Candidate for Assistant Secretary- Indian Affairs
United States Department of the Interior
1849 C Street NW, Room 4160
Washington, DC 20240
Re: Internal tribal disputes and individual Indians’ rights
Dear Candidate Washburn
Congratulations on your selection by President Obama to become Assistant Secretary of Indian Affairs. As you know, the Assistant Secretary of the Indian affairs plays in important role in Indian Country, and I felt it was important to ask you where you stand on several important and timely issues affecting Indian Country .
A recent report by the Government Accountability Office (“GAO”) referenced the fact that internal tribal disputes “seem to be occurring more and more frequently”. Such disputes have resulted in the disenrollment, banishment, denial of membership, stripping of voting rights,and/or denial of health/medical benefits of thousands of Indians
In response to the growing number of these types of disputes, the GAO felt it was necessary and appropriate that nominees to the Secretary of Interior be asked how they would address such issues.
While the question posed in the GAO report asks about a nominee’s personal experience working with tribal leadership in trying to resolve or prevent such disputes, I believe it is also important to know how you have or would work with individual Indians in trying to resolve or prevent such disputes.
Therefore, I would like to know where you stand and what you believe your role as Secretary would be regarding (1) internal tribal disputes and (2) the protection and preservation of individual Indians’ basic rights in internal disputes.
In addition, do you believe that tribal sovereignty and the protection of basic individual rights are mutually exclusive of each other? Some tribes in California are using sovereignty as a club to beat the weak and helpless.
I eagerly await your response to the questions raised above.
Please send a fax to the number above.