brandon Ecoffey: Delivering stories that matter to Indian Country (7/2)
Ivan Star: Creating a culturally appropriate economy at Pine Ridge (7/2)
Elizabeth Hawksworth: Being patriotic and being Native in Canada (7/2)
Micah A: Blood quantum does not make me any less of an Indian (7/2)
David Shorter: Learning not to speak on behalf of Native peoples (7/2)
Marc Simmons: Legend of Catholic priest saved by grateful tribe (7/2)
Sen. McCain deemed responsible for land swap at sacred Oak Flat (7/2)
A Tribe Called Red releases free remix of Buffy Sainte-Marie track (7/2)
Pamunkey Tribe wins final federal recognition decision from BIA (7/2)
Duwamish Tribe rejected for federal recognition for a third time (7/2)
BIA accused of blocking road access on New Mexico reservation (7/2)
Chippewa Cree Tribe elects Ken St. Marks as chair for fourth time (7/2)
Mississippi Choctaw leader comes out on top in unofficial results (7/2)
Bois Forte Band grows economy with second Tim Hortons Cafe (7/2)
Chickasaw Nation hails selection of permanent Indian law chair (7/2)
Editorial: Gila River Indian Community to blame for highway path (7/2)
Cow Creek Band continues to oppose new Coquille Tribe casino (7/2)
Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes renovate casino resort (7/2)
Four more tribes in New Mexico enter Class III gaming compact (7/2)
Editorial: Pojoaque Pueblo gets pass on illegal gaming operation (7/2)
Save Oak Flat caravan plans journey to DC to protect sacred site (7/1)
Court reluctantly backs NLRB in Saginaw Chippewa Tribe dispute (7/1)
Native Sun News: Opposition grows to delisting of grizzly bears (7/1)
Lakota Country Times: Reservation counties rank as deadliest (7/1)
Steve Russell: Professor outed as Cherokee fraud once again (7/1)
Harlan McKosato: Indian people survive despite mistreatment (7/1)
Marshall Matz: Fight for $380M in Keepseagle funds continues (7/1)
BIA acquires former military site in trust for Ho-Chunk Nation (7/1)
Appropriations bill adds $10M for tribal courts in PL280 states (7/1)
Sen. Murkowski questions definition of 'Indian' for health care (7/1)
South Dakota board won't back name change for sacred peak (7/1)
Fort Peck Tribes take on cost for homes promised by Brad Pitt (7/1)
Hoopa Valley Tribe orders water restrictions as tanks run dry (7/1)
Cherokee Nation certifies results of election for top positions (7/1)
Secretary Sally Jewell reaffirms opposition to racist mascots (7/1)
Virginia tribes hindered by racist policies created by one man (7/1)
Column: Native Code Talkers defended nation with languages (7/1)
Guilty plea for stabbing of BIA superintendent in South Dakota (7/1)
Opposition group rallies over Miccosukee Tribe land-into-trust (7/1)
Pojoaque Pueblo keeps casino open after gaming deal expires (7/1)
Court allows lawsuit for incident at Tonto Apache Tribe casino (7/1)
Navajo Nation Council approves bill to share gaming revenue (7/1)
Soboba Band celebrates 20th anniversary for gaming facility (7/1)
Mashantucket Tribe extends agreement for $1.7B casino debt (7/1)
BIA adopts new policy regarding federal recognition process (6/30)
Supreme Court agrees to resolve another Indian law dispute (6/30)
Patrick Murphy: Star Trek's William Shatner visits Navajoland (6/30)
Yvette Roubideaux: Making progress at Indian Health Service (6/30)
Native Sun News: Wambli Ska group shares culture with youth (6/30)
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.