Council Of Large Land Based Tribes Installs New Officers; Sets Priorities for 2002-2003 Term

Denver, Colo.. – The Council of Large Land Based Tribes (CLLBT) today during its first annual meeting installed new officers and approved a resolution setting its priorities for the next year.

As provided in the CLLBT’s by-laws, the Navajo Region appointed Navajo Nation Council Speaker Edward T. Begay as President and Delegate Ervin M. Keeswood, Sr., as Treasurer.  The Rocky Mountain Region appointed Eastern Shoshone Chairman Ivan Posey as Vice President and Ben Ridgely of the Northern Arapaho tribe as Secretary.

Speaker Begay introduced a resolution outlining issues and policies he thought the CLLBT should address in the next year.  Speaker Begay explained that many of the member tribes of the CLLBT often face the same issues as the Navajo Nation.

“The issues and priorities presented mirror many of those already addressed by the Navajo Nation Council’s Intergovernmental Relations Committee,” Speaker Begay said.

Some issues addressed in the resolution include: Bureau of Indian Affairs Trust Asset Management Reform, funding needs, education, energy, funding issues, health, homeland security, housing, justice, public safety, resources, taxation, transportation, veterans, welfare reform and the Tribal Sovereignty Initiative.

Excerpts from the resolution:

BIA Trust Asset Management Reform:  The United States Department of the Interior proposed reorganization of the Indian trust asset management so that a single executive officer would oversee the trust asset.  The DOI proposal required the transfer of trust asset management programs from the Bureau of Indian Affairs and Office of Special Trustee to be combined in a new bureau – Bureau of Indian Trust Asset Management (BITAM).

By Resolution CLLBT-07-01, the Council opposed the development of BITAM without any meaningful consultation with Indian Tribes by DOI.  In the early part of 2002, the DOI supported the establishment of a Tribal leaders’ task force that would evaluate the trust asset reform and recommend the most preferable restructure.  On March 9, 2002, the BIA Tribal Leaders Task Force approved the protocol document that details the purpose of the task force and its membership.  Of the 24-voting member Task Force, three are members of the Council. It is very important that the Council maintain active participation in the Task Force by taking actions such as seeking membership on subcommittees.

Funding Needs of Large Land Based Tribes:  In the 1990s, the federal government established the BIA/Tribal Workgroup on Tribal Needs Assessment to assess the allocation of funds to Indian Tribes throughout the United States.  It analyzed the allocation of Tribal Priority Allocations (TPA) utilizing populations and land base.  Under the land-base analysis, the workgroup stated that if the 1998 TPA base funds were redistributed based on the 1996 Indian lands report at $1.96 per acre, the Navajo Region would gain $23,603,995 while the Billings Region would gain $4,730,846 in natural resource funding.  Without distributing funds based on land size, the Navajo and Billings Regions received $8,394,845 and $8,164,852, respectively.

Congress enacted TEA-21 that requires that all funds appropriated for Indian reservation roads be distributed based on formula established by the Secretary of the Department of the Interior through a negotiated rulemaking process.  The negotiated rulemaking committee was established by then-Secretary of Interior Kevin Gover.  Representatives from small, medium and large tribes make up the committee.  Much of the contention among the committee members derived from the population and land size of the participating tribes.  Smaller tribes requested a new relative needs formula that would incorporate planning and administrative capacity building funds.  On the other hand, large tribes contended that funds made available for Indian reservation roads are for construction and support the modified relative needs formula. 

The Navajo Nation supported the modified relative needs formula as it determined that:

It meets the statutory requirements of TEA-21;

It factors in the relative needs of Indian tribes;

It is equitable, fair, measurable, and verifiable and allows participation by Indian tribes;

It provides funds for roads, bridges and other transportation needs of Indian tribes; and

It ensures that taxpayer funds are returned to the communities, the road users, in the form of road and bridge construction.

The above two issues exemplify ways that issues supported by large land based tribes are not fully supported by all Indian tribes.  The Council must put forward policy statements that benefit the member tribes.

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