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Secretary of the Interior
Native Brief: WASHINGTON - As part of President Obama's commitment to fulfilling this nation's trust responsibilities to American Indians, Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar today named five prominent American Indians to a national commission that will undertake a forward-looking, comprehensive evaluation of Interior's trust management of nearly $4 billion in American Indian trust funds.
"This commission will play a key role in our ongoing efforts to empower Indian nations and strengthen nation-to-nation relationships," Secretary Salazar said in naming the appointees to the Secretarial Commission on Indian Trust Administration and Reform. "The five members each bring extensive experience and knowledge to the commission, and I look forward to their findings and recommendations for how we can fully meet our trust responsibilities to the First Americans."
"Our trust administration must be more transparent, responsive, customer-friendly and accountable in managing these substantial funds and assets," Deputy Secretary of the Interior David J. Hayes said. "Building upon the progress made with the historic Cobell Settlement, this commission will help usher in a new era of trust administration."
The members of the Commission are:
Interior selected the members after a public solicitation for nominations and, in consultation with trust beneficiaries, evaluated the candidates on the basis of their expertise and experience, including in government and trust, financial, asset and natural resource management. Members were selected in accordance with the Federal Advisory Committee Act and they will serve without compensation.
Within 24 months, the Commission is expected to complete a comprehensive evaluation of Interior's management and administration of the trust assets and offer recommendations of how to improve in the future.
Salazar's announcement comes in advance of the third White House Tribal Nations Conference happening Friday, December 2nd at the Department of the Interior. The conference will bring together leaders from the 565 federally recognized tribes to hear from President Obama and to build upon the Administration's commitment to strengthen the government to government relationship with tribal nations.
Salazar established the framework for the Commission in a 2009 Secretarial Order which addressed the Department's future responsibilities for trust management after the Cobell Settlement agreement set forth resolution of a class action lawsuit regarding the US government's trust management and accounting of individual Native American trust accounts and resources. The Cobell Settlement will be effective when all appeals are resolved favorably.
Under federal law, Interior is responsible for managing 56 million surface acres and 57 million acres of subsurface mineral estates for 384,000 Individual Indian Money (IIM) accounts and about 2,900 tribal accounts (over 250 tribes). Tribal trust assets include land, timber, grazing, oil, gas and mineral resources.
On trust lands, the Department manages about $3.7 billion in trust funds and more than 109,000 leases. For fiscal year 2011, funds from leases, use permits, land sales and income from financial assets, totaling about $400 million, were collected for about 384,000 open IIM accounts. About $609 million was collected in fiscal year 2011 for about 2,900 tribal accounts. There are currently 156,596 individual Indian land allotments and more than 4.7 million fractionated interests.
updated 10:25 am est; posted December 1, 2011 6:00 am est
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