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Controversy swells over BIA actions on Calif. tribes

The Bureau of Indian Affairs is under increased scrutiny amid allegations of conflict-of-interest over its handling a California tribe.

The Department of Interior's inspector general and the General Accounting Office are investigating the BIA after news reports said officials in California expanded the rolls of the Ione Band of Miwok Indians. The tribe's membership has grown from 70 to 535 thanks to new enrollments among BIA officials and their families.

Meanwhile, the FBI is renewing its investigation of conflict-of-interest allegations affecting the Buena Vista Me-Wuk Band, according to the Associated Press. Former BIA aide Wayne Smith was fired amid pressure from the White House to recognize new tribal members.

In related news, the FBI has interviewed members of the Saginaw Chippewa Tribe in Michigan over alleged corruption, according to The Washington Post. The old tribal leadership spent around $14 million to hire a lobbying and public relations firm linked to top House Republicans.

Rep. Frank Wolf (R-Va.), an opponent of Indian gaming, is using these cases to rail against the $14 billion tribal casino industry. "I personally feel the Indians are being exploited," he told The Post.

Get the Story:
Probe Is Sought on Potential Corruption (The Washington Post 2/25)
Interior, Congress begin probe of alleged BIA conflict (AP 2/24)
Scandal Brewing over Indian Casino (Focus on the Family 2/24)

Related Stories:
GOP Congressman wants probe into tribal enrollment (2/24)
BIA opens rolls of Calif. tribe to employees (2/23)
Four tribes spent $45M on lobbying and PR firms (2/23)
Landless tribe in Calif. faces obstacles for casino (02/03)
Faction accuses 'imposters' of promoting casino (05/02)