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
Kill The Tobacco Master Settlement Agreement
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: EPA hears Native views about uranium mining (5/27)
Renae Yellowhorse: Navajo Nation can't cede power to outsiders (5/27)
Donna Loring: Politicians circle the wagons around Maine tribes (5/27)
David Treuer: Andrew Jackson turned on Cherokee Nation allies (5/27)
NCAI responds to criticism from Rep. Young on land-into-trust (5/27)
Lawsuit challenges constitutionality of Indian Child Welfare Act (5/27)
Hopi Tribe seeks to prevent auction of sacred property in France (5/27)
Menominee Nation school sees dramatic rise in graduation rate (5/27)
Poarch Creeks planning family-friendly entertainment at project (5/27)
Coquille Tribe names executive at economic development entity (5/27)
Cherokee law students eager for summer work on Indian issues (5/27)
USDA sends $125K to Indian economic development corporation (5/27)
County by Pine Ridge Reservation receives justice service grant (5/27)
Rep. Ann Kirkpatrick to challenge Sen. John McCain in 2016 race (5/27)
Law Article: Indian inmate wins religious rights suit in Wisconsin (5/27)
Alaska Native corporation holds election for five seats on board (5/27)
Blood Tribe combats rise in abuse of extremely dangerous drug (5/27)
First Nations housing program brings just 99 homes to reserves (5/27)
Supreme Court won't hear challenge to Graton Rancheria casino (5/27)
Kialegee Tribal Town given extension to respond in gaming case (5/27)
Quapaw Tribe looks to dispel concerns about casino in Arkansas (5/27)
Pokagon Band faces hurdles in plan to develop casino in Indiana (5/27)
California tribes still divided over efforts to legalize online poker (5/27)
Native Sun News: Northern Cheyenne Tribe tackles school truancy (5/26)
Mark Trahant: Native village secures return of ancestral territory (5/26)
Secretary Jewell leads delegation to Indian school in Oklahoma (5/26)
Updated witness list for SCIA hearing on economic development (5/26)
Senate Indian Affairs Committee schedules meeting and hearing (5/26)
Mary Ann Andreas: Candidates must keep informed about tribes (5/26)
Steve Russell: National sovereignty cannot cloak all evil conduct (5/26)
Gabriel Galanda: The tide is turning against tribal disenrollments (5/26)
Vince Two Eagles: Summertime means powwows and Sundances (5/26)
Boyd Cothran: America moves from Civil War to the Indian Wars (5/26)
Vivian Delgado: Native college graduates mark a rite of passage (5/26)
Blackfeet Nation adds 162 names to Montana veterans memorial (5/26)
Native women compete in first Miss Indigenous Ecuador contest (5/26)
Lower Brule Sioux Tribe asks BIA to inspect financial documents (5/26)
Maine tribes hold rally after withdrawing from state Legislature (5/26)
Chemehuevi Tribe to reopen elementary school on reservation (5/26)
Arguments heard in lawsuit over federal judge's racist e-mails (5/26)
Appropriations bill allows VA hospitals to recommend marijuana (5/26)
Editorial: Navajo Nation leader makes right call on Grand Canyon (5/26)
Opinion: Andrew Jackson led horrifying campaigns against tribes (5/26)
Cayuga Nation Leaders: Tribe hasn't authorized gaming facilities (5/26)
Pair last seen at San Pasqual casino found on nearby reservation (5/26)
Chukchansi Tribe remains in talks with NIGC for casino reopening (5/26)
Pala Band finishes $5.7M casino renovation in just a few months (5/26)
Leader of Sandia Pueblo accused of preventing arrest at casino (5/26)
Tim Giago: Boot camp etched forever into the minds of veterans (5/25)
Native Sun News: Newspaper comes home with 14 media awards (5/25)
Gyasi Ross: Martin Sensmeier lands role in major Hollywood film (5/25)
Andre Cramblit: Let's see some real Indian actors on the screen (5/25)
Steven Newcomb: U.S. perpetuates dominance over our nations (5/25)
Valerie Goodness: Don't ignore indigenous ecological knowledge (5/25)
Peter d'Errico: Lawmakers kill bill for indigenous rights in Canada (5/25)
Matthew Scraper: ICWA opponents wrong to cite blood quantum (5/25)
Judge at center of ICWA lawsuit in South Dakota stripped of title (5/25)
Native Sun News: Northern Cheyenne student receives top honor (5/22)
Lakota Country Times: Newspaper takes home a slew of awards (5/22)
James Davies: The new tactic is to pretend racism doesn't exist (5/22)
Thomas O'Rourke: Yurok Tribe is a leader in forest restoration (5/22)
Terese Marie Mailhot: Message to all young Native Americans (5/22)
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.