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Senate committee to consider BIA nomination

The stalled nomination of Carl Artman to head the Bureau of Indian Affairs will be revived this week in an attempt to fill the long-vacated position.

Artman, a member of the Oneida Nation of Wisconsin, was nominated for the assistant secretary post back in August. That was nearly 18 months after Dave Anderson, Bush's first BIA nominee, resigned.

Aware of the leadership void, the Senate Indian Affairs Committee quickly advanced the nomination after a short hearing in September 2006. But an unrelated partisan dispute kept the full Senate from confirming Artman before the end of the 109th Congress.

Four months later, the committee -- now under Democratic control -- will reconsider Artman at a hearing this Thursday. Sen. Byron Dorgan (D-North Dakota), the new chairman of the panel, intends to call a vote that same day.

"It is just wrong that the Bureau of Indian Affairs has not had permanent leadership for nearly two years," Dorgan said last week. "I'm going to push this nomination so we can get to work and begin solving problems."

The proceeding will be the committee's first official hearing of the 110th Congress. Dorgan has held two business meetings in the past two weeks to organize the panel, which now has eight Democratic members and seven Republican ones.

The committee is likely to approve Artman, who currently serves as assistant solicitor for Indian affairs within the Interior Department. Tribal leaders and the National Congress of American Indians, the largest inter-tribal organization, have supported the nomination.

Artman comes to the job with significant experience in land-into-trust, gaming, sovereignty, land claims, business, taxation and other issues. He has worked for his tribe as its chief counsel and as its lobbyist in Washington, D.C.

"Carl has great skills and broad diversity of experience upon which to call in the exercise of duties as the assistant secretary," said Kathy Hughes, the vice chairwoman of the Oneida Nation, said last September.

That experience has prompted Artman to recuse himself from issues affecting his tribe, a standard practice, but also to other tribes of the Haudenosaunee, or Iroquois Confederacy. He said he will not make decisions on land claims or land-into-trust matters affecting land in New York, the ancestral home of the Oneida and the other Iroquois tribes.

The issue was the only serious question posed to Artman during his hearing last September. His tribe is trying to reassert sovereignty in New York and wants to open a casino there.

Currently, the BIA's duties are being handled by Jim Cason, a non-Indian who serves as associate deputy secretary at Interior. The number two-in-command is Mike Olsen, a former Congressional aide who is also non-Indian.

The hearing takes place at 9:30am in Room 483 of the Russell Senate Office Building.

September 2006 Senate Confirmation Hearing:
Webcast | Carl Artman Testimony

White House News:
Personnel Announcement (August 1, 2006)

Relevant Links:
Oneida Nation -
Senate Indian Affairs Committee -