Norton may miss first consultation session
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Secretary of Interior Gale Norton will make every attempt to attend an upcoming consultation session to discuss her overhaul of the Bureau of Indian Affairs, a spokesperson said on Friday.

But Norton may have to skip out on the December 13 meeting in New Mexico, Nedra Darling acknowledged. Norton may be called to the stand during a contempt trial that is scheduled to start December 10 in Washington, D.C., government lawyers and attorneys for 300,000 Indian account holders said last week.

"She's going to make every effort to be there withstanding any decision from the judge," said Darling of the Norton's promise to go to the session. "She is looking forward to consultation with tribes, meeting with them and gathering their input."

Despite publicly vowing to take all tribal input, Norton has only scheduled on formal consultation so far. It will take place at the All Indian Pueblo Council in Albuquerque.

The department is working to finalize the rest of the schedule Darling said. "We're working with tribes to place the other sessions," she said.

At the same time, Norton has cut off all written comments on the proposal by January 15. Darling said the department would most likely extend the comments beyond the date but that no decision had been made to do so.

"We're looking for quick comments back and a quick response," Darling said. "If it looks like we're not going to be able to do this, we're going to make a modification."

Tribal leaders throughout the country are planning to attend the Albuquerque meeting to show their opposition to stripping the BIA of its core duties and handing them to a new agency. Tex Hall, chairman of the Mandan, Hidatsa and Arikara Nation of North Dakota, said he is organizing a large group to make the journey.

Hall is the newly elected president of the National Congress of American Indians, the nation's largest tribal organization. He said he would make defeating the BIA overhaul his top priority, taking opposition to President Bush if necessary.

Norton and top officials need to sit down with Indian Country and develop a solution together, Hall said.

Today on Indianz.Com:
Norton set for 'worst nightmare' (12/3)
Judge holding secret trust fund hearing(12/3)
McCaleb to discuss trust fund on radio (12/3)
Okla. leaders question Norton's plan (12/3)

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

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