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In The Hoop

Welcome to In The Hoop, Indianz.Com's occasional column about assorted Indian issues.

The New Smallpox, Part II
How often does a Cabinet member get roundly criticized by a federal court yet the event goes unnoticed by the overwhelming majority of the national press?

Whenever it involves Indians.

Few would argue the anthrax scare that has hit Washington, D.C. and New York doesn't warrant attention. Hundreds in the Senate -- where friends, family and colleagues work -- were tested for the rare bacterium and, at latest count, 29 members of Majority Leader Tom Daschle's (D-S.D.) staff and two police officers came back positive.

But the estimated 300,000 American Indians whom the Department of Interior can't tell how much they are owed after more than 100 years of being required to are surely worth at least some coverage, one would think.

Yet neither The Washington Post -- who also ignored a court investigator's most recent recommendation of contempt for Secretary Gale Norton -- nor The Washington Times -- who'd rather cover mascots when it comes to Indians -- found the time to report it.

As for The New York Times, well, when they talk about the trust fund, it's to preach. Sort of reminds In The Hoop of the "statements of progress and metaphors" that landed Babbitt in court.

Anyway, save for your trusty Indianz.Com and The Denver Post -- home to the Native American Rights Fund behind the case -- the Associated Press was the only media organization to file a story on the latest "charade" at the Interior. Robert "I'm Matt Kelley's Replacement" Gehrke writes:

"The Interior Department continues to mislead a judge overseeing the government’s effort to reform a system that has mismanaged hundreds of millions of dollars in Indian land royalties, a court-appointed watchdog said Tuesday.

"Secretary Gale Norton 'carries the ultimate responsibility for the repeated untruthful and knowingly inaccurate and incomplete submissions' to the court, Joseph Kieffer III wrote in his latest report to U.S. District Judge Royce Lamberth.

"Under Norton, reform of the American Indian Trust Fund, which manages roughly $500 million a year in royalties, has been stymied by the same lack of leadership and candor that plagued her predecessor, Bruce Babbitt, Kieffer said.

"The pattern of deceit calls into question whether Interior is capable of ever fixing the trust fund, he said."

Interior Watch
Will anyone step down, suddenly retire, be "reassigned" or mysteriously depart the Interior due to the ongoing debacle? Special Trustee Tom Slonaker? Bureau of Indian Affairs Deputy Commissioner Sharon Blackwell? Solicitor Bill Myers?

In The Hoop votes for no one. Not just yet.

In Your Hoop
Who is your pick to get the ax at the Interior? Email In the Hoop and let us know your thoughts on the subject.

Previous In The Hoops
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