Friday, February 8, 2013
Open Letter to Interior Secretary Candidate Sally Jewell
Re: Internal tribal disputes and individual Indians’ rights
Dear Sallie Jewell
It has come to my attention that you are the candidate being considered by President Obama for the Cabinet position of Secretary of the Interior. I congratulate you on your consideration for such an important position.
As you know, the Secretary of the Interior 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 2008 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?
I eagerly await your response to the questions raised above.