Indigenous peoples oppose Bush nominee for Interior Department

Louis Proyect lnp3 at
Tue Jan 23 15:14:15 MST 2001


January 23, 2001

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:

Indigenous Environmental Network
P.O. Box 485
Bemidji, Minnesota 56619-0485 USA
Phone (218) 751-4967
Fax (218) 751-0561
email: ien at

Internet Web Site:

"An alliance of Indigenous Peoples empowering Indigenous Nations and
communities towards sustainable livelihoods, environmental protection of
our lands, water, air and maintaining the Sacred Fire of our traditions."

Louis Proyect
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