Tag Archives: BIA

Department of Interior to Stay Out of Intratribal Matters

The Cheyenne and Arapaho Tribes have been in a legal battle to determine who is the Governor of the tribes. In the most recent move the United States Department of the Interior Bureau of Indian Affairs made the decision to remove itself from intratribal matters.

A letter August 23 states the BIA decision as so “in the present matter [about who is the Governor of the Cheyenne and Arapaho Tribes], we believe that this office acted precipitously in issuing its letter [opinion] dated January 6, 2011.”

The BIA letter follows an August 15 decision by the United States District Court for the Western District of Oklahoma dismissing Plaintiff Leslie Wandrie-Harjo’s claims in Wandrie v. Boswell, 5:11-cv-0171-F. According to the press release from the tribe the dismissal concluded that it lacks subject-matter jurisdiction to decide the intratribal matter of who is the Governor of the Cheyenne and Arapaho Tribes of Oklahoma.

The current government of the tribe has seen two separate factions claiming leadership over the 13,000-member tribe. Gov. Janice Boswell has fought to maintain the position she was voted into in January 2010. Harjo, who was voted in as Lt. Gov. with Boswell, started her push for the Governor’s seat earlier this year. Harjo claimed a tribal court suspended Boswell which would make her the governor.

Both have accused the other faction of violating the tribal constitution and other violations.

Harjo has presented her argument in multiple arenas including the federal district court, the BIA and tribal courts—all attempts were denied.

“We are pleased with the result. Leslie has attempted to become governor by legal opinion and appears to have wanted that legal opinion from anyone. She disregarded the electorate’s choice, the Tribes’ Constitution, Cheyenne and Arapaho Tribes’ court orders, resolutions of the Tribal Council, and even submitted her claims to entities outside the Cheyenne and Arapaho Tribes’ Constitutional System,” Boswell said in the tribal press release. “Leslie is free to appeal the August 23, 2011 letter decision but in the meantime, I am still the Governor and the will of the people has been upheld.”

Sharon Pinto Named BIA’s Navajo Regional Office Director

On October 19, Michael S. Black, Bureau of Indian Affairs director, announced Sharon Pinto as regional director of the BIA’s Navajo Regional Office in Gallup, New Mexico, citing her commitment to the welfare of the Navajo people.

Pinto, an enrolled Navajo Nation member, served as the regional deputy director since October 28, 2007 and was the acting regional director since May 4.

“Sharon Pinto is a proven and capable senior federal manager, and her commitment to the welfare of the Navajo people makes her an outstanding choice for regional director of the Bureau of Indian Affairs’ Navajo Regional Office,” Black said. “I have every confidence in her ability to successfully lead the office in carrying out the BIA’s mission to serve the Navajo Nation.”

Pinto’s new office oversees five agencies that serve the Nation with more than 200,000 members and a reservation that covers 16 million acres throughout Arizona, New Mexico and Utah. Her promotion became effective October 9.

“As the new Navajo Regional Office regional director, I want to thank BIA Director Black for this tremendous opportunity,” Pinto said. “I look forward to working with him as a member of his field management team, and to maintaining the office’s high standard of service to the Navajo Nation.”

Pinto has been responsible for management of 420 employees and the administration of more than $170 million in BIA programs and $90 million P.L. 93-638 Indian self-determination contracts with the tribe since she has been in the acting role.

She began her federal career in 2001 as an Indian self-determination specialist with the BIA’s Southwest Regional Office in Albuquerque, New Mexico. That followed 11 years of working for the Navajo Nation, the state of New Mexico and the private sector. She graduated from Northern Arizona University with a Bachelor of Science degree in criminal justice in 1991.

Political Forecast: Continued Stormy Weather

Here’s something to ponder: The congressional and presidential election campaigns next year are likely to spend around $8 billion – more than the federal government’s budgeted amounts for the Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA), Indian Health Service (IHS), Indian education and Indian housing combined.

Here’s something else to think about: Sixty percent of the new senators and 40 percent of the new representatives elected in 2010 have personal wealth of $1 million or more.

Those factoids – awful or admirable, depending on one’s perspective – were just a few of the many attention-getting statistics in Eric Eberhard’s presentation, “Political Landscape Overview,” at the United South and Eastern Tribes annual meeting at Choctaw November 6 -10. Eberhard is a Distinguished Indian Law Practitioner in Residence at the Law School at Seattle University. He has been practicing Indian law since 1973 and has represented Indian tribes, organizations, individuals and entities doing business with Indian tribes in federal, state and tribal judicial, legislative and administrative forums. He is highly regarded throughout Indian country.

Eberhard analyzed elements of the 2010 elections and what is already known about the 2012 races to present an assessment of what’s ahead. “The 2010 elections really set the stage for what’s going to happen next year,” Eberhard said. “Obama called it a ‘shellacking,’” Oddly, despite the extent of the Republican victories in the House, Senate and at the state level in 2010, there was not major party realignment – voters continued to dislike both parties just about equally, Eberhard observed. But Republican voters continue to be more engaged in the process, which along with other facts is leading him to believe that what’s past may be prologue. “It’s the same phenomenon going on now as in 2010 except the gap is bigger; 58 percent of registered Republicans say they’ll vote; only 45 percent of registered Democrats say they’re going to vote. If it plays out that way, the Republican nominee is most likely the next president.”

The next president may appoint as many as four Supreme Court justices whose decisions affect everyone’s lives, Eberhard noted. The average retirement age on the court is 80; Justices Antonin Scalia and Anthony Kennedy, now 75, were appointed by President Ronald Reagan. President Clinton appointed Justices Stephen Breyer, 73, and Ruth Bader Ginsburg, 78. President George H.W. Bush appointed Clarence Thomas to replace Justice Thurgood Marshall, the country’s first African American Supreme Court justice, who ended legal segregation in the United States and won victories breaking the color barrier in housing, transportation and voting. President George W. Bush appointed Justices John Roberts and Samuel Alito to replace Justices William Reynquist and Sandra Day O’Connor, respectively. “If you think about the elections that occurred in that time period and how much the appointments might have gone differently with different presidents, you can see the power involved here,” Eberhard said.

Democrats went into the 2010 House elections with a 77-seat advantage – 255 to 178 Republican seats – and came out with a 49-seat loss – 193 Democrat-held seats to 242 Republican seats. Going into the 2010 elections, Democrats had 57 Senate seats, Republicans had 41, and Independents had two. Now Democrats have 51 Senate seats, Republicans have 47 and Independents have two. What drove the 2010 elections? “Unemployment, the economy, anger at the government, the intensity of electors voting Republican – they turned out in large numbers. Thirty-three percent of those who voted in 2008 stayed home. That made a huge difference. Eighty percent of those who voted in 2010 were white and overwhelmingly old,” Eberhard said.

Additionally, women, who usually vote overwhelmingly Democrat, split their vote evenly between Republicans and Democrats. Forty-three percent fewer African Americans voted in 2010. Hispanics and young people turnout was down by almost 55 percent, Eberhard said

Another factor in the 2010 elections was the Supreme Court’s decision in the Citizen’s United v. Federal Election Commission, Eberhard said. The controversial 5-4 ruling granting “personhood” and First Amendment rights to corporations said the government may not ban political spending by corporations in candidate elections. The ruling resulted in a flood of funding for independent expenditure campaigns. Groups aligned with Republicans outspent groups aligned with Democrats by 2 to 1 and most of the groups were new organizations formed after 2008 with the intention of taking back Congress and the White House, Eberhard said. “One of the big changes was 60 percent of new senators and 40 percent of new House members have personal wealthy of $1 million or more. We’re coming to the point where you have to be a millionaire to run for office in this country,” Eberhard said.

The trend continues and these “non-profit” organizations are poised to spend even more money in 2012. “It’s quite likely in the congressional and race for the White House that you will see spending in the magnitude of $8 billion for 2012. Eight billion dollars. That’s more than the entire budget in 2012 for the BIA, IHS, Indian education and Indian housing,” Eberhard said.

Going into 2012, the polls are “terrible,” Eberhard said. Twenty-six percent of voters think the country is moving in the wrong direction. President Obama has a 41 percent approval rating. “No president has been reelected on that kind of a number in history,” Eberhard said. “Congress – this is just stunning – has a nine percent approval rating and 84 percent disapproval. Congress can’t be reelected under those kinds of numbers.”

Eberhard warned that voter suppression efforts will potentially impact Indian country. Voter laws have changed in 14 states making it more difficult for poor people and people of color to vote, he said. “Have your tribal lawyers check out what the voting laws are. Tribal IDs are not going to be sufficient. It’s not going to be sufficient to take in your utility bill. You’re going to have to have state-issued ID with your photo on it. This is all being controlled in state legislatures and state houses that are Republican,” Eberhard said. Legislators are shortening the period for early voting and tightening the rules for absentee ballots, “The bottom line is somewhere between one and five million people will be disenfranchised in 2012 because they won’t meet the new requirements, so it’s important to educate tribal citizens,” Eberhard said. The Brennan Center for Justice at the New York University School said in a new report that the new restrictions will have the biggest impact on “young, minority and low-income voters, as well as voters with disabilities.” The report is available here.

During the discussion, Seneca Nation President Robert Odawi Porter called for “a more balanced strategy” with regard to Indian country’s relationship with the political parties. “I feel as though we’re hurting ourselves by being so perceived as partisan for the Democrats. I’m not a Democrat or a Republican. I’m the president of my nation and my concern is the best interests of my people,” Porter said. “I’ve seen this for years that at the National Congress of American Indians and the USET level we’re too perceived as being in the pocket of the Democrats and we are largely written off when the time comes when we need Republican support. With the government divided the way it is now, we can’t afford to be so partisan.”

Porter reminded the group that it was Republic President Richard Nixon who ended the termination era. “If we go back to looking at people as people and not labels, overall that will always be the best solution,” Port said.

Native Home Ownership Bill Passes Congress Committee

WASHINGTON – A bill meant to make home ownership easier for Indians cleared another hurdle on November 17 when the U.S. House of Representatives Natural Resources Subcommittee on Indian and Alaska Native Affairs passed the “Helping Expedite and Advance Responsible Tribal Homeownership Act of 2011,” or the HEARTH Act (H.R. 205).

The legislation was designed with assistance from tribal leaders in an effort to amend the Indian Long-Term Leasing Act of 1955 (25 U.S.C. § 415). The new legislation would reform federal leasing requirements and encourage housing and community development in American Indian communities. It would allow tribes to enter into certain leases without prior expressed approval of the Secretary of the U.S. Department of the Interior.

In sum, the legislation is expected to expedite the lease approval process by allowing tribal governments to approve trust land leases directly.

Specifically, the legislation directs the Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA) to prepare and submit to Congress a report detailing the history and experience of Indian tribes that have chosen to assume responsibility for administering the Indian Land Title and Records Office (LTRO) functions from the BIA.

“H.R. 205, the HEARTH Act of 2011 will go a long way in strengthening tribal self-determination and tribal economies at the same time,” said National American Indian Housing Council Chairwoman Cheryl A. Causley in a statement. “We know the time frame for individual tribal members to receive a home-site lease is arduous and can be as long as three years under the current Bureau of Indian Affairs process, but we anticipate that these improvements in leasing and enhanced tribal control over surface leasing will help more tribal members get into homes quick.”

“The NAIHC strongly supports H.R. 205 because it respects and fosters Indian tribal decision-making, expedites what can often be lengthy federal administrative processes, and will improve the delivery of Federal housing assistance and expand economic opportunity in tribal communities.”

In April, Causley testified before the Senate Committee on Indian Affairs to support companion legislation, S.703. She said then that the bill “respects and fosters Indian tribal decision-making, expedites what can often be lengthy federal administrative processes and will improve the delivery of federal housing assistance and expand economic opportunity in tribal communities.”

The HEARTH Act was first introduced in 2009 in the House by Rep. Martin Heinrich, D-N.M., and in the Senate by former Sen. Byron Dorgan, D-N.D. According to NAIHC, the bill was modified to include provisions related to tribal environmental review that were negotiated by the SCIA leadership, the Bureau of Indian Affairs, the U.S. Department of the Interior’s Solicitor’s Office, Heinrich and the NAIHC.

Heinrich introduced the current House version of the bill in January. Sen. John Barrasso, R-Wyo., introduced S.703 in March. The companion legislation passed the Senate Indian Affairs Committee in July.

Heinrich has advocated for its passage because he says it will allow tribes to exercise greater control over their lands and eliminate bureaucratic delays that stand in the way of homeownership in tribal communities.

“We all know how important homeownership is to healthy communities, and the last thing the federal government should do is stand in the way of families ready and willing to buy a house,” Heinrich said in a statement. “There are many families who would prefer to stay and raise their children in the communities where their families have lived for generations—but instead have moved from Indian country to nearby cities because they want to own a home. Families shouldn’t be forced to make such an important decision based on how many months or years it will take a federal bureaucracy to approve a mortgage on tribal land.”

“NAIHC is thankful to the members of the subcommittee for recognizing that many Indian families will benefit from this legislation,” Causley said. “I also extend sincere gratitude to Rep. Heinrich and all the co-sponsors, and the support from the Subcommittee on Indian and Alaska Native Affairs and their respective staff.”

The bill passed the subcommittee by unanimous consent. It now goes to the full House of Representatives for consideration.

Easing Federal Paternalism Over Indian Land Leasing

WASHINGTON – In a move requested by tribes for decades, the federal government is easing its rules for the approval of leases on lands that the federal government holds in trust for tribes and individuals.

Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar and Assistant Secretary for Indian Affairs Larry Echo Hawk announced November 28 what they called a “sweeping reform of federal surface leasing regulations for American Indian lands that will streamline the approval process for home ownership, expedite economic development and spur renewable energy development in Indian country.”

In doing so, the Interior Department is proposing a rule that would modify regulations governing the Bureau of Indian Affairs’ current process for land leasing to tribes and Indians. According to Interior officials, the department currently manages approximately 56 million surface acres in Indian country.

The rule calls for enforceable timelines by which the Bureau of Indian Affairs must review leases, and it establishes separate, simplified processes for residential, business, and renewable energy development, so that leases for small mortgages are distinguishable from much larger projects.

The rule offers a 30 day-limit for the BIA to issue decisions on residential leases, subleases, and mortgages. The agency would have 60-days to review leases and subleases for commercial or industrial development. The rule says that if the BIA does not complete its review of subleases in these timeframes, the agreements will automatically go into effect.

“Other proposed changes would eliminate the requirement for BIA approval of permits for short-term activities on Indian lands, such as parades; and requires the BIA to approve leases unless it finds a compelling reason to disapprove,” noted a press release from the Interior Department. “Under the new rule, the BIA would defer to the tribe’s negotiated value for a lease of tribal land and would not require additional, costly appraisals.”

Echo Hawk said the rule goes a long way to break the chains of paternalism that the federal government has held over tribes for too long. “In times past, a lot of federal laws and regulations have exhibited a paternalistic-like attitude from the federal government to First Nations leaders and communities,” Echo Hawk said in response to a question from Indian Country Today Media Network. “What you’re seeing in these regulations is that we’re no longer trying to exercise federal authority. In consultation with tribal leaders, we have come up with a plan to transfer much of the decision-making that occurs to let tribal leaders be able to make calls about how to develop their lands and resources….”

Echo Hawk added in a conference call with the press that the department believes the regulations will dramatically reduce BIA interference in tribal land use by eliminating the discretion to disapprove leases—or referring to tribal governments how much they want to charge. “So, we’re restoring the agency of these important decisions back where it belongs—to the tribes, he said.

In sum, Echo Hawk said the proposed rule show “much greater respect” for tribal self-determination: “At its core, this reform is about good government and supporting self-determination for Indian Nations,” he said. “The revised regulations will bring greater transparency, efficiency and workability to the Bureau of Indian Affairs approval process, and will provide tribal communities and individuals certainty and flexibility when it comes to decisions on the use of their land.”

Salazar said the proposed rule would replace established rules that he called “frankly outdated.” He explained that current regulations, adopted by the federal government over five decades ago, take a “one-size fits all” approach to processing all surface leases.

Congressional testimony from tribal leaders and consultation from them has indicated that under the current system simple mortgage applications have sometimes stalled for several years waiting approval from the federal government. Plus, energy and other economic development projects have been slow and difficult to establish under the old way.

Salazar said he expects the change to have a “real impact for individuals and families who want to own a home or build a business.”

“This reform underscores President Obama’s commitment to empower Indian nations and strengthen their economies by expanding opportunities for individual landowners and tribal governments – generating investment, new jobs and revenues,” Salazar said during the November 28 press conference call.

Answering a question from ICTMN, Salazar said the Obama administration has worked hard to reform the federal government’s relationship with Indian country. “I think that our deeds over the past three years speak for themselves,” he said.

“The proposed regulation incorporates numerous changes requested by tribal leaders during extensive consultations this past year and better meets the goals of facilitating and expediting the leasing process for trust lands,” added Principal Deputy Assistant for Indian Affairs Del Laverdure.

Interior officials said that during the initial consultation period more than 2,300 comments were received from more than 70 tribes as well as several federal agencies, including the Department of Housing & Urban Development, the USDA, and the IRS.

The publication of the proposed rule in the Federal Register begins a 60-day public comment period. A BIA regulatory drafting workgroup is scheduled to review the comments and publish the final rule in 2012.

Interior officials said that comments and recommendations may be submitted during the tribal consultation meetings, by e-mail at consultation@bia.gov, or by U.S. Postal Service, overnight carrier or hand-delivery to:

Del Laverdure, Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary-Indian Affairs, U.S. Department of the Interior, 1849 C St., N.W., MS-4141-MIB, Washington, D.C. 20240.

A Q & A document on the proposed rule is offered by Interior Here.

A comparison of existing and proposed regulations is offered by Interior Here.

The proposed rule is online Here.

Unhappy Holidays Nationwide

The holiday season has been grim for many at the Turtle Mountain Band of Chippewa Indians in North Dakota, said a tribal member whose general assistance funds have been cut off for several months. “I haven’t had a check since July and at this point can’t even afford a newspaper,” the tribal member said. “And there’s no other source of money here for the many people who have lost this funding—no casino money, nothing.”

Bureau of Indian Affairs spokesperson Nedra Darling confirmed that the agency’s general assistance funding is running low, causing checks to stop flowing to employable single people on reservations countrywide. About 350 people have been cut off at Turtle Mountain, Darling said. “Each year, Congress decides how much money we’ll have for these payments, and therefore the ability of the agency to make them,” said Darling. “Families with children get priority, and the agency didn’t receive enough funding in 2011 to meet the level of need among all groups.”

As a result, many without dependents have stopped receiving checks. Darling added that the shortfall “has not gone unnoticed.” What will happen next year is not yet clear, because funding for 2012 will not be known until approximately February, she said.

The Turtle Mountain tribal member said calls to the tribal office to seek a solution or alternative for the lost funding had not been returned. The tribe, including an official who has apparently been appointed to a committee to consider the problem, did not respond to Indian Country Today Media Network’s requests for a comment.

2011’s Memorable Quotes: Good and Bad Part 1

Every year Indian country is filled with leaders, politicians, broadcasters and talking heads provide memorable quotes for anyone listening to catch. Some ignorant, some out of touch, and some commendable. Indian Country Today Media Network has compiled a list of quotes that we will break down into three parts, Perceptions, Politics, and On The Past, the Present, the Future, that will be shared over the New Year’s weekend.

Perceptions

“Why is there a Bureau of Indian Affairs? There is no Bureau of Puerto Rican Affairs or Black Affairs or Irish Affairs. And no group in America has been more helped by the government than the American Indians, because we have the treaties, we stole their land. But 200 years later, no group does worse.” – TV talking head John Stossel, speaking on Fox News about how the U.S. government has done more during the course of 200 years to “help” Indians than anyone else.

“What group of people would even want ‘help’ like this?”—Tex G. Hall, Chairman of the Mandan, Hidatsa and Arikara Nation, in response to Stossel’s claim.

“Our grandfathers well understood that each time a new promise was held out another was about to be broken.”—Joe Valandra, on the importance of protecting sovereignty

“So you go and so you study the area and you find out what happened, what did the indigenous people worship, you know?  And…and…and…if they did blood sacrifice, like, we found some areas where they were very violent because the former culture was a murderous violent …like in Texas here and all the coast around Houston and Galveston and some other areas the Native American people were cannibals, you know? And they ate people. And so you could see a manifestation of that in the churches where people turned against people and kinda cannibalized other people’s ministries.”—Evangelist Cindy Jacobs, in a YouTube video posted by Right Wing Watch praising Rick Perry’s August 6 cluster-prayer event, The Response. Jacobs is a Perry supporter.

“If my Haudenosaunee passport is a fantasy document, I’m a fantasy person living in a fantasy land and looking at a fantasy border.”—Joyce King, St. Regis Mohawk Tribe citizen, on being told her Haudenosaunee passport is a ‘fantasy document’ when it was confiscated by the Canadian Border Services Agency.

“Citizenship by blood quantum alone is a guarantee of physical extinction. Know the tribal population, the required blood quantum, birth and death rates, rate of exogamous marriage, and the date of extinction is easily calculated. This is not opinion. This is arithmetic.”—ICTMN columnist Steve Russell in his new book, Sequoyah Rising.

“They were rejecting me because I’m unrecognized.”—Marine Sisk-Franco, explaining why she didn’t get a permit to carry an Eagle feather, and the pain of being a member of a tribe not recognized by the federal government.

“The measure of being Indian should be a pain index—How many funerals have you gone to?”—author Sherman Alexie on the many battles over blood quantum and tribal enrollment.

“Most Americans do not even consider whether the language they use about Natives might be considered discriminatory. In fact, when they think about ‘Native Americans,’ the image that comes to mind is a romanticized, historical image, not a contemporary 21st century Native. The notion that we might feel offended by their language does not even enter their minds.”—Stephanie Fryberg, an assistant professor of psychology and affiliate faculty in American Indian Studies at the University of Arizona, explaining why Indians are perennially talked about negatively in mainstream society.

“The celebrations of our extinction turned out, of course, to have been premature. However, certain ideas and themes in the popular culture remain persistent and influential.”—Kevin Gover, Director of the Smithsonian Institution’s National Museum of the American Indian, on the use of Native mascots in sports.

“[S]hut the fuck up Dan Snyder, you own the most sickeningly racist relic of a brand in all of professional sports.”—Gawker writer Hamilton Nolan calling out the hypocrisy of the National Football League’s Washington Redskins owner Dan Snyder for alleging anti-Semitism based on a newspaper article published in the D.C. City Paper. Snyder in September, facing a public backlash, dropped his lawsuit against the paper.

“(The Redskins name has) been there since the early ‘40s and no one has complained about it. No one has complained until the people from the Indian nations came down here and made their complaint.”—Wiscasset High School Board of Education member Ed Stover in defense of continuing to use the offensive name for the school mascot.

“It’s spreading the word that no matter if you want to play baseball or be a mechanic—whatever it may be—your dream is your dream and nobody’s going to take it away until you take it away from yourself.”—Joba Chamberlain on the importance of emphasizing good news in Indian country.

“Honor the memory of heroic Native warriors like Geronimo, Lori Piestewa and many others, not by promoting false stereotypes, but by bringing attention to the plight of veterans, both Native and non-Native, who continue to be plagued by substandard health care and homelessness.”—ICTMN columnist Ruth Hopkins urging a change in the mindset of the leadership of the U.S. military in the wake of its offensive use of Geronimo as the code-name for Osama Bin Laden.

“To Natives Geronimo is a hero because he fought America. To Natives Bin Laden was evil because he fought America…[try to] explain that to a kid.”—Filmmaker Chris Eyre commenting on the Geronimo/Bin Laden blunder.

“Native people say they feel more welcome in town now, and shopkeepers are picking up some Ojibwe phrases. Promoting the language does a lot to bridge barriers.”—Dr. Anton Treuer, professor of Ojibwe, on the use of Ojibwe language signs in Bemidji, Minnesota.

“Another language is not just a different way to communicate the same thing. It’s a whole other thing. It’s an intricate web of meanings and relationships and thoughts.”—Alaska Native storyteller Ishmael Hope on the artist’s role in preserving Tlingit.

“Currently the public doesn’t know enough about Native people because our news is rarely covered, as many still think our people are in the past.”—Lori Edmo-Suppah, editor of the Sho-Ban News, arguing in January that the mainstream media, including the Huffington Post, need to do a much better job of covering Indian issues.

“It is important as an indigenous people that we not allow Hollywood to define who we are, and I believe we have been very successful in that endeavor.”—Quileute Nation Chairwoman Bonita Cleveland on educating fans of Twilight’s Wolf Pack.

“The first time I saw a Native actor laugh it was Chief Dan George in Little Big Man. I remember thinking, I have never seen a Native actor laugh, ever.”—Neil Diamond, director of Reel Injun, on Indians in the movies.

BIA Officer Involved in Ute Shooting Cleared of Charges

An FBI investigation has cleared a Bureau of Indian Affairs officer from facing criminal charges in the shooting death of a 34-year-old man in Towaoc, headquarters of the Ute Mountain Ute Tribe in southwestern Colorado.

BIA Lt. Joseph Keel shot Spencer Posey, a Ute Mountain Ute tribal member, May 22, 2011 after Posey threatened to kill him and charged toward him, brandishing a hatchet, according to the FBI.

The investigation results were in a letter from U.S. Attorney John F. Walsh to Gary Hayes, Ute Mountain Ute tribal chairman. Walsh said the FBI’s investigation was limited to a decision on criminal prosecution and the BIA will conduct a separate administrative review.

Before the shooting occurred, Keel had responded to a request for help from a caller who said a shirtless, intoxicated man was outside the house. When Keel arrived and approached Posey, who was the shirtless man, Posey threw a beer can and rocks at Keel, whose attempt to use pepper spray was ineffective, the FBI said.

Posey ran, carrying the hatchet, Keel followed him, a standoff occurred during which Keel told Posey to drop the hatchet, and then Posey threatened Keel and charged him. Keel fired one shot from his Glock 40-caliber semi-automatic pistol, striking Posey in the abdomen.

BIA Lt. Dale American Horse came to the scene of the shooting and saw Posey handcuffed “in a seated position on the ground,” the report said, noting that Posey “was conscious and speaking” before emergency medical services arrived. Posey was taken to Southwest Memorial Hospital in nearby Cortez, where he died the next day.

The coroner’s report said Posey died from the gunshot wound, but acute alcohol intoxication was also present.

When Keel shot Posey, a father of four, he did so under BIA policy that says “an officer may use deadly force to protect himself or others from what is reasonably believed to be an immediate threat of death or serious physical injury.”

“Lt. Keel was clearly justified under federal law in firing this single shot in self-defense based on a reasonable belief that Posey was about to kill or cause him serious bodily injury by attacking him with the hatchet,” and no criminal charges “can properly be filed against Lt. Keel for his conduct in the incident,” the report concluded.

Hayes had urged at the time of the shooting that it be given the highest priority, including “assessing the sequence of events involving Mr. Posey, and the nature and severity of the alleged criminal conduct that prompted the officer’s use of deadly force.”

Indian Health Service Gets Record Request in Obama 2013 Budget; BIA Level

WASHINGTON – The Indian Health Service (IHS) and Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA) fare well under President Barack Obama’s proposed budget for 2013. In fact, funding for IHS under the plan appears to be the most ever, not accounting for inflation.

In terms of the current structure of U.S. relations with Indian nations, federal spending on these two agencies tends to speak largely to the government’s fulfillment of legal trust obligations to Indian nations.

Obama’s latest proposed increase for IHS would fund the agency at $4.422 billion—a slight increase from the $4.307 billion funding estimate for fiscal year 2012. When spending for contract health services and construction for new hospitals, clinics, and staff facilities is added, IHS would receive a total of $5.5 billion under the proposal, which appears to be the highest ever requested for the agency. The agency can use contract health service funds to purchase care for Indians at facilities outside of its operations.

“The budget includes $5.5 billion for the Indian Health Service (IHS) to strengthen federal, tribal, and urban programs that serve two million [American Indians and Alaska Natives] at over 650 facilities in 35 states,” notes the Office of Management and Budget—drawing attention to the request in its summary of the nation’s overall budget.

Meanwhile, Obama’s fiscal year 2013 BIA budget calls for $2.527 billion in spending, which is just shy of the $2.531 billion called for in fiscal year 2012. The fiscal year 2011 budget allocated $2.594 billion.

“The budget request maintains President Obama’s commitment to strengthening tribal nations by making targeted increases in Indian Affairs programs that support tribal self-determination in managing BIA-funded programs, increase public safety in tribal communities by strengthening police capabilities, improve the administration of tribal land, mineral, timber and other trust resources and advance Indian education,” Assistant Secretary-Indian Affairs Larry Echo Hawk said in a statement. “Indian Affairs is sensitive to the need for achieving greater results at a lower cost, and the proposed budget reflects the tough choices that will make us more cost efficient in carrying out our missions.”

The reductions include a loss of $16 million for BIA construction (down to $106 million from $124 million). $9 million, meanwhile, is added for contract support. There are also some increases for law enforcement, tribal colleges, and natural resources.

Michael Black, director of the BIA, said in a conference call discussing the budget that upcoming meetings of the Commission to Evaluate Indian Trust Administration and Reform will help the agency decide if it can afford to spend less on current Indian trust programs there, including at the Office of the Special Trustee. The commission was established last July by Interior Secretary Ken Salazar, who has said that the Cobell settlement, currently on appeal in federal court, could help streamline the department’s overall trust reform efforts.

The president’s overall budget, released February 13, provides an outline to Congress on the Obama administration’s priorities in the coming years. In terms of the big picture, the $3.8 trillion plan includes a component to tax the wealthy – defined as those earning $1 million or more – at a required 30 percent tax rate or higher. It also includes cuts to many domestic agencies, while reducing military spending due to the winding down of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

At the same time, it doubles spending on transportation and infrastructure projects nationwide, while featuring a $350 billion jobs plan. In total, $476 billion would be spent through 2018 on highway, bridge and mass transit projects.

While the proposal includes $1.5 trillion in new taxes on the rich and features many cuts, the federal deficit would still continue to climb by over $600 billion every year for each of the next 10 years, except 2018.

Last fall and into the winter, there had been emphasis by the Obama administration and the U.S. Congress on spending less and aiming for entitlement reform, but those plans have largely deteriorated as little bi-partisan agreement has made headway.

Republicans have generally said the overall Obama plan doesn’t cut enough federal agency spending, and some would have liked to see reforms to Medicare, Medicaid, and Social Security.

Indian Country Responds With Questions For Debate

Early this morning Indian Country Today Media Network asked what questions you would ask the Republican presidential candidates if you were moderator John King tonight at 8 p.m.

A variety of questions came in on a lot of issues that candidates should be aware of considering the position they are running for. ICTMN has sent a few of the questions along for possible inclusion in tonight’s debate.

A list of some of the questions ICTMN received is below:

Jeffrey Shetler: Would you honor the standing Treaties with Native Americans?

Bernard Leonard: What personal interest and connections do you have with Indian country?

Shawna L. Castillo: How do you plan to serve the Native American population during your presidential term?

Don Morse: We know your positions on Christianity, but where do you stand on the old spiritual beliefs; Native American, Wiccan, Pagan? Do you truly support all forms of Religion?

Larry Whittle: Do you support the sovereignty of Nations? And do you support Native hunting and fishing rights… in particular when they come into conflict with power and dams (i.e. Peabody Coal and the dams in the Northwest)?

John Richards: How would they go about fixing the BIA and the many delinquent accounts payable to tribes and individuals?

Hontas Farmer: What is your position on the bill in Congress which would extend federal recognition to certain state recognized tribes of Virginia?

Jamie Wilson: Republican President Richard Nixon changed the nature of the relationship between Native American tribes and the federal government, with a declaration that the relationship would be “government-to-government.” How would you continue this government-to-government relationship?

Carlene Oldperson: What would you do about Native IHS doctors and if and when we will quit being guinea pigs?

Kenton Wilcox: What Native Americans would you consider for cabinet posts, and in which positions? What legal status should be accorded truly indigenous languages? What role, if any, ought government play in the recognition, protection, and teaching of these languages, given the Republican movement to make English the official language of the U.S.?

Maggie Council DiPietra: Can you identify by name at least half the federally recognized tribes in Arizona?

Jackson Harris: What is your thought on the Ethnic Studies debacle that has the spotlight on Arizona again? And where do you stand on SB 1070? And How will you restore order in the border states?

Debbie1115: With all of the talk of limiting, as if it is not already limited, the powers of the EPA I would like to know how the candidates think we should address the affects of the industrial processes that not only rape the earth and her people of their cultures but are also the major cause of our health care situation and costs. If there is no regulation on private industry to be responsible in their environmental impact which affects us all what options and suggestions do they have?

Sue Whalen: Would you cut spending from the baseline budget, not merely from the rate of increase in spending? Really cut? And, if so, what would you cut? Would you work with Congress to repeal NDAA provisions that allow the President to order citizens arrested and held indefinitely without a hearing on charges based merely on suspicion of anti-government activity or intentions?