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Northwest Indians Reserve Judgment on Bush

by Linda Ashton, Associated Press
Seattle Times, January 15, 2001

YAKIMA -- When President Clinton took office, he invited the country's tribal leaders to meet with him on the south lawn of the White House as fellow heads of state.

Now, Northwest tribes are looking at President-elect George W. Bush and his Cabinet nominees for signs of how much access and respect they will have during the next four years - as well as future policy on issues such as fish, water, management of public lands and management of the Bureau of Indian Affairs and the Indian Health Service.

"We're hopeful for a Bush administration that gives deference to tribal and state control of some of the salmon-recovery issues," said Charles Hudson, a spokesman for the Columbia River Inter-tribal Fish Commission in Portland.

Since the campaign, Bush has indicated support for tribal sovereignty, said John Echohawk, director of the Native American Rights Fund in Boulder, Colo. "At this point, it's a question of whether the president-elect is going to follow through on those things." Hudson said Bush's history of promoting states' rights and local control is a good sign for tribes. "We see that as a potential for good things to happen regionally because we have seen recent alignment in tribal and state goals for salmon recovery."

Colleen Cawston, chairwoman of the Colville Tribal Business Council in northeastern Washington, would like the Bush administration to boost budgets of the Bureau of Indian Affairs and the Indian Health Service. And Hudson would like to see more money invested in public land and water acquisition.

Hudson said he's a little apprehensive about the nomination of Gale Norton to be secretary of the interior. Norton has been described as a protégé of Ronald Reagan's pro-development interior secretary, James Watt. Cawston said Bush would do well to have an Indian "desk," as Clinton did, that provided tribal leaders with direct access to Cabinet members.

"We were not being told, `This is the policy you will live with,' she said. "They said, `This is the proposed policy. Give us your feedback.' "

Linda Ashton, Associated Press
Northwest Indians Reserve Judgment on Bush
Seattle Times, January 15, 2001

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