Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell issued the following statement today regarding the Secretarial Commission on Indian Trust Administration and Reform:
"I want to thank the Commission for their professionalism and commitment in conducting a comprehensive review of Interior's tribal trust management system. I also want to thank those who shared their wisdom and perspective with the Commission during the two-year evaluation.
"As part of President Obama's commitment to fulfilling this nation's trust responsibilities to Native Americans, the Commission has examined the existing management and administration of American Indian trust assets. The management of Indian trust assets is not only one of our most significant fiduciary duties, but also a solemn obligation that lies at the heart of our Nation's relationship with the First Americans.
"I look forward to reviewing the Commission's recommendations as we seek to identify opportunities for enhancing the trust administration system's accountability, transparency, responsiveness and efficiency."
Background on the Secretarial Commission:
The Secretarial Commission on Indian Trust Administration and Reform held its final meeting this afternoon by webinar, completing its prescribed two-year evaluation mandate by submitting its final report and recommendations to the Secretary. The Commission was established in 2011 by Secretarial Order to conduct an examination of the Department's current management and administration of Individual Indian Money Accounts and tribal trust assets and to offer forward-looking recommendations on improvements.
The Commission, which built on the historic $3.4 billion Cobell Settlement that adjudicated long-standing tribal trust management claims, convened numerous meetings across Indian Country and around the nation to receive ideas, recommendations and proposals regarding the current management, administration and delivery of trust services.
Commission members are:
Chair - Fawn R. Sharp is the current president of the Quinault Indian Nation, the current President of the Affiliated Tribes of Northwest Indians, and a former administrative law judge for the State of Washington and Governor of the Washington State Bar Association.
Dr. Peterson Zah, an established leader in Native American government and education circles, was the last chairman of the Navajo Tribal Council and the first elected President of the Navajo Nation.
Stacy Leeds, a citizen of the Cherokee Nation , is Dean and Professor of Law at the University of Arkansas School of Law and former Director of the Tribal Law and Government Center at the University of Kansas School of Law.
Tex G. Hall, current chairman of Three Affiliated Tribes and past President of the National Congress of American Indians, is currently serving as Chairman of the Inter Tribal Economic Alliance and is the Chairman of the Great Plains Tribal Chairmen's Association.
Bob Anderson, an enrolled member of the Minnesota Chippewa Tribe (Bois Forte Band), has six years of experience working at the Department of the Interior from 1995-2001 as Associate Solicitor for Indian Affairs and counselor to the Secretary on Indian law and natural resource issues. He is currently a Professor of Law and Director of the Native American Law Center at the University of Washington, and holds a long-term appointment as the Oneida Nation Visiting Professor of Law at Harvard Law School.
Under federal law, Interior is responsible as trustee 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, for example, land, timber, oil, gas, grazing and mineral resources. On trust lands, the Department manages about $3.9 billion in trust funds and more than 109,000 leases. Collectively, the United States holds approximately $4.4 billion in trust funds.