February 23, 2004

BIA Officials Attempt to Cash In

The Washington Post reports that dozens of Bureau of Indian Affairs officials and their relatives have made themselves members of a tribe under their jurisdiction and now want to establish a casino on new land:

A once-tiny, nearly destitute American Indian tribe is pushing hard to build a $100 million casino, but traditional tribal members are not the ones seeking the riches. Hundreds of people have been newly added to the Ione Band of Miwok Indians' membership rolls, which were opened by regional Bureau of Indian Affairs officials. Among the new members are several BIA employees and dozens of their relatives. ...

Amy Dutschke, a member of another Indian group whose family has roots in the Ione area, was the BIA's acting regional director in June 2002 when she authorized the Ione Band's last leadership election, documents show. Now Dutschke and 68 of her relatives are on the tribe's official list of registered voters. They include her uncle and a niece, who also work for the BIA, according to tribal rolls, a BIA employee list and opposition members.

The election was overseen by BIA employee Carol Rogers-Davis, whom the BIA named to lead the elections board. She now has three relatives on the tribal roll, records show. The election produced five new tribal leaders, four of whom are related to Dutschke.

The BIA regional director responsible for the region, Amy Dutschke, authorized the last leadership election for the Ione Band and then, shortly afterward, joined the tribe, along with several of her co-workers and their families. Not terribly coincidentally, the Ione Band now wants to purchase 208 acres for a reservation near the small town of Plymouth for a casino, hoping to rake in some big bucks from California gamblers. None of the new members, over 400 in all, are related to the original 70 members of the Ione Band.

For good measure, the tribe is now also eligible for millions of dollars in federal aid. And yet, Congress doesn't feel that this is a big enough conflict of interest to investigate. The BIA has repeatedly blown off Congressional inquiries into the shady dealings of its employees, and the Sacramento regional office of the BIA won't even respond to the Interior Department. It looks like the BIA has lost control of its field offices and its employees, and if Congress is reluctant to take action, then the Justice Department should be looking into it as a matter of fraud.

It's difficult to understand why this hasn't gotten more attention, from either the governments involved or from the press; this story was buried in the back of the Post's website. At least on the surface, it appears to be a particularly egregious example of bureaucratic corruption and an exploitation of the Native American community in Northern California. This situation needs to be addressed immediately.

Please note that unverified Disqus users will have comments held in moderation. Please visit Disqus to register and verify your account. Comments from verified users will appear immediately.