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Gale Norton - Sec. of the Interior?

I
Protege of James Watt
II
Mountain States Legal Foundation Case summaries
III
Attacking access to sacred sites and inciting racial tensions
IV
Gale Norton and the Mountain States Legal Foundation
V
The death of a river looms over choice for Interior Post
VI
Norton + lawsuits against American Indian Tribes = overseer for BIA?
VII
To stop Norton - need help?
VIII
Norton promises tribal support
IX
Indian groups question Norton's record
X
Senate Confirms Norton as Interior Secretary
XI
Norton warns of Interior budget cuts
XII
Interior nominee raises concerns of Native Americans
XIII
Norton field questions from tribal leaders

 


GALE NORTON... protege of James Watt.

 


If confirmed as U.S. Secretary of the Interior, Gale Norton would be in charge of Indian Affairs for the federal government, yet she has signed on to at least 11 anti-Indian amicus curiae (friend of the court) briefs around the U.S. as Colorado Attorney General (below). The protege of James Watt has also been part of the militantly anti-Indian Mountain States Legal Foundation. Please take immediate action to oppose her nomination by President-select Bush, and contact your U.S. Senator TODAY to vote against her.

If you agree with the following letter..
Please go to the URL below and sign the petition.. Thank you!


Keith Hunter P. O. Box 482
Neah Bay, Washington 98357
kiiyaatuk@centurytel.net
360-645-3161
http://www.petitiononline.com/sayno/petition.html



To: Gale Norton's Confirmation Hearing


Members of the United States Senate:
We, the undersigned, oppose the confirmation of Gale Norton to the Office of the Secretary of the Department of Interior and ask that you deny this appointment. Our opposition is based upon the following:

**Gale Norton, acting in her official and/or personal capacities, has demonstrated attacks upon Indian Nations and People's rights to self-determination and the exercise and entitlements secured by Treaties, by the Constitution of the United States and International Conventions for human rights and dignity of Indigenous Peoples and cultures.

**Gale Norton, acting in her official and/or personal capacities, has supported and is believed to continue to support denial of access to Sacred Lands and Sacred Sites for American Indian People to exercise freedom of religion by virtue of attempting to deny access to said Sacred Sites for traditional spiritual practices.

**Gale Norton, acting in her official and/or personal capacities, has demonstrated her willingness to commit ethnic and/or cultural destruction by disregard to cultural, social, and political processes of indigenous People living in remote Arctic regions impacted by Gale Norton's environmental policies and Gale Norton's interventions to deprive indigenous Peoples protection of adequate marine resources to sustain local economies and survival..

**Gale Norton, acting in her official and/or personal capacities, has demonstrated her willingness to undermine protections for threatened and/or endangered species and of habitat that would protect and preserve such species of life.


**Gale Norton's platform of the "wise use movement" and Anti-Indian sentiments did not receive the majority of national votes and it is now expected of the United States Senate by the undersigned to confirm only appointments which reflect this political reality in the United States and to insist on a Cabinet which reflects this truth as demonstrated by the majority vote of the citizens of the United States. The voice of the majority of the United States citizens must be acknowledged and recognized by denying the confirmation of Gale Norton.

 

Respectfully Submitted on the behalf of the below signed, and on behalf of the next Seven Generations,

      Sincerely,
      The Undersigned

 

 

 

Gail Norton
Mountain States Legal Foundation Case summaries

 



Date: Mon, 15 Jan 2001
From: "Guy Lopez" aguylopez@hotmail.com

***You can e-mail Guy Lopez for the full text of any of Gale Norton's amicus briefs summarized below.
*** He also needs people to quickly contact tribal leaders to ask them to contact their Senators to oppose Norton.


Alaska v. Native Village of Venetie
Supreme Court of the United States, 1998.
(118 S. Ct. 948, 140 L. Ed. 2d 30)

As Attorney General of Colorado, Norton submitted an amicus brief arguing that Alaska Native lands aren't subject to tribal self-governance as part of federal "Indian Country." This decision expropriated millions of acres of Indian land in Alaska from the Indian tribes who took part in the Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act.

Cabazon Band of Mission Indians V. National Indian Gaming Commission
827 F. Supp. 26; 1993 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 10081

As Attorney General, Norton intervened against the Cabazon Band of Mission Indians (CA). To empower states at the expense of Native American sovereignty, she sought to narrow the definitions of Class I and Class II gaming such that various methods of electronic gaming would be subject to state-tribal compacts, including electronic pull-tabs. Meanwhile the State of Colorado allowed the proliferation of several dozen non-Indian casinos in mountain towns above Denver, Colorado Springs and Boulder. County of Yakima v. Confederated Tribes and Bands of the Yakima Indian Nation Supreme Court of the United States, 502 U.S. 251 (1992). As Attorney General, Norton submitted an amicus brief supporting the ability of counties to tax private lands within Indian reservations. If state taxes went unpaid, counties could then seize the land, thus taking over large portions of Indian Country. The U.S. Supreme Court agreed with her and recommended to the tribes that they seek assistance from the U.S. Congress. In dissent, Justice Blackmun wrote "I am less confident than my colleagues that the 31 Yakima Indian families likely to be rendered landless by today's decision are well-positioned to lobby for change in the vast corridors of Congress."

Cass County V. Leech Lake Band of Chippewa Indians
U.S. Supreme Court, 118 S.Ct. 1904 (1998).

As Attorney General, Norton submitted a brief supporting the states' rights agenda to allow state taxation of any alienable lands held by a tribe, and not just those lands that were held as taxable by express intent of Congress. She asked the U.S. Supreme Court "to hold that unrestricted fee patented lands owned by Indian tribes or by tribal members continue to be subject to ad valorem property taxes imposed by state and local governments."


Crow Tribe v. Repsis
73 F.3d 982 (10th Cir. 1995)

As Attorney General of Colorado, Gail Norton supported eradication of the Crow Tribe's (WY) hunting and fishing rights in the Big Horn National Forest. These historic treaty rights, she argued, became null and void when Wyoming attained statehood.


Idaho v. Coeur D'Alene Tribe
117 S.Ct. 2028 (1997)

As Attorney General, Norton sought to prevent the Coeur D'Alene Tribe (ID) from asserting title and jurisdiction over Lake Coeur D'Alene which is located within their reservation. Again trying to promote state dominance over Indian tribes, she argued that the U.S. Constitution gave the states' immunity against suits by American Indians. In this case, however, there was a Presidential Executive Order expressly recognizing the Coeur D'Alene Tribe's rights to Lake Coeur D'Alene.


Seminole Tribe of Florida v. Florida
Supreme Court, 517 U.S. 44 (1996)

As Attorney General, Norton sought to strengthen the shield that States enjoy from lawsuits by arguing that Congress couldn't force the State of Florida to enter into a gaming compact with the Seminole Tribe. But this case had broader implications, Justice Steven's in his dissent writes that the decision not only "precludes Congress from establishing a ... statutory scheme under which Indian tribes may seek the aid of a federal court to secure a State's good faith negotiations over gaming," it also "prevents Congress from providing a federal forum for a broad range of actions against States, from those sounding in copyright and patent law, to those concerning bankruptcy, environmental law and the regulation of our vast national economy."


Strate v A-1 Contractors
US Supreme Court, 1997, 117 S. Ct. 1404, 137 L.E. 2d 661

As Attorney General, Norton argued that the Ft. Berthold Indian Tribal court (ND) should be denied jurisdiction over legal claims related to the work of contractors who are employed by the tribe to perform work for the tribe.

Norton contented that even though the work was paid for by the tribe, performed for the tribe, and took place on tribal lands, legal claims over its adequacy falls under state, not tribal jurisdiction.


Amoco Production Co. v. Southern Ute Indian Tribe
No. 98-830 1998 U.S. Briefs 830 October Term, 1998 March 4, 1999

Mountain States Legal Foundation submitted an amicus brief in support of Amoco arguing that the company did not have to pay royalties to the Southern Ute Tribe for natural gas extracted from the coal taken from the Southern Ute Tribe Reservation (CO).


Merrion v. Jicarilla Apache Tribe
U.S. Supreme Court, 1982, 455 U.S. 130, 102 S.Ct. 894, 71 L.Ed. 21

The Mountain States Legal Foundation argued in this pivotal case that the Jicarilla Apache Tribe (NM) does not have a right to impose a severance tax upon oil and natural gas removed from Apache lands.


Bear Lodge Multiple Use Association v. Babbitt
1998 WL195624 (D. WY1998)

The Mountain States Legal Foundation sought to prevent the National Park Service from enacting a management plan for Devil's Tower that discouraged rock climbing in the month of June in order to allow northern plains Indians to conduct religious ceremonies in an undisturbed, reverent environment.



 

Gale Norton & Mountain States Legal Foundation --- attacking access to sacred sites and inciting racial tensions

 



Date: Mon, 15 Jan 2001
From: "Kii yaa tuk \(Keith Hunter\)"
kiiyaatuk@centurytel.net

Gale Norton, President-elect George W. Bush's nominee for the position of Secretary of the Interior, worked for Mountain States Legal Foundation (MSLF) as a staffer from 1988 until her election as the Attorney General of the State of Colorado. The Secretary of the Interior has oversight, among other important duties, over the National Parks Service (NPS) and the Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA). On Monday, January 15, 2001, the MSLF refused comment for clarification of Gale Norton's capacity and current association with RMLF. The MSLF further refused comment on what cases and in what capacity Gale Norton has been involved since her election as Colorado Attorney General.

In 1996 the MSLF filed a lawsuit in federal court, Bear Lodge Multiple Use Association v. National Park Service challenging the NPS decision to provide access to Devil's Tower National Monument for American Indian Spiritual Practices. The US District Court ruled against the MSLF, and the 10th Circuit Appeals Court affirmed the lower court ruling. On March 27, 2000, the United States Supreme Court refused to hear the case or overturn the 10th Circuit Ruling.

The website of the MSLF contains language which could be interpreted as being of a derogatory nature towards the American Indian People who sought, and were recognized, as having the right to access of Devil's Tower for ceremonial reasons. William Perry Penly, the President and Chief Legal Counsel for the MSLF, writing of the Bear Lodge case:

"For the past two years, Mountain States Legal Foundation (MSLF) has been litigating over the future of Devils Tower, the nation's first national monument. At the request of some Native Americans who believe the Tower is sacred, the National Park Service (NPS) wants to close the tower to climbing for a month each June. MSLF and the men and women it represents believe that the closure violates the Establishment Clause of the Constitution's First Amendment. MSLF won the case in 1996 and, I believe, will win this year as well."

"Recently I debated an official of the NPS who helped craft the plan. She talked of how a small, diverse group of people who were interested in the Tower met together, how, at first they all disagreed, but then--and at this point she got a little touchy- feely--after they shared with and hugged one another, they agreed that it was okay to close the Tower for a month each year. I was asked how I "felt" about such warm and fuzzy consensus. Like a skunk at the garden party, I responded."
http://www.mountainstateslegal.org/articles_speeches.cfm?articleid=7

On another website which is directly linked to and appears endorsed by the MSLF which openly solicits donations to the MSLF to continue their campaign to obstruct American Indian access to sacred sites on Devil's Tower, the inflammatory language, to the point of advocating racial conflicts is clear. This website contains comments such as "so don't listen to the continued lies & deceptive confusing rhetoric of the Access Fund, NPS, Liberal Media, and Indians that are trying to create a FALSE closure by telling the general public and average visitor that there is a closure." And in another place states: "The stories of people being harassed and having personal property damaged by Indians and White Indian Sympathizers are simply not true. Devils Tower, Wyoming (less than 2 square miles of Federal Land completely surrounded by large acreage white land owners) is located in the Black Hills hundreds of miles from the nearest Indian Reservation, and the local community and services they provide are indifferent to the Indian Affirmative Action Policy of the NPS and Access Fund.
http://www.devils-tower.com/freedom/index.html?r=firstamend.html

The above statements, which have every appearance of inciting racial tensions and conflicts, are completely contrary to what the United States District Court, 10th Circuit Court of Appeals, and United States Supreme Court determined. The MSLF is in fact advocating ignoring the Court's rulings while also advocating obstructions into constitutionally protected rights of access to sacred sites by legitimate American Indian spiritual practitioners, including but not imited to, the Cheyenne River . At the time of this release it is still not known whether Gale Norton is still a member or otherwise associated in an advisory or other capacity with the Mountain States Legal Foundation due to their refusal to comment. This raises serious questions as to Gale Norton's position and bias concerning American Indian access to sacred sites under the jurisdiction of the Secretary of Interior.

Keith Hunter
P. O. Box 482
Neah Bay, WA 98357
360-645-3161
kiiyaatuk@centurytel.net

 

 

Connections: Gale Norton and the MSLF

 



Jan. 18, 2001
From: "Kii yaa tuk \(Keith Hunter\)"
kiiyaatuk@centurytel.net


Information regarding connections between Gale Norton and the Mountain States Legal Foundation's (MSLF) involvement in numerous lawsuits challenging Native American access to and protection of Sacred Sites was released earlier this week. When initially contacted for verification, MSLF refused comment.

Following the release of the story Penly Perry then stated that he had personally checked the records of MSLF and that Gale Norton had no involvement in any manner with MSLF since 1984. In response to the question as to whether Gale Norton continues an affiliation with Mountain States Legal Foundation,and if so, in what capacity Perry Penly responded "She has not."

However, according to reports from the Denver Post, Jeanie Mamo, the Bush transition team spokesperson assigned to Gale Norton, the MSLF has given Gale Norton a tax sheltered $50,000 a year annuity payment since 1979. A financial nexus between Gale Norton and the MSLF, an organization well known for its history of filing lawsuits against federal land management policies protecting Native American Sacred Sites and access to ceremonial sites raises questions regarding Gale Norton's oversight of the Bureau of Indian Affairs, National Parks and Monuments, and Bureau of Land Management.

The Mountain States Legal Foundation again refused comment for clarification of their statement which conflicts with the information released by the Bush transition team.

 


Another reason for a ban on cyanide use in Wisconsin mines....



THE DEATH OF A RIVER
LOOMS OVER CHOICE FOR INTERIOR POST

 


By Timothy Egan
New York Times,
Sunday January 7, 2001
http://www.nytimes.com/2001/01/07/politics/07NORT.html?printpage=yes


Eight years ago, Ignacio Rodriguez took his grandson out for an afternoon of fishing near his house on the Alamosa River in the foothills of the San Juan Mountains in southwest Colorado. The river that runs through the valley was his longtime neighbor, but on this day, he said, it was a stranger.

"The rocks were red and the river had some greenish tinge to it," Mr. Rodriguez said in a telephone interview last week. "The fish were all belly up. Rainbow trout and German browns - all dead. It was sickening."

Mr. Rodriguez was one of many witnesses to what state officials have called the worst environmental disaster in Colorado, a spill of cyanide and acidic water from a gold-mining operation that killed virtually every living thing in a 17-mile stretch of the Alamosa River, though causing no human injuries.

The company responsible for the leakage, the Summitville Consolidated Mining Corporation, declared bankruptcy, and its major officers fled the country, leaving taxpayers with a cleanup bill that is approaching $150 million.

It may take decades before clean water runs year-round through the Alamosa. But the account of what happened in the little valley in a remote corner of Colorado nearly a decade ago is emerging, both sides say, as a central exhibit in the testing of the political philosophy of Gale A. Norton, President-elect George W. Bush's choice for secretary of the interior.

Ms. Norton, 46, was the attorney general in Colorado when the Alamosa was sterilized with waste from the Summitville mine, and it was under her that many of the legal proceedings against the mine were initiated. Even Ms. Norton's political opponents in Colorado say that her office did a commendable job in trying to get compensation for the damage, though they criticize her for not pressing criminal charges.

But it is not Ms. Norton's conduct as the state's chief legal officer that is being debated in connection with the Summitville mine. Rather, it is her philosophy. Ms. Norton, like Mr. Bush, has long advocated allowing the mining, timber and oil industries more leeway to police themselves. Their argument is that if businesses are given incentives, like immunity from fines and prosecution, for reporting and cleaning up their own pollution, most will do the right thing - a so-called self-audit.

Ms. Norton has also been a consistent advocate of states' rights and minimal federal interference. But in the Summitville case, it was the federal government that stepped in, acting on an emergency basis after the poisoning of the river to avert an even larger disaster, and later winning felony criminal convictions against many of the corporate owners of the mine. The state welcomed the federal intervention.

"The whole problem with Summitville goes back to the essential trust that the state put in that mining company," said Larry MacDonnell, former director of the Natural Resources Law Center at the University of Colorado. "Summitville is a poster child for the inadequacy of that kind of philosophy."

Regulation was so lax, and state laws so weak - both were strengthened after the mine disaster - that Summitville is seen by members of both parties in Colorado as a lesson for the vigilance that government needs to keep over potential polluters.

Ms. Norton, like other cabinet choices, could not comment on past official actions pending her confirmation hearing.

But five years ago, when she was asked about how her philosophy of giving polluters incentives to come forth squared with the Summitville case, she said, "This was an unusual case, a situation where the individual in question knew about continued environmental problems and continued with operations in spite of that."

In her writings and speeches, Ms. Norton has preached a new kind of environmentalism, less dependent on federal policing, for example, "We need to give good businesses the incentive and the tools to be good environmental citizens."

The death of the Alamosa River affected Ms. Norton deeply, said people who worked with her when she was attorney general from 1990 to 1998.

"Summitville to her was a disaster of huge magnitude," said Tim Tymkovich, who served as solicitor general for Ms. Norton. "Gale's philosophy would be not to let polluters off the hook," he said, but to give industries a chance to comply with regulations before acting to enforce them.

Supporters of Ms. Norton expect her to bring big changes to managing the more than 500 million acres of public land, from national parks to wildlife refuges, and to regulating the thousands of mines operating on federal property. As a prot�g�e of James G. Watt, who angered environmental groups as Ronald Reagan's interior secretary, and as a onetime delegate to the Libertarian Party presidential convention, Ms. Norton has advocated free-market approaches to solving environmental problems.

But even Ms. Norton's staunchest allies say the Summitville disaster points to the limitations of the free- market, hands-off approach.

"Self-auditing without the potential to bring down the hammer will not work," said Terry L. Anderson, who is a member of the Bush transition team on the interior, and is director of the Political Economy Research Center, a free-market environmental research group in Bozeman, Mont. Mr. Anderson suggested Ms. Norton to Mr. Bush for the interior post.

"What Gale Norton will bring is reform, but not revolution," Mr. Anderson said. "To think that she will come in and let the polluters off the hook if they only agree to 'fess up is dead wrong."

But people who live in the valley that lost all aquatic life to a mine that was, according to court documents, poorly regulated, say they fear that Ms. Norton will bring a philosophy to the office that only invites more Summitvilles.

"You should not let the coyotes guard the sheep pens," Mr. Rodriguez said.

Dr. Colin Henderson, a physician who lives near the Alamosa River, said: "The philosophy at the time this river was killed was to let industry police itself. You had a river where people used to catch fish, that people used to camp next to, where people used to rely on it for good irrigation water for their crops. And now it's been killed."

As interior secretary, Ms. Norton would have broad discretion over thousands of mines on public land. Under a 1872 mining law, companies or individuals are able to buy the public land on which they make their mining claim for only $2.50 an acre, a condition that the departing interior secretary, Bruce Babbitt, has ridiculed as a giveaway of epic proportions. Mr. Babbitt has enlarged the regulatory power of the interior secretary, using his office to deny permits to mines that are considered a threat to environmental or cultural treasures owned by all Americans.

"Babbitt could not get the Congress to reform the mining laws, but he has essentially reformed them himself through administrative actions," said David Getches, an environmental law professor at the University of Colorado. "Gale Norton will inherit that legacy of discretion. And she can use it either way."

Most months, the Alamosa River is a slight stream that falls steeply from headwaters at 12,000 feet in the high cradle of the San Juan Mountains. It drains into a valley of hay farmers, ranchers, urban exiles and others who live in one of the driest of the high valleys of Colorado, before it slows to a trickle and breaks into small creeks. The valley is sparsely populated, and so far the biggest complaint of farmers has been that the acidic water has corroded their irrigation equipment. Many residents have stopped using the water on their vegetable gardens.

People have been mining gold in the mountains above the valley for more than century, but it was not until the late 1980's that a new method was used. At Summitville, the method involved crushing millions of tons of rocks and heaping them into giant piles, then soaking them with a cyanide solution that leached the gold from the rocks. The mine was operated for about five years, until 1992, by Summitville, whose major shareholders were in Canada. At the time, the mine was leaching gold with cyanide, Colorado was in a deep recession and its Legislature cut back on enforcement and regulation of mining operations.

The mine was supposed to be supervised by the state, but from the very beginning, according to court documents, the plastic linings of containment ponds that held the stew of toxic waste were not properly installed - and the state never caught the problem. The linings were breached, sending poisons into the river. At the same time the mine became a money pit of financial losses.

In late 1992, just as the toxic waste water was filled to the brim and threatening a heavy spill into the valley, Summitville declared bankruptcy and shut down operations, and its officers fled. It was left to the Environmental Protection Agency, using company workers familiar with the operation, to keep the toxins at bay. It is a continuing operation that federal officials say could go on for two more decades.

"The river was killed for 17 miles, but it would have been a heck of a lot worse if the feds had not stepped in," said Roger Flynn, who served on the governor's Summitville task force and is the director of Western Mining Action Project, an environmental group in Denver. "At the time, our regulatory agencies had been gutted," Mr. Flynn said. "So we gave this mine the benefit of the doubt - laissez-faire, hands-off, the company says everything is fine - and look what happened." Several corporate leaders of the mine were indicted by a federal grand jury and pleaded guilty to numerous felonies, including failure to disclose discharge of toxic waste. The state civil suits against the mine operators were begun in 1996, with Ms. Norton's office joining the federal government in seeking repayment for the millions of dollars spent by the public to control the waste and clean up the mine. But the state was criticized for its role. "Kudos to federal prosecutors for pressing criminal charges in the Summitville Mine disaster," The Denver Post said in an editorial in 1995. "Nonetheless, it's a shame that Colorado must rely on the feds to pursue the case." Ms. Norton's wanted to pursue state criminal charges, Mr. Tymkovich said, but was unable to do so because of technical problems with other state agencies, and because the statute of limitations had expired by the time state criminal investigators were on the case.

Just two weeks ago, the new attorney general of Colorado, a Democrat, Ken Salazar, announced that his office had reached a settlement with one of the principal shareholders in the mine, Robert Friedland, a Canadian businessman based in Singapore, who agreed to pay more than $27 million over the next 10 years to help pay for the cleanup. The state is still trying to get money from five corporations that were involved in the mine, dating to the middle of the last century.

Ms. Norton vigorously pursued the owners of the mine, the state lawyers involved in the case said. "The legal work that Gale did laid the groundwork for the settlement that Ken Salazar was able to obtain," said Mr. Tymkovich, the solicitor general under Ms. Norton.

In years where there is little snow runoff from the mountains, the Alamosa River bears a faint resemblance to its old self, a river that held numerous trout, say residents of the valley in the shadow of the San Juan Mountains. But in years of heavy rain or snow, the toxins still tumble down into the drainage and the river, reigniting the anger of people who live there.

"I grew up in this valley," said Cindy Medina, a resident. "I used to camp near that mine and went tubing in the river with other kids. Now we have to live with one of the largest mining disasters in the United States. To say the least, we don't believe in self-auditing."


Copyright 2001 The New York Times Company

 

Kii yaa tuk \(Keith Hunter\)"
kiiyaatuk@centurytel.net



Why is a person who has participated in lawsuits against American Indian Tribes being considered to oversee the Bureau of Indian Affairs?


I know this seems an odd question, but it is exactly what is happening with Gale Norton's nomination for the position of Secretary of the Interior.

Gale Norton as Attorney General of Colorado participated in numerous lawsuits against American Indian People. http://www.biologicaldiversity.org/swcbd/stop-norton/legalantics.html

Is it too much to ask the United States Senate for a Secretary of Interior who does not file lawsuits against Indian Tribes?


Please help in preventing this absurd situation from becoming a reality.


There simply has to be someone qualified to do the job of Secretary of Interior with direct oversight of the Bureau of Indian Affairs who has not made a career out of filing against Indian Nations.


If you need assistance in stopping Gale Norton's confirmation please do not hesitate to contact me. There has been zero press coverage on Indian Nations and People against Norton. Let's change that.

---"Kii yaa tuk \(Keith Hunter\)" kiiyaatuk@centurytel.net

Tue, 16 Jan 2001
From: "Guy Lopez" aguylopez@hotmail.com




To stop Norton - need help?




Greetings all,

My name is Guy Lopez, I am a Dakota Sioux from the Crow Creek Sioux Nation, I work as an American Indian policy analyst for the Center for Biological Diversity (CBD) where I direct an initiative called the Indigenous Peoples Endangered Species Program. I also work as a high school teacher at an American Indian Charter school in Tucson.

The CBD is opposing the nomination of Gale Norton as the Secretary of Interior and we are requesting assistance from all of you-- I did some research as to Ms. Norton's legal work regarding Indian policy issues and it is now posted on the website of the Center for Biological Diversity- the link is:
http://www.biologicaldiversity.org/swcbd/stop-norton/index.html

If Gale Norton is confirmed then we all will have a tremendous fight on our hands, especially over the protection of the Alaska Native Wildlife Refuge (ANWR), she has already plainly stated that it is her goal to allow oil drilling on the coastal plain. My organization is already speaking out about our opposition to Gale Norton, but we cannot speak for Indian Country and that is why I am asking you for help. It is my belief that Norton is indeed anti-Indian in her comprehensive attacks upon the canons and principles of Indian law and sovereignty. She is extremely intelligent and committed and has an analysis of Indian legal issues that is cutting edge in the worst way. She is not alone in her vigorous attacks upon Indian country, she has been backed by her former employer, the Mountain States Legal Foundation. You may remember them as the right-wing, state's rights legal arm that attacked the National Park Service policies that discouraged rock climbing of Mato Tipi (Devils Tower) in the month of June. I realize that this may arrive too late for some of you to act, the nomination hearing is scheduled for Thursday the 18th of January so a press release would have to be issued on Wednesday, perhaps a press conference on Thursday or Friday (if the hearing is still continuing) wouldn't be too late. Please let me know if I can be of any assistance to you should you decide to act in opposition to Norton's confirmation.


Respectfully,

Guy Lopez
alopez@biologicaldiversity.org
1(520) 623-5252 x301

 

 

 

Tue, 16 Jan 2001
From: "Guy Lopez" aguylopez@hotmail.com




Norton promises tribal support





JANUARY 19, 2001
http://www.indianz.com/SmokeSignals/Headlines/showfull.asp?ID=pol/1192001-1


On the opening day of Senate testimony for one of George W. Bush's controversial Cabinet nominees, Gale Norton on Thursday vowed to make improving the lives of Native Americans a top priority should she be confirmed as Secretary of Interior.

"I think we should all recognize that the situation in Indian Country is not as it should be," Norton told the Energy and Natural Resources Committee in her opening statement. "There is much that I believe we can do in partnership with our nation's proud Native American tribes to improve conditions and provide a more hopeful future."

Focusing specifically on Bush's campaign promise of repairing and constructing crumbling tribal schools, Norton assured several Senators who raised the issue -- including Frank Murkowski (R-Alaska), Ben Nighthorse Campbell (R-Colo), and Pete Domenici (R-N.Mex), also members of the Committee on Indian Affairs -- of her "personal commitment" to carrying out the goal. Congress in October approved nearly $300 million for repairs, although the Bureau of Indian Affairs estimates nearly $1 billion will be needed to fix them all.

But as Republican members of the committee received Norton's views on the natural resource development, national monuments, Indian trust fund reform, and land preservation with delight, Democratic members raised issues they found "disturbing." Chairman Jeff Bingaman (D-N.Mex) criticized her protection of individual needs over public interest, defense of states' rights over federal ones, and support of economic development over environmental protection.

And referring to a potentially troublesome area for Indian Country, Norton yesterday said she supported self-determination as a "concept." Senator Byron Dorgan (D-ND) questioned Norton on her views of states' rights "overriding" tribal sovereignty.

"It boils down, I think, to the idea that decisions of government are often best made when made closest to the people who are affected by those decisions," responded Norton. "And what is true for states is true for tribes."

As critics have pointed out, however, Norton in several instances has advocated against local-decision making by tribes. As Attorney General for Colorado, Norton signed several friend-of-the-court briefs in which she and other Western states argued that the Supreme Court not recognize tribal jurisdiction over lands in Alaska, Montana, Minnesota, and Washington.

With day two of hearings continuing this morning, Norton appears headed for confirmation despite all of the criticism. In addition to statements of support by Campbell, Senator Wayne Allard (R-Colo), and Governor Bill Owens (R-Colo), other Republicans in the committee praised Norton, decried attacks against her, and said they looked forward to working with her after eight years of a Bill Clinton administration they often found oppressive.

"Gale Norton has extensive legal, regulatory, state and federal government experience which duly qualifies her to serve as Secretary of a department as diverse as Interior," said Domenici after the hearing yesterday. "She exemplifies the qualities of a consensus builder, not a divider."

Get Transcript of Hearing:
http://washingtonpost.com/wp-srv/onpolitics/elections/norton_hearingtext011801.htm
Text: Gale Norton's Senate Confirmation Hearing (eMediaMillWorks 1/18)

 

Tue, 16 Jan 2001
From: "Guy Lopez" aguylopez@hotmail.com




Norton promises tribal support





JANUARY 19, 2001
http://www.indianz.com/SmokeSignals/Headlines/showfull.asp?ID=pol/1192001-1


On the opening day of Senate testimony for one of George W. Bush's controversial Cabinet nominees, Gale Norton on Thursday vowed to make improving the lives of Native Americans a top priority should she be confirmed as Secretary of Interior.

"I think we should all recognize that the situation in Indian Country is not as it should be," Norton told the Energy and Natural Resources Committee in her opening statement. "There is much that I believe we can do in partnership with our nation's proud Native American tribes to improve conditions and provide a more hopeful future."

Focusing specifically on Bush's campaign promise of repairing and constructing crumbling tribal schools, Norton assured several Senators who raised the issue -- including Frank Murkowski (R-Alaska), Ben Nighthorse Campbell (R-Colo), and Pete Domenici (R-N.Mex), also members of the Committee on Indian Affairs -- of her "personal commitment" to carrying out the goal. Congress in October approved nearly $300 million for repairs, although the Bureau of Indian Affairs estimates nearly $1 billion will be needed to fix them all.

But as Republican members of the committee received Norton's views on the natural resource development, national monuments, Indian trust fund reform, and land preservation with delight, Democratic members raised issues they found "disturbing." Chairman Jeff Bingaman (D-N.Mex) criticized her protection of individual needs over public interest, defense of states' rights over federal ones, and support of economic development over environmental protection.

And referring to a potentially troublesome area for Indian Country, Norton yesterday said she supported self-determination as a "concept." Senator Byron Dorgan (D-ND) questioned Norton on her views of states' rights "overriding" tribal sovereignty.

"It boils down, I think, to the idea that decisions of government are often best made when made closest to the people who are affected by those decisions," responded Norton. "And what is true for states is true for tribes."

As critics have pointed out, however, Norton in several instances has advocated against local-decision making by tribes. As Attorney General for Colorado, Norton signed several friend-of-the-court briefs in which she and other Western states argued that the Supreme Court not recognize tribal jurisdiction over lands in Alaska, Montana, Minnesota, and Washington.

With day two of hearings continuing this morning, Norton appears headed for confirmation despite all of the criticism. In addition to statements of support by Campbell, Senator Wayne Allard (R-Colo), and Governor Bill Owens (R-Colo), other Republicans in the committee praised Norton, decried attacks against her, and said they looked forward to working with her after eight years of a Bill Clinton administration they often found oppressive.

"Gale Norton has extensive legal, regulatory, state and federal government experience which duly qualifies her to serve as Secretary of a department as diverse as Interior," said Domenici after the hearing yesterday. "She exemplifies the qualities of a consensus builder, not a divider."

Get Transcript of Hearing:
http://washingtonpost.com/wp-srv/onpolitics/elections/norton_hearingtext011801.htm
Text: Gale Norton's Senate Confirmation Hearing (eMediaMillWorks 1/18)

 

January 23, 2001




Native Groups oppose Norton nomination
Cite her attacks on Native American Sovereignty





American Indian and Alaska Native groups from Alaska, Arizona, Michigan, Minnesota, Washington and California announce their opposition to the nomination of Gale Norton as Secretary of Interior.

Bemidji, Minnesota - If confirmed, Norton will be the head administrator over the Bureau of Indian Affairs that affects the daily lives of millions of American Indians each day. The BIA is an agency within the Department of Interior responsible for administering the United State government's relationship with Indian governments and for overseeing Congress's trust responsibility for Indian lands.

"Norton and people she has worked with in the past have repeatedly attacked tribal sovereignty as well as their hunting and fishing rights," said Keith Hunter, with the Hollow Bone Alliance, an Indian ecological group in Washington State. Hunter found information that Norton used her position as Colorado Attorney General to attack Indian rights throughout the country. Taking a states' rights activist role, she reached far beyond the bounds of her home state Colorado, filing at least eight briefs against tribes in Alaska, Washington, Idaho, Wyoming, California, Minnesota, North Dakota and Florida. In all the cases she argued that states' rights overrule tribes attempts to establish self-governance, including the right to tax, to permit casinos, to enforce tribal laws, to hunt and fish, and to control lands within the bounds of federally established Indian reservations. She argued that states are immune to lawsuit by tribes, that states can tax and repossess land within Indian reservations, and that millions of acres of Indian land in Alaska should be transferred to the states. Hunters group is opposed to Norton's nomination.

Norton's affiliate group, the Mountain States Legal Foundation, attacked Indian religious and cultural practices by suing the National Park Service for not issuing rock climbing permits during Indian ceremonial activities on Devil's Tower. The foundation also submitted briefs in cases challenging the right of the Jicarilla Apache Tribe of New Mexico to tax oil and gas extraction on their reservation.

After stepping down as Attorney General within the Interior Department under the Reagan administration, Norton went back to work for the Mountain States Foundation in a sweeping case attacking the Department of Interior, Alaskan Natives, and protection of streams and rivers. She was paid at least $60,000 by the Alaska State Legislature to aid the Legal Foundation in preparation of briefs arguing that the Department of Interior can not step in to protect Indian subsistence fish rights after the state government failed to do so.

"We're concern about Gale Norton's track record with Indian tribes. Despite what she said in Senate confirmation hearings where she stated she recognized the historic relationship between the federal government and tribal governments, I feel she has been more devoted to abolishing Indian treaties and tribal rights," said Chris Peters, director of the Seventh Generation Fund, an Indian grassroots advocate organization in Arcata California. "Anyone in the position as chief of the Interior Department must be someone that would defend all federal protections for Indian sacred lands and culturally and historically significant areas. She has a long history of not doing this" Peters said.

"We're especially concerned about Norton's song and dance routine when she is asked about protecting the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge from oil development," said, Tom Goldtooth, of the Indigenous Environmental Network. At the Senate confirmation hearings held last week, Norton made clear the possibility that oil development in Alaska's pristine Arctic National Wildlife Refuge could occur without significant damage to the environment. President George W. Bush had indicated throughout his election his strong support for the exploration for oil in this protected refuge, despite opposition by the Gwich'in Athabascan tribal nation that reside in the region of the refuge. Norton had made numerous comments of her support for Bush's plans to expand domestic oil drilling, including the refuge area. "We are opposed to this woman being our next Secretary of Interior. Efforts by the Bush administration to open up the refuge to oil drilling is an act of discrimination. It is an issue of human rights versus oil," said Sarah James, an affiliate of the Alaska Council of Indigenous Environmental Network and member of the Gwich'in nation.

For more information, contact:

    Tom Goldtooth, Indigenous Environmental Network (218) 751-4967
    Chris Peters, Seventh Generation Fund (707) 825-7640
    Guy Lopez, Indigenous Peoples Endangered Species Program, Center for Biological Diversity 520-623-5252 x301
    Keith Hunter, Hollow Bone Alliance, (360) 645-3161
    Sarah James, Alaska (907) 587-5315
For a summary of these cases:
http://www.biologicaldiversity.org/swcbd/stop-norton/legalantics.html

January 24, 2001
http://www.indianz.com/SmokeSignals/Headlines/showfull.asp?ID=pol/1242001-1





Indian groups question Norton's record






On the eve of the day a key Senate committee is expected to consider her nomination as Secretary of Interior, a number of Indian environmental organizations on Tuesday voiced their opposition to former Colorado Attorney General Gale Norton.

Citing Norton's involvement in a number of court cases affecting tribal sovereignty and her support of drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, the group questioned whether she would uphold her duties as head of the Department of Interior. If confirmed, Norton would oversee the Bureau of Indian Affairs, whose decisions affect hundreds of tribes throughout Indian Country.

"We're concerned about Gale Norton's track record with Indian tribes, said Chris Peters, director of the Seventh Generation Fund, a California grassroots organization. "Anyone in the position as chief of the Interior Department must be someone that would defend all federal protections for Indian sacred lands and culturally and historically significant areas. She has a long a history of not doing this."

Like other Norton foes, Peters and his colleagues such as the Indigenous Environmental Network and the Center for Biological Diversity have armed themselves with documentation of her past positions. Democrats on the Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources have seized on Norton's past as well, primarily focusing on her criticism of environmental laws and defense of states' rights -- positions which ranking member Jeff Bingaman of New Mexico has called "disturbing."

So far, though, none have publicly stated their opposition to Norton and at least one member, Mary Landrieu of Lousiana, says she supports Norton. Perhaps in hopes of converting doubting Democrats, Norton promised to uphold the law and backed off or clarified some of her more controversial views during her confirmation hearings.

In reponse to issues raised by freshman Maria Cantwell, Norton also stated her position towards tribes and said she took "seriously" the trust responsibility of the federal government. "My philosophy overall is that decisions are best made when they are made closest to the people," she said. "That carries to the tribe themselves."

Meanwhile, she has received broad support from Republicans. Ben Nighthorse Campbell of Colorado praised Norton's record with Ute tribes in their state and also said she was "very knowledgeable in Indian law."

But it is this history which Norton's critics yesterday presented as dangerous. Joining a number of other Western states, Norton signed several friend-of-the-court briefs in a number of Supreme Court cases affecting tribes in Alaska, Montana, Minnesota, Florida, and Washington.

Judging by the outcomes of the cases, Campbell wasn't far off in his assessment of Norton. At the expense of tribal sovereignty, the Supreme Court's rulings all favored arguments put forth by Norton and her colleagues.

Committee Chairman Frank Murkowski (R-Alaska), a Norton supporter, is expected to call a vote on recommending her confirmation today.

Relevant Links:

 


January 30, 2001
http://www.nytimes.com/2001/01/30/politics/30CND-BUSH.html?ex=981888781&ei=1&en=2220110318e603b2




Senate Confirms Norton as Interior Secretary



 

By DAVID STOUT
http://www.nytimes.com/2001/01/30/politics/30CND-BUSH.html?ex=981888781&ei=1&en=2220110318e603b2


WASHINGTON, Jan. 30 � The Senate confirmed Gale Norton as secretary of the interior and Gov. Christie Whitman of New Jersey as administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency this afternoon, leaving only the attorney general-designate awaiting Senate approval.

The vote for Governor Whitman was 99 to 0. The vote in favor of the more controversial Ms. Norton, a former attorney general of Colorado and once a Senate candidate from that state, was 75 to 24.

Ms. Norton picked up considerable Democratic support today. Her confirmation had been all but certain since the Senate's Energy and Natural Resources Committee endorsed her, 18 to 2, last Wednesday.

Ms. Norton has described herself as "both a conservative and a conservationist," but her critics have complained that she is a conservative first and foremost. She has argued that states and property owners have been granted too little influence in decisions about public land, a position that dismays many conservation groups.

But in the end, she had enough support on Capitol Hill, even with the Senate split evenly. She also had tradition behind her, a tradition that says a President ought to be able to have the people he wants in his own cabinet.

Mr. Bush's complained earlier about the pace of confirmation, or more specifically about the hesitation over John Ashcroft, his pick to be attorney general. "I certainly appreciate how fast the Senate worked initially, but it's time for the delays to end," Mr. Bush said. He said he hoped that "in the spirit of bipartisanship" there would be no more delays in confirming Mr. Ashcroft of Missouri.

"It's time for a vote on all our cabinet officials," the president said.

The Senate Judiciary Committee is scheduled to vote this afternoon on whether to endorse Mr. Ashcroft. Capitol Hill vote-counters have said they believe Mr. Ashcroft has enough support to win confirmation.

The most important of those vote-counters, Senator Trent Lott of Mississippi, the Republican majority leader, has predicted that all 50 Republican senators will back their former colleague, making his confirmation a certainty, even without a single Democratic vote. In fact, Mr. Ashcroft is likely to pick up some Democratic votes, too. Mr. Lott has said Mr. Ashcroft will be confirmed before the weekend.

Mr. Bush spoke of Mr. Ashcroft just after a meeting at the White House with Republican leaders about economic issues, including taxes and the national debt. Responding to a question, he said he was certain of Mr. Ashcroft's confirmation. He even made a case that his confirmation is linked to wise use of the taxpayers' money.

"It's important for our cabinet officers to be confirmed so they can start doing their job of organizing their departments," Mr. Bush said. "Once we get our cabinet officials through, I'm sure I'll be speaking to the Senate about moving the number twos and threes through as well, so that we can take hold of this government.

"And one of the things I'll be doing when our cabinet meets is talking about the need for each cabinet member to be fiscally sound with the taxpayers' money. It's hard to deliver that message when somebody hasn't been confirmed. And so I would just hope there are no further delays. There's been a lot of discussion, a lot of debate, there's been a lot of questionnaires."

Copyright 2001 The New York Times Company

 

from Paul P..thanks!

February 16, 2001
Indianz.Com. In Print.
http://www.indianz.com/SmokeSignals/Headlines/showfull.asp?ID=pol/2162001-2




Norton warns of Interior budget cuts





Gale Norton made her first public address as Secretary of Interior on Thursday and attempted to reassure her thousands of employees that rumored budget cuts won't affect the Department's ability to meet its goals.

But Norton is already warning that the budget won't be as large as expected. This may prove disastrous to Indian Country, as the Bureau of Indian Affairs and the Indian Health Service saw their largest spending increases in history under a budget advanced by the Clinton administration last fall.

"We may need to make some adjustments working within our budget this year, but working together, I'm confident that we can do it," said Norton.

Such a task may be easier said than done. President George W. Bush has made a number of costly campaign promises affecting the Interior, including a nearly $1 billion pledge to fix crumbling tribal schools and $5 billion over 5 years to reduce the maintenance backlog in the country's national parks.

At the same time, Bush is proposing a $1.6 trillion tax cut, which would mean a decrease in spending in a number of departments and agencies. The Department of Justice is rumored for a $1 billion budget cut and rumors of a 7 percent slash in Interior spending have been surfacing.

"Many of you have heard rumors of cuts coming up," said Norton. "The department will have the resources it needs to meet its core responsibility."

Norton reassured employees that her responsibilities include fulfilling Bush's two expensive promises. However, Norton might need more than cooperation to make them stick.

For fiscal year 2001, Congress allocated a total of $1.94 billion for the National Park Service, but only about $300 million is dedicated to repair and maintenance. To make Bush's park promise come true, the $242 million for maintenance and $50 for park repairs would have to be increased or spent very wisely.

The same would apply to Bush's tribal school pledge. While $2.1 billion has been budgeted for the BIA, only about $300 million has been allocated for school construction and repair.

Meanwhile, the Interior in January under Clinton increased by seven the number of tribal schools needing "priority" attention. A total of 20 schools across the nation are considered as requiring immediate contruction, repair, or replacment.

 

Get the Tribal School list:
Tribal Schools on Priority List (Politics 2/16)
http://www.indianz.com/SmokeSignals/Headlines/showfull.asp?ID=pol/2162001-2a

Tribal Schools on Priority List
FEBRUARY 16, 2001

In January the Interior Department under former Secretary Bruce Babbitt and former Assistant Secretary for Indian Affairs Kevin Gover added seven tribal schools to the Education Facilities Replacement Construction Priority List.

The list is composed of schools most in need of repair, construction, or replacement by the Bureau of Indian Affairs. Funding appropriated by Congress is directed at these schools ahead of others.

The schools, in order of ranking, are:

  1. Tuba City Boarding School
  2. Second Mesa Day School
  3. Zia Day School
  4. Baca/Thoreau (Dlo'ay Azhi) Consolidated Community School
  5. Lummi Tribal School
  6. Wingate Elementary School
  7. Polacca Day School
  8. Holbrook Dormitory
  9. Santa Fe Indian School
  10. Ojibwa Indian School
  11. Conehatta Elementary School
  12. Paschal Sherman Indian School
  13. Kayenta Boarding School
  14. Tiospa Zina Tribal School
  15. Wide Ruins Community School
  16. Low Mountain Boarding School
  17. St. Francis Indian School
  18. Turtle Mountain High School
  19. Mescalero Apache School
  20. Enemy Swim Day School

President George W. Bush has promised $928 million to fix tribal schools. Of the amount, he said $126 million would go to replace the top six schools on the list.

In the fiscal year 2001 budget. Congress last fall allocated $300 million for tribal school repair.

 

Relevant Links: The Department of Interior - www.doi.gov Paul Pureau - ndn-aim is now archived on line at http://www.escribe.com/life/ndn-aim/. FREE PELTIER NOW! STOP ETHNIC CLEANSING OF THE LAKOTA!

Reprinted under the Fair Use http://www4.law.cornell.edu/uscode/17/107.html doctrine of international copyright law.

Tsonkwadiyonrat (We are ONE Spirit) http://nativenewsonline.org/ Native News Online a Service of Barefoot Connection FREE LEONARD PELTIER!!

 

Published: February 19, 2001
Dorreen Yellow Bird
Commentator
http://www.pioneerplanet.com/seven-days/tod/opinion/docs/028393.htm

 



Interior nominee raises concerns of Native Americans



 

For Native Americans and environmentalists, the appointment of Gale Norton as interior secretary raises serious concerns.

As chief steward of more than 500 million acres of public land, including all national parks, national monuments, wildlife refuges, the Bureau of Land Management, the Office of Surface Mining and the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, she has enormous power over these treasures. She is also in charge of the Bureau of Indian Affairs, which means she will affect the lives of 540 tribes and millions of Native Americans.

Her record leaves a lot to be desired. While much of her record against environmental regulation was aired during the confirmation process, not some much of her record regarding Native Americans has been covered in the mainstream press.

She has displayed antipathy toward indigenous people.

Norton cut her teeth under the mentorship of President Ronald Reagan's first interior secretary, James Watt, known for his anti-environmental positions and hostility toward Indian tribes. Norton's first law job was at Watt's Mountain States Legal Foundation in 1979, and she served a stint at the Department of the Interior under Watt.

Suzan Shown Harjo, president of the Morning Star Institute in Washington, notes that Watt and his Mountain States Legal Foundation are "devoted to the abolition of Indian treaties and sovereign tribal rights."

"Mountain States was founded in very large part to counter gains made by Indians in the courts, in Congress and in the Nixon and Ford administrations," Harjo wrote in a recent article in Indian Country Today.

Norton submitted an amicus brief in 1998 arguing that Alaska Native lands aren't subject to tribal self-governance as part of federal "Indian country." As attorney general, Norton sided with states over tribes in gaming issues, while allowing the proliferation of several dozen non-Indian casinos in her home state.

Norton also submitted an amicus brief in 1992 supporting the ability of counties to tax private lands within Indian reservations. She submitted a brief in 1998 supporting a state's right to allow taxation of any alienable lands (land capable of being transferred to a new owner) held by a tribe and not just those lands that were held as taxable by express intent of Congress.

Norton also proposed the abolishing of hunting and fishing rights of some tribes. For example, in 1995 in court she advocated the repealing of the Crow Tribe's hunting and fishing rights in the Big Horn National Forest in Wyoming. She argued that these rights became null and void when Wyoming attained statehood.

For good reason, tribal nations and environmentalists fear that the Norton appointment is the equivalent of putting timber-wolf preservation in the hands of ranchers.




Yellow Bird is a reporter and columnist at the Grand Forks (N.D.) Herald. She has worked for the National Congress of American Indians in Washington. She wrote this article for the Progressive Media Project, 409 E. Main St., Madison, WI 53703. Distributed for the project by KRT News Service.

List info at: http://nativenewsonline.org/

 

February 23, 2001
Indianz.Com. In Print.
URL http://www.indianz.com/SmokeSignals/Headlines/showfull.asp?ID=pol/2232001-2

 


Norton field questions from tribal leaders


 

In an address to the National Congress of American Indians (NCAI) on Thursday, Secretary of Interior Gale Norton promised to listen more than talk and she lived up to her pledge as she fielded questions from some of the nation's tribal leaders.

Trust land acquisition, the new head of the Bureau of Indian Affairs, and the environment were just a few of the issues raised by tribal leaders who participated in a question and answer session with Norton. Although she didn't have the answers to all of the questions posed, she did defend the Department's recent decision to approve an off-reservation casino proposed by three Ojibwe tribes in Hudson, Wisconsin.

The Interior has taken considerable heat on the matter ever since it first declined to take 55 acres of land into trust for the Lac Courte Oreilles, Red Cliff, and Mole Lake Ojibwe tribes five years ago. But it looks like the controversy won't be ending any time soon as Audrey Kohnen, President of the Prairie Island Indian Community in Minnesota, challenged Norton to explain why the Interior on Wednesday reversed the decision.

"I'm not here to lobby on that issue or repeat Prairie Island's position," said Kohnen. "I'm trying to understand how the Department reached its decision. I'd like to spend some time discussing that with you to get some understanding."

Kohnen may soon get her wish of a session with Norton but it might be in court. Her tribe is suing the Department and claims the approval of the Hudson proposal violates the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act (IGRA).

For now, though, Norton defended the decision in light of its prior legal history. The three tribes sued former Secretary Bruce Babbitt who eventually agreed to reconsider the decision, but based only on the facts on the record as of July 1995 and supplemented with additional environmental reports.

"It was a matter in litigation for many years," said Norton. "A decision was based on the record in litigation as the proceedings required it to be."

Tex Hall, Chairman of the Mandan, Hidatsa, and Arikara Nation of North Dakota, also addressed another complex and controversial issue at the Interior. At the NCAI, Hall worked on the recently finalized regulations which make it more difficult for tribes to take land into trust and said he has been worried about a call for a moratorium on acquisition decisions.

Norton didn't have a response to Hall's moratorium question but said the Department plans on taking a "close look" at the regulations. Facing lawsuits from the state of Connecticut and South Dakota over recent decisions to take land into trust for tribes, Hall also said the Interior needs to recognize several exceptions to the regulations, including decisions affecting landless tribes and Alaska Natives.

Typical of NCAI gatherings, Norton's session was also filled with warm invitations from tribal leaders who invited her to visit their reservations and lands in Alaska, New York, Arizona, and beyond. Norton said she plans in headed to Alaska within the next two months.

Relevant Links:
The National Congress of American Indians - www.ncai.org
The Mandan, Hidatsa, and Arikara Nation - www.mhanation.com

 

 



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