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Hayworth speaks out on Indian country

ICT: In your opinion, what should be the future of the BIA? Reform it? Eliminate it? Status quo?

Hayworth: I believe that there is a role for the BIA but it can't be a situation where the only relationship that exists is BIA says one thing and for the tribes it becomes another thing. In other words, a bureaucratic entity that requires forms in triplicate and doesn't seem to be in tune with the goals and desires of Indian country. I believe that it's important that we have an activist organization but one built upon true reform for the 21st century. Indeed, I wouldn't limit this solely to the BIA. It's been my long-term lament that whoever has been president of the United States, Republican or Democrat, should recognize a basic inequity but hasn't. Here we are at the dawn of the 21st century and most Native American policies are still decided within the Department of Interior, a very important cabinet agency to be sure, but an agency whose primary mission is to deal with rocks, trees and critters. Why would we have the first Americans - living, breathing human beings - classified in that department? I believe that is an institutional anachronism. It's not a reflection on Secretary (Gale) Norton, it's not a reflection on the Bush Administration, it's just something that has developed for more than a century and it's something I think we need to correct. How best to do that? I don't know. I'm interested in hearing from people across the country and I'm interested in sitting down with Secretary Norton and the officials of the administration and rethinking the relationship, not to subvert or to in any way deny the tribal trust obligations of our treaties that are law, but to rethink how best do we deliver services. What should the relationship be between the first Americans and the federal government be in the 21st century?

Those are questions that offer considerable food for thought and a multiplicity of different answers and possible solutions. That would be my challenge to both Native Americans and immigrants, if you will, alike. How do we redefine this relationship holding at central importance sovereignty, self-government and the treaty trust relationship updated for the 21st century? Has the BIA become an anachronism, has our entire treatment or policy initiatives toward Indian country been built on an anachronism that needs to be corrected? These are long-term questions for the future and I invite participation of tribes across Indian country.

ICT: Since the BIA has been involved in the approval process of tribal and state compacts and other trust issues, let's turn our attention to Indian gaming. Are you happy with the various compacts that states like Arizona have signed with their gaming tribes? Are they fair to all parties involved?

Hayworth: I think by and large gaming compacts are working well. Again, it was unfortunate to see Gov. Davis strong-arm tribes like he did in California. That's not to say these compacts are without controversy but you can hammer out good ideas and for the most part and they work well. I think Native American gaming is an important factor in fueling the economic engines for so many Native American communities across the nation. And, to offer employment opportunities not only for the first Americans but also for many other folks who now call America home.

ICT: Do you expect the pressures to increase in non-Indian areas near Indian casinos to legalize gambling? How should Native American gaming interests respond to this?

Hayworth: I think we've pretty much reached a happy medium on the gaming question. I think you've seen the involvement of some economic entities who have been involved in gaming long term who have embraced working with tribes, who have contracted with tribes like Ak Chin and Harrah's and the same thing for eastern band of Cherokees in North Carolina and some other (tribal) locations around the country. I don't think this is going to degenerate into a Las Vegas-Atlantic City vs. rest of America kind of fight. For all intents and purposes we've seen a happy medium reached.

ICT: Should there be limitations on the kinds of gaming activities that Indian casinos offer? Why?

Hayworth: That's up to the different tribes and to the governors who negotiate those compacts. The term community standards comes to mind. For example, some tribes have never become interested in this kind of thing, Navajo being the most prominent example, and that's their decision and God bless them. In much the same way the negotiations for compacts offer the give and take and the eventual consensus. Water seeks its own level and so too can the types of games offered in good-faith negotiations through the respective state compacts.

ICT: A number of tribes around the country, fueled by casino profits, have purchased large tracts of land. Do you think these lands should be allowed to be taken into trust for the tribes, meaning expansion of current reservation boundaries?

Hayworth: That is a subject of great concern to many folks, both tribal members and non-tribal members. I think we're going to see at the federal level a greater scrutiny of those lands. Indeed, I can recall during the debate in 1997, we successfully shut down the efforts to tax tribally run enterprises. We do need to have an exhaustive study which will determine how best to reconcile the claims of Native Americans with non-reservation land and with communities which have grown up in close proximity and this issue is not a done deal. I will be glad to address it if it is a priority in both Indian and non-Indian country.

(Continued in Part Three)