September 18, 2007

Indians left out of loop

Director's Selection Rankles Trustees At Indian Museum"Never in my mind would I think the hiring of a director would not include consultations with the board of trustees," said Elouise Cobell, a trustee and member of the Blackfeet Nation. "I signed on to be a trustee and I thought it was just that. I didn't understand why they wouldn't share this information with us and let us vet the candidates."

"We felt we were left out of the loop," said Phyllis Young, the board secretary. "I was really in the dark. I just feel it is the Smithsonian way of doing things. We were informed that it was the sole responsibility of the secretary. We can cry spilt milk but it is done," said Young, a community activist on the Standing Rock Reservation in North Dakota.
What really upsets Cobell:A well-known professor and former federal official, Gover led the Bureau of Indian Affairs at the Interior Department from 1997 to 2000. That position traditionally puts its leader at odds with many Native Americans. During his tenure, Gover was held in contempt by a federal judge for not providing documents in a long-standing suit by Native Americans about the government's handling of Indian trust accounts.

Cobell, the lead plaintiff in that class action suit, said she opposed the appointment on all grounds, including his tenure at BIA. "It is just a situation where he is not well-respected in Indian country," Cobell said. She said the museum director should not be an "adversary" of any Indian interests. West said last week that Gover has "good standing" in the Indian communities.

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