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June 22, 2011

States and Tribes Better Off Working Together in this Era of Constriction

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tags: , , — Mark Trahant @ 12:34 am

Largest State Budget Shortfalls on RecordThe new Era of Constriction—shrinking all levels of government—is both an opportunity for tribes and a threat.

First, the problem. State and local governments are in deep financial holes. The optimistic view is that state governments have seen the worse and have turned the corner; they are still facing shortages, but far less than a couple of years ago. There are a lot of numbers to back up this argument. State budgets are smaller by some 14 percent, there are fewer employees, and budget deficits have been steadily getting smaller. The Center on Budget and Policy Priorities says 24 states are predicting shortfalls of $46 billion for fiscal year 2013, down from $191 billion in fiscal year 2010.

But that optimistic accounting is tempered by a couple of problems. The federal stimulus money is gone. “So even though significant budget gaps remain in 2012, there will be little federal money available to close them,” says the CBPP report, States Continue to Feel Recession’s Impact. “As a result, states’ final 2012 budgets have contained some of the deepest spending cuts since the start of the recession.”

On top of that, as I wrote last week, future federal budget cuts will cause state revenues to drop even more. And, if that weren’t enough, states have seriously underfunded many longterm obligations such as pensions. One Wall Street analyst, Meredith Whitney (who was right about housing in 2007) predicts hundreds of billions of dollars in debt defaults by local governments. She recently told CNBC that states are in worse financial shape than they were six months ago.

So what is the impact of all of this on Indian country?

Seattle attorney Gabriel Galanda puts it this way, on the social network, LinkedIn: “Tax-starved states and counties will continue to attempt to extract value from reservation economic development projects, through taxation or otherwise. Tribes must be vigilant in their defense against illegal inter-local cash grabs.”

On Galanda’s blog he writes that Washington state Republicans are proposing to “close” tribal tax loopholes worth $110 million. His message is clear. “Make no mistake about it,” he writes, “the state tax man cometh to Indian country. Be prepared.”

[If you can't access Galanda's writings on LinkedIn, we recommend you read the column he wrote for this website that covers the same topic. —Ed.]

On the spending side, the most important conflict between tribes and states will be over Medicaid. This is one of those federal programs that is not supposed to be about Indian Country, yet its impact is huge because it represents expanded funding for the Indian health system. But states, not the federal government, write the rules and regulations to pay for Medicaid programs, even though the cost is reimbursed by the federal government for patients within the Indian health system. (A further complication: Both Democrats and Republicans protect the share of Medicaid that pays for nursing home and institutional care, while the debate about the program ends up shifting to serving the “poor” rather than looking at Medicaid as a whole.)

This is all pretty dark stuff. State budgets represent choices of bleak and bleaker. So what’s the opportunity for tribes?

But tribes (and states) have far more to gain with cooperation over confrontation. Tribes are large employers and contribute to regional economy in huge ways. States should be protecting and enhancing that spirit of enterprise, rather than destroying it with short-sighted attempts to tax. In Idaho, for example, a study by Abelardo Rodriquez of the University of Idaho Extension (PDF: “Indian Tribes in Idaho: Opportunities and Challenges In the Times of Self-Determination”) found that Idaho tribes created some 7,500 jobs (4,500 of those gaming related) with wages near $160 million generating $17 million in property and income tax payments.

If these jobs were created by, say, IBM instead of five Idaho tribes, the state legislature would be falling all over itself to protect this asset. Tribes need to reframe the debate along these lines.

Another opportunity is to reframe Medicaid rules. It’s time to remove states from making rules about the Indian health system and shift this power to tribal governments. The Affordable Care Act already sets out a plan for the Navajo Nation, but as budget tightens, other tribes need to assert authority over Medicaid.

State governments need solutions right now—and tribal governments could be and should be the unexpected partners. (Next week: Where local governments fit into this puzzle.)

Read more @ Indian Country Today Media Network.comStates and Tribes Better Off Working Together in this Era of Constriction - Indian Country Today Media Network.com.

August 21, 2011

The State Tax Man Cometh — Redux

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tags: , — Gabriel S. Galanda @ 2:27 am

Earlier this year I warned Indian Country that the state tax man cometh. I urged tribal communities to be prepared to defend against state tax collectors looking to balance multi-billion dollar state budget deficits on the backs of Indians. Since then, the states’ financial situation has gone from bad to abysmal.

State tax revenues, especially local property tax monies, have steadily declined over the last four years. Now, the Republican-hijacked Congress has added insult to the states’ injury by gutting federal aid for education, health care and transportation. And Congress’ so-called Super Committee will inflict more damage, almost certainly slashing federal funding for state Medicaid programs. Beyond the direct impact the loss of Medicaid funding, for example, will have on tribal communities, these federal-state dynamics will cause state and local tax collectors to find new targets for taxation, including Indians.

Meanwhile, Indian gaming, after a modest decline in national revenues from 2008 to 2009, held steady in 2010 at $26.5 billion. But state and local tax collectors see a $26.5 billion tribal target. As IGRA categorically prevents state taxation of Indian gaming activities, those tax collectors are looking to assess anything and anybody on the periphery of tribal casinos and reservations. In other words, as soon as a tribal dollar can be found beyond the safe refuge of Indian gaming or tribal lands, state taxes will be assessed.

Tragically, federal courts are increasingly sanctioning state tax collection from Native America. Take two federal appellate court decisions that were handed down in the last few weeks: Fond du lac Band of Lake Superior Chippewa v. Myron Frans, No. 10-1236, 2011 WL 3518182 (8th Cir. Aug. 12, 2011), and Ute Mountain Ute Tribe v Rodriguez, No. 09-2276, 2011 WL 3134838 (10th Cir. July 27, 2011). Both decisions resulted in tribal losses (at least for the time being) that serve to allow states unprecedented access to Indian Country for purposes of general revenue raising.

In Fond du lac, the appeals court upheld Minnesota’s efforts to tax the retirement income of Charles Diver, a Chippewa Indian who was relocated to Ohio in 1960 under the federal relocation program. He worked in Ohio as a dockworker until 1998, when he retired and returned home to the Fond du Lac Reservation in Minnesota. The court ruled that Minnesota could tax his pension earned in Ohio and drawn on the reservation because his “Minnesota citizenship created a constitutional nexus for the taxation.”

The lone dissenting judge best explains his court’s irrational approach: “Diver has never earned income while working off the reservation as a citizen of Minnesota. His pension was earned entirely in the state of Ohio, where he lived and worked for thirty years. Minnesota could not have taxed his wages as he received them because the state did not have the required nexus. Now that Diver has retired and returned to the Fond du Lac reservation, tribal sovereignty precludes Minnesota from imposing a tax on a pension earned . . . in Ohio. Just as Minnesota could not tax Diver’s preretirement Ohio wages simply because he now resides on a reservation located in the state, the same is true for the pension tied to those wages.”

In Ute Mountain, the appeals court affirmed five specific state taxes on oil and gas extracted from tribal lands by oil and gas operators that per leases and development agreements with the tribe, pay the tribe royalties and taxes used for essential tribal services and per capita distributions to tribal members. The state provides no absolutely no services to the operators on the reservation, in large part because the tribe has barred all state agents from entering tribal lands. Instead, the court justified the state taxes on the basis that New Mexico “provides substantial services by regulating the off-reservation infrastructure that makes transport of oil and gas possible.”

The court’s consideration of off-reservation roads to justify the taxation of on-reservation activity is unprecedented, and potentially disastrous for Indian Country.

The court did not “purport to hold that off-reservation infrastructure or services may be considered in every instance where they provide a benefit of any magnitude to the on-reservation activity” (emphasis in original). Still, if Ute Mountain withstands further appeal, beginning with the tribe’s petition for en banc review, Indian Country (or at least those tribes in the Tenth Circuit) should brace for increased state tax assessment when even the most attenuated connection between off-reservation infrastructure or services and on-reservation economic success, can be alleged by state and local tax collectors.

Fond du lac and Ute Mountain illustrate the desperate lengths to which state and local governments will go to replenish their tax coffers. The decisions show that tribes’ “neighbors” will stoop to all-time lows in terms of taxing Indians and stealing the fruits of on-reservation labor.

This is no time for tribal complacency or status quo. Indian Country cannot rest on its laurels or age-old federal Indian tax exemption notions. Tribes must re-revaluate the source of every on-reservation income stream flowing amongst or between the tribe, tribal members and non-tribal business partners – from contracts to leases to non-contractual relations, to per capita to employment to retirement plans.

Make no mistake about it: the state tax man cometh to Indian Country. Are you ready?

Gabriel S. Galanda, an enrolled member of the Round Valley Indian Tribes, is a partner at Galanda Broadman, PLLC, a Seattle law firm dedicated to representing tribal interests. He can be reached at (206) 691-3631 or gabe@galandabroadman.com.

Read more @ Indian Country Today Media Network.comThe State Tax Man Cometh -- Redux - Indian Country Today Media Network.com.

October 21, 2011

Occupy Wall Street and the Attack on the Tribal Middle Class, Part I

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tags: , — Gabriel S. Galanda @ 1:16 am

No matter what the growing “Occupy Wall Street” movement seeks to accomplish, it has struck a nerve. Members of the American middle class are losing jobs, homes and savings because of the greed and carelessness of “too-big-to-fail” banks. Meanwhile “the country’s six largest financial institutions . . . now have amassed assets equal to more than 60% of our gross domestic product” (The Guardian). That wealth is not trickling down. According to a recent international study, the United States has the fourth highest income inequality rate per capita – trailing only Chile, Mexico and Turkey.

Make no mistake, the American middle class is hurting. Yet while the non-Indian middle class is at least being considered for U.S. governmental support, the tribal middle class – no stranger to the acute pains of economic recession or income inequality – faces rising attack by state and federal government.

Generally speaking, the middle class is comprised of persons with regular, formal employment, a salary and some benefits, and a reasonable amount of discretionary income – in other words, people who are not living hand-to-mouth. As one economist explains, the middle class are “people who are not resigned to a life of poverty, who are prepared to make sacrifices to create a better life for themselves but who have not started with life’s material problems solved because they have material assets to make their lives easy” (The Economist).

While innumerable Indians still live in abject poverty (despite Indian gaming), an increasing number of tribal citizens are now firmly part of the middle class as a result of hard work and sacrifice. This three-part series explores the tribal middle class, beginning below with a discussion of its genesis, which ironically was the result of federal policies that sought to destroy Indian America. Part Two will consider the emergence of a distinctly tribal middle class, including the tribal small business/private sector, as a consequence of Indian self-determination policy. Part Three will examine the rising national attack on the tribal middle class and how Indian Country might countervail that attack.

The creation of the Indian middle class stemmed largely from a focused and determined federal policy to “[k]ill the Indian[,] and save the man.” This policy emerged in the late 1800’s with the proliferation of Congressional attempts “to keep order in Indian country,” and to otherwise legislate Indian affairs for the “national interest.” The “national interest,” of course, was to “encourage Indian assimilation into the white system of private property ownership” (Yankton Sioux Tribe v. Podhradsky).

In 1887, Congress passed the General Allotment (Dawes) Act, giving the federal executive branch authority to carve up Indian reservations into personally assigned allotments for distribution to individual Indians. Once a reservation had been divided into allotments, the government purchased “surplus land” and opened surplus areas to white settlers. The magic of private property ownership was supposed to drive Indians to adopt the “habits of civilized life” and in turn, towards the progressive individualism of the American dream. “Within a generation or two, it was thought, the tribes would dissolve, their reservations would disappear, and individual Indians would be absorbed into the larger community of white settlers” (South Dakota v. Yankton Sioux Tribe).

The Urban Indian Relocation Program also furthered the assimilationist agenda. In 1940, 92% of the Indian population lived beyond metropolitan areas, earning over four times less than non-Indian suburbanites. Then, in 1952, the federal government declared its policy of Indian relocation, enticing Reservation Indians to seven major cities where jobs were supposedly plentiful. Today, 61% of all Indians live outside of Indian Country. Although the consensus is still out on whether these relocation programs worked, a gap emerged between those Indians who absorbed into the American middle class, and those who refused to assimilate. The 1928 Miriam Report, for example, found that while some “relocated” Indians lived in “cheaply furnished rooming houses with rents comparatively high” and conditions “below a reasonable standard of living,” the more “well-established” Indians were “rather attractively housed . . . in the less expensive suburbs.”

World War II also played a role in the creation of the Indian middle class. American Indians served in the war in great numbers. In national celebration of Indians’ war contributions and sacrifices, the United States declared “a new sense of capacity of Indian people and of American obligations to them.” The federal government, claiming that “equality for American Indians depended on freeing them from federal supervision,” thus set out to secure “the progress of the Indian toward the goal [that] is rightfully his – to take his place in the white man’s community on the white man’s level and with the white man’s opportunity and security status” (H.R. Rep. No. 78-2091 (1944)). Federal termination policy ensued.

Although federal termination policy was later reversed, termination and early assimilation policies widened the gap between those “urban” Indians who settled into the American middle class, and those “rural” Indians who continued to live amidst then fledgling tribal economies. Both ways had their downside. While the move to suburbia came at the expense of 38% higher rates of accidental deaths, 54% higher rates of diabetes, and 126% higher rates of liver disease and cirrhosis; the poverty and unemployment rate on Indian Reservations remained the worst in the nation, with 80% living below the poverty line and unemployment rates as high as 80%.

Amidst such schizophrenic socio-economic conditions, by the mid-20th Century, the Indian middle class was forged.

Gabriel S. Galanda, an enrolled member of the Round Valley Indian Tribes, is a partner at Galanda Broadman, PLLC, in Seattle. He represents tribal governments, businesses and members in all varieties of dispute and business dealing. Gabe can be reached at (206) 691-3631 or gabe@galandabroadman.com.

Read more @ Indian Country Today Media Network.comOccupy Wall Street and the Attack on the Tribal Middle Class, Part I - ICTMN.com.

November 3, 2011

Attack on the Tribal Middle Class, Part II

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tags: , — Gabriel S. Galanda @ 7:00 am

Throughout most of the last two centuries, the United States sought to eliminate the political existence of American Indian tribes. The federal anti-tribal agenda appeared through laws, policies and programs encouraging or forcing Indian assimilation into the American middle class. But by the late 1960s, federal policymakers finally realized that Indian people and polities were not going away.

Informed by federal “Indian self-determination” policy, in the 1970s Congress began enacting a slew of programs and laws committed to involving Indians in the development and implementation of reservation programs and services. As a result, the economic development of Indian Country finally commenced in earnest. The “distinct legal and economic market opportunities” derived from the “sovereign status of tribes,” as described by Drs. Joseph Kalt and Stephen Cornell, has since played the largest role in evolving the American Indian middle class discussed in Part I, into a reservation-based middle class—into a distinctly tribal middle class.

Indian self-determination, in practice, began with the reclamation of tribal resources. Although tribal peoples fished commercially for centuries, the practice fell victim to the “no special treatment” adage of the assimilation era. Then, in 1968, under the tribal threats of Treaty enforcement litigation, Oregon and Washington re-established an Indian-only commercial fishery in the Columbia River. Likewise, after decades of timber harvesting stymied by federal control and red tape, in the 1970s tribes themselves began to reap the economic benefits of high-yield timber harvesting. The Indian commercial fisherman and logger emerged, earning enough money to no longer have their families live hand-to-mouth, and, in some instances, to live quite comfortably.

Then came the arrival of what Blackfeet Indian attorney Debora Juarez dubs “tribal contraband economies.” As the 1970s progressed, tribes and tribal members began to leverage tribal sovereign status to create market opportunities in high-stakes bingo and retail tobacco and fireworks sales. The absence of state regulatory or taxation authority over such on-reservation markets was (and remains) the lynchpin to their success. Like tribal commercial fisherman and loggers, Indian gaming, tobacco and fireworks entrepreneurs began earning sufficient income for their families to join the growing on-reservation tribal middle class. In the process, the tribal private sector, comprised of individual Indian- and tribal family-owned businesses, emerged.

In reaction to such Indian success, in 1980, the U.S. Supreme Court handed down the Colville decision. In an economically racist opinion, the Court proclaimed that unless tobacco products derived from “value generated on the reservation” by activities involving Indians, states could tax the sale of those goods. After Colville, tribal “value generated” economies emerged—hundreds of millions of dollars over—most notably in the form of Indian-produced tobacco products.  Tribal entrepreneurs also continued to sell various other retail goods tax free, appreciating that, as the Colville Court admitted, states cannot cross reservation lines to enforce intrusive tax laws. Both tribal value generated and contraband economies sustain the tribal middle class to this day.

By the late 1980s, a Reagan Commission on Indian Reservation Economies found that federal procurement policy obstructed Indian-owned businesses from obtaining federal contracts being fulfilled on their own reservations. Changes to federal law ensued, exempting tribal corporations from “once in a lifetime” affiliation rules and caps on sole-source contracts. In the 1990s, tribal and Alaska Native businesses began venturing into the lucrative realm of federal “8(a) contracting” for construction, manufacturing, engineering, electronics, technology and other services. In turn, Indian corporate executives emerged, joining the insurgent tribal middle class.

Then of course there was, and is, Indian gaming. What began with high-stakes bingo on various reservations in the 1970s has since blossomed into a now steady $26 billion industry. Although Indian gaming has most certainly catapulted thousands of reservation Indian families out of poverty and into much higher income brackets, the new money of Indian gaming per capita distributions has created a unique, unemployed segment of the tribal middle class. In that limited way, some Indians, though of middle (if not upper) class income, may not have made the definitional “sacrifices to create a better life for themselves” discussed in Part One. Still, Indians reaping gaming per capita income help comprise the tribal middle class.

Most recently, Indian doctors, lawyers, engineers, scientists and other professionals, who received their higher or postgraduate education thanks to Indian self-determination programs and tribal scholarships funded by the proceeds of tribal gaming and other modes of self-sufficiency, are returning home and joining the tribal middle class.

Empirically, between the 1990 and 2000 Censuses, reservation Indian income levels rose by 33% and the poverty rate dropped by 7%, with little difference shown between those tribal governments with gaming operations and those without gaming. Tribal data from the 2010 Census will no doubt correlate to the $11 billion to $26 billion growth in Indian gaming from 2000 to 2010, and show even more dramatic income gains in Indian Country during the first decade of this 21st Century. As Indian self-determination firmly took hold, so too has a tribal middle class.

In Part Three, I will describe the rising attack on Indian economies vis-à-vis the tribal middle class and why that assault is far more consequential than the financial downfall suffered in all corners of the Great Recession economy. Instead, the attack is a telling indication of how past policies of assimilation and termination still motivate state and local governments’ as well as Congress’ behavior towards Indian Country; of how they see the existence of tribal governments and a strong tribal middle class as a zero-sum threat to the economic vitality of states and non-Indian businesses.

Gabriel S. Galanda, an enrolled member of the Round Valley Indian Tribes, is a partner with Galanda Broadman, PLLC, in Seattle. He represents tribal governments, businesses and members in all varieties of dispute and business dealing.  Gabe can be reached at (206) 691-3631 or gabe@galandabroadman.com.

Read more @ Indian Country Today Media Network.comAttack on the Tribal Middle Class, Part II - ICTMN.com.

February 16, 2012

Proposed IGRA Amendment Would ‘Sanction’ Extortion of Tribes

Rep. John Sullivan 2 270x329 Proposed IGRA Amendment Would Sanction Extortion of Tribes

In this June 7, 2010 photo, U.S. Rep. John Sullivan, is pictured in Oklahoma City. (AP Photo/The Oklahoman, David McDaniel)

Rep. John Sullivan (R-Oklahoma) has introduced an anti-Indian casino bill that gaming experts say would give local governments the power to shake down Indian nations for money.

H.R. 4033, introduced on Feb. 15, would amend the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act to give local governments veto power over Indian casinos offering Class III gaming even if the casino has been vetted and approved by the Interior Department and a negotiated tribal-state gaming compact. The bill has no co-sponsors yet.

The bill “is more than anti-Indian, it is anti-state government,” said Joe Valandra, a citizen of the Sicangu Lakota, principal owner and president of VAdvisors, LLC, chairman and CEO of Tehan Woglake, Inc., and former chief of staff of the National Indian Gaming Commission.  “It presumes that local governments should have a veto over the considered decision of a governor and/or legislature. Frankly, it is really more of a ‘place at the table’ proposal i.e. about money. Non-Indian governments wanting the sanction to exhort money from Tribes.”

The proposal, called “Giving Local Communities a Voice in Tribal Gaming Act,” says, “No Class III gaming activities may commence, irrespective of an approved Tribal-State Compact, unless the elected governing body and elected executive officials of each county, city, or other general purpose political subdivision in which a class III gaming activity under the Tribal-State Compact is to occur have approved the Class III gaming facility.”

The bill would be a disaster for tribal nations, Gabriel Galanda said. “This bill would destroy tribal economic sovereignty as we know it, by giving municipal government not just a say but veto power over on-reservation economic development.” Galanda is an enrolled member of the Round Valley Indian Tribes and partner in the Seattle-based firm Galanda Broadman.  “One can imagine the demands a city or town would place upon a tribal government, in exchange for the municipal government’s ‘approval’ of an on-reservation Class III casino development,” Galanda said. “The demands would certainly include money, likely in the form of so-called impact fees in lieu of taxes. This bill would basically allow local governments to extort monies from tribal governments that hope to engage in the only federally sanctioned economic development activity that has ever brought meaningful money to Indian reservations.”

The bill would apply only to gaming to compacts entered into after January 1, 2011. Sullivan said the bill is intended to stop the Kialegee Tribal Town’s construction of the Red

Clay Casino, a facility that is under review by Assistant Secretary-Indian Affairs Larry Echo Hawk. “My goal with this legislation is to ensure that situations like the Kialegee Tribal Town Casino never happen again,” Sullivan said in a press release on his website. “As I have said before, I am deeply concerned this precedent setting situation could lead to the opening of pandora’s (sic) box where Indian land can be leased by private contractors to open up casino’s (sic) anywhere they please – regardless of the churches, schools and homes that may be right across the street.  We cannot allow that to happen without ensuring all citizens within a community are given equal consideration under the law,” Sullivan said.

Meanwhile, the State of Oklahoma filed a lawsuit Feb. 8 to stop the Kialegee Tribe from continuing the construction. The tribe was one of the Creek Confederacy of indigenous communities in what became Alabama and Georgia that were ethnically cleansed from their homelands under Indian killer Andrew Jackson’s removal policy The state claims that operation of a Class III casino on the Broken Arrow site would violate IGRA and a gaming compact between the Kialegee Tribal Town and the state signed last April because the property is not on the Kialegee Tribe’s “Indian lands.”

While Sullivan’s stated intention is to stop the Kialegee Town casino, his proposal would affect all Indian nations everywhere across the country. It would, for example, prevent the Mashpee Wampanoag Tribe from opening a casino to provide revenues for its government services to its members. Although the Wampanoag people were the first to greet the European settler colonists in the early 1600’s, the nation was not federally acknowledged until 2007 and it is landless nation and has few resources. “Congress has already provided the compact process to enable states to act as needed to protect their citizens’ interests,” Mashpee Wampanoag Chairman Cedric Cromwell told ICTMN in an email. “Through the compact process, tribes and states may reach agreement to include local involvement, as appropriate. Congress should not impose an oppressive nationwide solution in response to a single local concern.”

The thought process behind targeting one tribe through an action that would impose collective restrictions on all tribes “is very parochial,” Valandra said, “and likely motivated by a fear that the unregulated unknown big bad Tribe is going to get away with something. Unfortunately, it is the worst (best?) evidence that members of the Congress, in general, do not know or care about the status of Tribal governments, the Nation-to-Nation obligations of the federal government, and United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. I have said it several times recently and it bears saying here – Indian land and resources are being jealously coveted by non-Indians and they will not stop until they have control over it all.”

And what effect would Sullivan’s proposal have on the nation-to-nation relationship between the federal government and sovereign Indian nations? “I am afraid the concept of Nation-to-Nation goes out the window here,” Valandra said. “The federal government would in effect being giving authority over land decisions (a trust obligation) to local governments with no other obligation/motivation than extortion.”

It would also diminish tribal sovereignty itself, Galanda said. “It is bad enough that IGRA gives states certain powers vis-a-vis Class III gaming. To give counties and cities any authority over Class III gaming would mark the most dramatic erosion in tribal sovereignty since the termination era,” he said.

The only silver lining to this proposal, if it were to succeed, is that counties and cities, like the states, would still have no say over the development of Class II gaming facilities. “There is of course already movement by gaming tribes towards Class II gaming as a means of freeing them from onerous state gaming regulation and revenue-raising, if not compacting altogether,” Galanda said. “If this bill passed, I suspect we would not see any new Indian casinos assume Class III operations; in fact, we might never again see a brand new Class III tribal casino.”

The bill was referred to the House Natural Resources Committee. Luke Miller, press secretary to committee member Rep. Don Young (R-Alaska), said the congressman had not yet reviewed the proposed bill. “Chairman Young still needs a chance to review the bill and will withhold judgment until he has an opportunity to do so. Additionally, as Chairman of the Subcommittee to which this bill will likely be referred to, it’s crucial that the Chairman and his staff have an opportunity to discuss the bill with stakeholders,” Miller said.

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Read more @ Indian Country Today Media Network.comJuno Awards 2012: A Look at the Aboriginal Nominees - ICTMN.com.

April 2, 2012

Indian Country Reacts to Larry Echo Hawk’s Announcement

Following the March 31 announcement from the Church of Latter-day Saints, and confirmed by the Department of the Interior, that Larry Echo Hawk, Assistant Secretary of Indian Affairs (ASIA), will be stepping down from his post within the Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA) to fulfill a calling within the church, individuals connected to Indian country shared their thoughts:

Jefferson Keel, National Congress of American Indians president and Lt. Governor of the Chickasaw Nation:

“Larry Echo Hawk’s leadership at the Bureau of Indian Affairs has set a new standard for generations to come. While he will be greatly missed in this position, his legacy – the manner in which he carefully listened to tribal leaders and tribal citizens, acted to remove historic barriers for tribes, and framed a new vision for the BIA’s relationship with sovereign tribal governments – is a legacy that will continue to ripple through the federal government. Larry’s service was not only exemplary as a federal official, but also as an American Indian leader who served the United States and tribal nations with dignity and respect. He elevated our nation-to-nation relationship to its rightful place, and for that we are grateful.”

Jacqueline Pata, NCAI’s executive director:

“There is no doubt that in the last three years a new era for tribal relations with the United States has emerged and Larry Echo Hawk played no small part in it. He will always be remembered for the way he acted as the top official of the BIA. He listened with great conviction, setting a tone for consultation that we must always ensure is reflected in the federal government’s approach to nation-to-nation meetings. Larry, much like his brother John Echohawk, leads with a quiet strength. He would stay through long meetings, contentious discussions, and resolve to find clear paths for moving forward. His even keeled approach to engaging with his federal counter parts allowed so much work to get done and we wish him the best in his future endeavors.”

John Echohawk, Larry Echo Hawk’s brother, is the Executive Director of the Native American Rights Fund:

“Well, he had a calling from the church and, as I understand it, those are the kind of calls that you really have to accept. It’s a great honor and he really felt he needed to honor the church and accept the call. I think we’re all going to miss him very much in Indian affairs.”

Bill John Baker, principal chief Cherokee Nation

“I wish Assistant Secretary [of Indian Affairs] Echo Hawk all the best as he embarks on this new endeavor with the Church of Latter-day Saints. In my short time as principal chief, he has been nothing but gracious and helpful towards my administration and I am certain that the LDS Church will benefit greatly from his keen intellect, passion for public service and courteous professionalism.”

Ernie Stevens, chairman of National Indian Gaming Association:

“It has to be a tremendous appointment for him to go into the church and serve at a level that would take him away from his responsibilities in the United States government. It’s a great disappointment for me because I like when an assistant secretary is run out of Washington. I like to see an assistant secretary beat up and just shown the door,” he joked. “It’s like my father when he left – he didn’t leave Washington, but he left the bureau (BIA) because he advocated for Indian country and he stood proud and he saved lives in so many ways. So I guess I shouldn’t joke about Larry’s departure because it is very dignified and it’s tremendous for him. Larry Echo Hawk under this Obama administration – and again I’m a bipartisan person in my job – but you’ve got to recognize that this administration has done a tremendous job in communicating and advocating and trying to understand and be visible in Indian country. And there’s a whole bunch of people under Larry’s watch that you would give credit to, I’m sure. But the bottom line starts at the top and Larry Echo Hawk has done a tremendous job and he’s someone that I respect and admire and I think wherever he goes, even if it’s working in the church, we’re still going to call on him, we’re still going to need him. He’s a compassionate person who cares deeply about Indian country. I just hope the church doesn’t keep him all to itself. I hope it’ll let him continue to work in Indian country.”

Gabriel S. Galanda, an enrolled member of the Round Valley Indian Tribes, and partner with Galanda Broadman, PLLC, in Seattle:

“Larry Echo Hawk converted words to action for the benefit of Indian people, perhaps like nobody who previously held the Assistant Secretary of Indian Affairs post in modern times. Landmark federal-tribal accomplishments occurred on his watch, including the passage of the Tribal Law and Order Act, the impending settlement of over 100 tribal government trust mismanagement lawsuits, the reopening of the federal fee-to-trust process, and the advancement of the federal Indian consultation right. In all of these and many other regards, instead of functioning in the silo that can be ASIA and the BIA, he successfully made inroads to various other parts of the Executive Branch and in many instances, caused federal officials in other departments and agencies to behave differently towards Indian country. In turn, change was accomplished, not just talked about. History will tell a very positive story about Secretary Echo Hawk’s time in Washington and his robust accomplishments on behalf of Indian people. His legacy will certainly last the test of time.”

Harold Monteau is a Chippewa Cree Attorney and former Chairman of the National Indian Gaming Commission:

“I can understand Larry’s accepting the high appointment in his church. I understand enough about the Mormon Church structure to know that this is kind of like being in a cabinet level appointment. I also can’t blame him for not wanting to depend on Indian Country for a living post-service. Indian Country does not treat its former political appointees the way non-Indians do. In the non-Indian world you are rewarded for service (usually as a lobbyist or consultant) and anyone who does serve as a political appointee knows they will be rewarded by “business arrangements” when they leave. Not so for Indian Country. We tend to treat Indians who do their service in DC political positions like so much road kill. We tend to focus on what they didn’t do for Indians, not what they did for Indians.”

Oklahoma Congressman Tom Cole, R-District 4:

“Larry Echo Hawk is a great friend to Indian country. During his tenure at the BIA, [Assistant Secretary of Indian Affairs] Echo Hawk has worked tirelessly to resolve important issues of tribal land and sovereignty and to bring greater economic development, education and security to tribal lands. He has been a stabilizing presence at the BIA, and his efforts will benefit tribes in Oklahoma and across the nation for years to come.

“On a personal note, I wish to note how much I will miss Larry Echo Hawk as a friend and a dedicated public servant. As I learned traveling across parts of Indian country in Larry’s company, he is a man of deep understanding, profound compassion, enormous energy and genuine bipartisanship. He has served the first Americans and all Americans with distinction and integrity.”

Read more @ Indian Country Today Media Network.comMurray Porter Aces Aboriginal Juno Award - ICTMN.com.

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