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Old 04-06-2006, 12:23 PM   #1
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Arrow Interior secretary nominee buoys tribes’ hopes

Interior secretary nominee buoys tribes’ hopes
By Kevin Woster, Staff Writer
Rapid City Journal - 6 April 2006
http://www.rapidcityjournal.com/arti...cal/news01.txt

Leaders for the Rosebud and Oglala Sioux tribes said Wednesday that they hope a new secretary of the interior will bring a more enlightened approach to working with tribes on issues crucial to their survival.

Wayne Boyd, vice president of the Rosebud Sioux Tribe, said the recent nomination of Idaho Gov. Dirk Kempthorne to succeed former secretary Gale Norton as interior secretary could mean a new beginning in relations between Department of the Interior and the tribes. But interior officials must listen to tribal officials and shape their suggestions into policy changes that help improve health care, employment, education and other essentials on reservations, Boyd said.

“What has happened with the present administration is they make all these major changes in policy that affects us in the future, but they don’t listen to us,” he said. “They talk to us; then they go and do the opposite of what we feel is right for us.”

Health-care problems on Indian reservations are examples of how the system is failing, Boyd said. Despite some hard-working individual health-care providers and committed employees, government health-care services on the reservations continue to be substandard, Boyd said. If confirmed by the U.S. Senate, Kempthorne needs to seek guidance from the tribes in changing that, Boyd said.

“The health care we receive is far less than what the rest of America receives — and I don’t care where you’re at, in prison or whatever,” he said. “But yet everybody sees and knows it, but nobody wants to help us address it.”

On March 16, President Bush nominated Kempthorne, a former U.S. senator and two-term governor, for the interior post. The nominee has been criticized by environmental groups for being too close to the development and energy industries, but he is considered likely to be confirmed.

Sen. Tim Johnson, D-S.D., met with Kempthorne earlier this week and emphasized key South Dakota issues in areas under interior oversight. The department includes the Bureau of Indian Affairs and the Indian Health Service, as well as the Fish and Wildlife Service, National Park Service and Bureau of Reclamation.

Johnson, who served with Kempthorne in the Senate, is a member of the Senate Natural Resources Committee, which handles the nomination. Johnson did not give Kempthorne his endorsement but said it was likely that the 54-year-old former Boise mayor would be confirmed.

Among other issues, Johnson said he urged Kempthorne to develop a more cooperative attitude from interior officials in their dealings with tribal leaders.

“Too often, the Department of Interior has attempted to impose its solutions on native people, rather than giving them the respect they deserve and the meaningful consultation that treaty and trust responsibilities imply,” Johnson said.

“If we’re ever going to break this cycle of poverty and dependency in Indian country, one of the things that has to happen is we’re going to have to empower a new generation of Native American youth to have the skills and education and backgrounds to succeed in a very competitive economy.”

Oglala Sioux Tribe President Cecelia Fire Thunder said that can’t happen until federal officials open themselves to leadership from local tribal officials. If Kempthorne is confirmed, he should meet with tribal leaders before beginning any new initiatives or changes in interior operations, Fire Thunder said.

“The new secretary should make a statement to work with tribal leaders. We have many issues ahead of us,” she said. “As tribal leaders, we should be able to sit down with the secretary of interior on a government-to-government basis. Gale Norton pretty much pulled away from that.”

********************************

Interior nominee makes D.C. rounds
Indian leaders are optimistic, urge quick action on pressing issues
by Sam Lewin
Native American Times - 4 April 2006
http://nativetimes.com/index.asp?act...rticle_id=7733

The man nominated as the new head of the Department of Interior met this week with senators, although he declined to discuss what transpired during the meetings.

Idaho Gov. Dirk Kempthorne, tapped by President Bush as the new interior secretary, would replace departing Secretary Gale Norton if confirmed by the Senate. Norton resigned on March 5.

Members of the American Indian community are watching Kempthorne, 54, for clues as to how he would act regarding the long-standing Indian-trust lawsuit.

After meeting with the senators in Washington, DC, Kempthorne said it would be inappropriate to talk publicly on contentious topics.

"I must wait until the hearing itself before I make comments on specific issues," Kempthorne was quoted as saying by the Billings [Montana] Gazette. "That's the prerogative of the Senate, that's the process, and so right now this is just an opportunity to say hello again to a number of my former colleagues and affirm that I look forward to working with them."

While reception to the nomination has generally been friendly in Indian Country, officials warn that there is much work that is separate from the Indian trust controversy

“Overall needs of Native Americans remain unmet, such as basic infrastructure in their communities, quality affordable housing, education and health care,” said Gary Gordon of the National American Indian Housing Council. “As 12% of Native Americans lack plumbing facilities, 11% lack kitchen facilities, 90,000 Native families are homeless or under-housed and 14.7% of homes are overcrowded, [Kempthorne] must be ready to take on these challenges.”

Gordon also said he hoped that Kempthorne, who is expected to win confirmation easily, would quickly appoint a new deputy secretary for the Bureau of Indian Affairs, a position that has been vacant for a year.

Shortly after the nomination was announced, officials with the Nez Perce Tribe, based in the Idaho town of Lapwai, gave to the Native American Times a statement from tribal leader Rebecca Miles about the tribe’s history with the governor.

“We have had a good working relationship with the governor that focuses on cooperation. It is also a respectful relationship,” Miles said.

Another Idaho tribe, the Coeur d’Alene, also had positive things to say about the Bush nominee.

“Coeur d’Alene has constructed a solid foundation working with Gov. Kempthorne on a wide range of issues including gaming and environmental concerns,” said Quanah Spencer, the tribe’s public affairs director.
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