Published On: Fri, Oct 12th, 2012

USET gets an update on Tribal Trust Reform

UNCASVILLE, Conn. – Part of President Barak Obama’s commitment to fulfilling the United State’s trust responsibilities to American Indians and Alaska Natives, the Office of the Secretary of the Interior has convened the Secretarial Commission on Indian Trust Administration and Reform’s (SCITAR).  Commission Chair Fawn Sharp gave an update to its recent activity at the USET Annual meeting on Friday, Oct. 12.

Secretarial Commission on Indian Trust Administration and Reform’s (SCITAR) Chair Fawn Sharp gives an update to its recent activity at the USET Annual meeting on Friday, Oct. 12. (USET Photo)

At issues has been how the federal government will honor its federal trust responsibilities.  The evaluation of how well the country is working to uphold its trust responsibility to American Indians and Alaska Natives and any work to improve the relationships is resting with the SCITAR.  United States Interior Secretary Ken Salazar established the commission on Dec. 8, 2009.  This action is part of the Administration’s $3.4 billion Cobell Settlement.

Federal trust responsibilities have been involved with managing assets for Tribes.  The Federal government’s trust responsibility towards Indian lands and resources is multi-faceted. The trust doctrine’s role in defining tribes’ claims against the United States for taking or badly managing tribal lands has been the focus of much discussion.  Under federal law, Interior is responsible for managing Indian Trust land and resources on behalf of Tribes and Individual Indians, totaling approximately 56 million surface acres, 57 million acres of subsurface acres (commonly referred to as mineral estates).  In addition, Interior is responsible for managing approximately 384,000 individual Indian money accounts and about 2900 tribal accounts for about 250 Tribes.

Keeping the federal trust responsibility in check is a big ticket item for many Tribes.  Chairwoman Sharp says it should be.  “We (Tribes) are at a critical time and have a great opportunity for Tribal leaders to define and determine the future relationship that we Tribes will have with the U.S.,” Sharp told USET.

SCITAR is doing outreach to Tribes to improve the relationship with the federal government.  The Commission recognizes that there are many important issues related to trust administration and management that may make an impact on Tribes, individual Indians, and Tribal organizations.

Sharp adds, “Our efforts today are critical to Tribal leaders in how the build the foundation for future generations and their ability to create a great relationship with the U.S. government.  It is vital for Tribes or Tribal leaders to work with the Trust Commission on this sacred work.”

The Commission recognizes that there are many important issues related to trust administration and management that impacts Tribes, individual Indians and Tribal organizations.  The Commission members are Fawn Sharp (Chair) of the Quinault Indian Nation, Dr. Peterson Zah of Navajo, Stacy Leeds of the Cherokee Nation, Tex G. Hall  of Mandan-Hidatsa-Arikara, and Bob Anderson of Boise Forte Band of Minnesota Chippewa. Part of Sharp’s duty and charge to the Commission is the Trust Relationship Subcommittee that is set to explore the definition and foundation of the trust relationship and how it can be integrated as part of the Commission’s work.

For more information, minutes, and details on the Commission’s meetings visit http://www.doi.gov/cobell/commission/index.cfm prior to each meeting.

- USET