Vol. LII No. 2
February 2017

Leaders seek preservation of Indian health care, suggest Indian Affairs pick

THACKERVILLE, Okla. – During its January 13 general session, the Inter-Tribal Council of the Five Civilized Tribes called on President-elect Donald Trump to appoint a Cherokee citizen Assistant Secretary for Indian Affairs.

Jana McKeag, who has more than 40 years of experience working with tribal governments, is being considered for the post within the Department of Interior. Ms. McKeag has worked with federal agencies and practices law specializing in issues facing Indian Country. Among her areas of expertise are tribal economic development, education and tribal sovereignty.

Ms. McKeag has served as National Indian Gaming Commissioner, Director of Native American Programs for the U.S. Department of Agriculture, and as National Congress of American Indians Education Director. The Council noted Ms. McKeag has the support of several Oklahoma Congressional members.

Ten other resolutions were passed by Council voting authorities representing the Chickasaw, Choctaw, Muscogee (Creek), Cherokee and Seminole Nations.

They included:

• Urging Congress to preserve the Indian Health Care Improvement Act (IHCIA) and Indian-specific provisions of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) passed in 2010. Republicans have advanced bills to repeal the ACA – more commonly referred to as “Obamacare” – but the Council said the IHCIA was “cornerstone legislation which provides health care services for American Indians and Alaska Natives in fulfillment of the federal government’s trust responsibilities” to Native Americans. The resolution also stated Indian-specific provisions of the ACA are integral to the effective performance of the Indian health system.

• A formal request to President-elect Trump to appoint Bo Leach, a Choctaw citizen, to the position of U.S. Marshal. Mr. Leach is assistant special agent in charge of the Bureau of Indian Affairs in Oklahoma, Kansas and Texas. He has more than 30 years of experience in law enforcement.

• Supporting the appointment of Choctaw citizen Robert Trent Shores as U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of Oklahoma. Mr. Shores has worked as an assistant in the office more than nine years and has over 20 years of service in a variety of roles within government.

• Citing more than a century of support by the federal government to protect Native American antiquities, cultural, sacred and burial sites, the Council called upon tribes across the country to enact tribal legislation to protect significant sites on tribally-owned property.

• Calling upon the incoming Trump administration and Congress to “protect funding for federal programs that support Indian Country and fully fund all of the government’s trust responsibilities to Indigenous people.”

• Supporting the Oklahoma Attorney General in a lawsuit defending the amended American Indian Arts and Crafts Sales Act of 1974. The Attorney General has been sued in his official capacity to enjoin enforcement of the act, which prohibits artists who are not members of a federally-recognized tribe from selling artwork labeled as “American Indian-made.” The resolution states support for the Attorney General is intended to “preserve for ourselves and our descendants the inherent sovereign rights of our five nations to enlighten the public toward a better understanding of Indian people.”

• Formally requesting a meeting with President-elect Trump. The Council said a “variety of topics (of) concern exist” and should be discussed with the incoming president. “We must continue to move our nations forward and work with (the) new administration,” the resolution stated.

• Supporting the nomination of Dr. Charles W. Grim, a Cherokee citizen, as Director of the U.S. Indian Health Service (IHS). Dr. Grim is a retired assistant surgeon general and rear admiral in the Commissioned Corps of the U.S. Public Health Services. Additionally, Dr. Grim served as IHS director from 2002-07.

• Urging the Department of Interior to maintain past policy and practice where tribal enrollment and registration continue to be allowable “indirect cost” to tribes. The Council pointed out the significant cost associated with determining and verifying tribal enrollment and citizenship that was once reimbursed to tribes. The policy was changed without consultation with tribal officials. Prior to 2014, tribes were reimbursed for those costs.