Letter to the editor

While Secretary of the Interior Gale Norton did not create the unfortunate Indian trust fund problems, you are correct to note that it is her job to fix the mess that has been a plague for over 100 years. That is exactly what has been taking place since the Bush Administration assumed office.

Judge Lamberth's recent contempt ruling is based on facts in a trial that ended in February 2002. Regrettably, both his ruling and your article ["Interior management slammed"] fail to take into account measurable accomplishments achieved by the Department of the Interior. For example:

A. There has been unprecedented consultation between Interior and American Indian country involving hundreds of hours of consultation by senior departmental officials. Indian tribal leaders have acknowledged that this type of collaboration has not been seen in modern times.

B. Secretary Norton established a new Office of Historical Trust Accounting to complete historical accounting for individual and tribal Indian accounts. In less than a year, it has completed historical accounting for 11,609 accounts.

C. Secretary Norton has requested for fiscal 2003 a record $83.6 million in spending increases for trust management and accounting. This provides a 44 percent increase for the office that oversees trust activities.

Last, [you failed to state that] Judge Lamberth's decision against the Office of the Secretary was not against Secretary Gale Norton personally. In fact, some of his ruling focused only on events that transpired before she took office.

Still, the Department of the Interior, under Secretary Norton's leadership, is committed to building upon the progress made in helping to solve the long-standing problems associated with Indian trust accounts.

Eric Ruff
Director of communications
Interior Department

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