Norton sends letter to tribal leaders
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A week after she first told a federal court about her plans, Secretary of Interior Gale Norton is finally informing tribal leaders of a proposal to strip the Bureau of Indian Affairs of its trust responsibilities and hand them to another agency.

By fax, e-mail and even by plain letter, Norton and her aides started sending off the "Dear Tribal Leader" letter to Indian Country on Thanksgiving eve. The letter informs recipients of a proposal to "reorganize and consolidate Indian trust asset management functions within a new organizational unit to be created."

"We first want your input on how these reforms can best be accomplished," Norton writes, alluding to formal consultation meetings she has yet to schedule but says will be published "very soon."

But in what one official acknowledged could be considered another misstep, Norton didn't mention she has already tapped former Assistant Secretary Ross O. Swimmer to head up the transition effort. She only says she has "appointed" Deputy Secretary J. Steven Griles, who has said in a sworn testimonial he is in charge of trust reform, to oversee the overhaul.

Tribal leaders have already blasted Norton for offering the proposal as a done deal. Omitting Swimmer's involvement could lead the wrong conclusions, acknowledged BIA spokesperson Nedra Darling.

But Darling said she hoped tribal leaders would look past the oversight and offer constructive criticism about the overhaul. "The department is anxious to start the consultation process," she said.

Today on Indianz.Com:
Norton faces big week on trust (11/26)
Norton's BIA overhaul blasted (11/26)
Interior changes mind on consultation (11/26)
Editorial: Give Norton plan a chance (11/26)
Norton's attorney decries unfairness (11/26)
Norton's choice raises questions (11/26)

Relevant Links:
Office of the Special Trustee -
Trust Management Improvement Project -
Indian Trust: Cobell v. Norton -

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