FROM THE ARCHIVE

Mont. tribes oppose BIA reorganization

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TUESDAY, DECEMBER 17, 2002

Another large land-based tribal nation is opposing the Bush administration's proposed reorganization of the Bureau of Indian Affairs.

The Assiniboine and Sioux Tribes of the Fort Peck Reservation in Montana passed a resolution against the proposal. In a letter to Secretary Gale Norton, Chairman Arlyn Headdress accused the Department of Interior of using tribes as "pawns" in the ongoing Indian trust fund lawsuit.

"While we understand that the department has been under pressure from the court, that is no reason for the department to have used the tribes and the task force as pawns in your Cobell litigation strategy," Headdress wrote on December 13. "It shows us that the department afforded a higher priority to its litigation strategy in Cobell than it does to the needs of tribes and individual Indians."

In the letter, Headdress said the BIA plan does not reflect tribal input. He said it creates "additional levels and shuffling of personnel at the central level of bureaucracy" instead of adding much-needed resources at the reservation level.

"[A]ny reorganization of the BIA should include infusing additional resources where they are actually needed to provide the greatest benefits to all involved entities and individuals, and that is .at the reservation level," Headdress wrote. "Your plan is exactly opposite of this recommended approach."

Assistant Secretary Neal McCaleb announced the reorganization on December 4. It has not drawn the widespread opposition that BITAM prompted last year.

But there is a growing sentiment, some of it expressed yesterday at a meeting with tribal leaders, against the proposal. Tribes with significant trust assets, including the Navajo Nation, are the first to speak out publicly against it.

Relevant Documents:
Fort Peck Letter (December 13, 2002)

Relevant Links:
Fort Peck Tribes - http://www.fortpecktribes.org
Indian Trust: Cobell v. Norton - http://www.indiantrust.com
Cobell v. Norton, Department of Justice - http://www.usdoj.gov/civil/cases/cobell/index.htm

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