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The Reign of the BIA 'Montana Mafia' Needs to Be Over

Jay Daniels
5/28/13

Indian country has suffered for the past three years because the "Montana Mafia" has controlled the Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA). They have controlled the course of the BIA without regard for the entirety of Indian country. They make decisions that impact Indian country in a negative way. 

I filed a complaint with the U.S. Department of the Interior, Office of Inspector General, which responded with the following: "We will not initiate an investigation but will refer it for review and any action deemed appropriate. Upon completion, the BIA Director’s Office will respond to our office regarding action they have taken and then we will evaluate their response to determine whether or not appropriate action was taken or further involvement by our office appears warranted. We appreciate you communicating this matter to us. Your commitment in helping the [Department of the Interior] improve the effectiveness of its programs and operations benefits not only the Department but also the public we serve." 

One of the BIA director's buddies has been on a three-year detail as a special assistant to the director. Usually, a special assistant has skill and experience that will benefit the director. But in this case, the special assistant had to detail another individual from the Midwest Regional Office to act as his special assistant.  Whoever heard of a special assistant needing a special assistant?

This has been going on for almost three years. The cost to have these two special assistants has taken funds which could have helped out Indian country. The Midwest Regional "special assistant" spent more than $45,000 just in travel last year. There is no telling how much the "special assistant" to the director of the BIA spent on travel, as he lives in Billings, Montana, and regularly visits home while traveling throughout the country. All the while we have tribal communities that are hurting and suffering for lack of funding. 

The Office of Personnel Management has a policy that an individual can't be in a detail for more than 120 days, but BIA leaders continuously detail friends into positions for long periods of time while those who should have a chance to learn and gain experience are denied. This has happened throughout the history of the BIA. It's who you know and who is in control. 

Even now in the proposed Cobell Land  Buy-Back Program, BIA is proposing to put a GS-15 position in three locations. One is being advertised in the Midwest Region and guess what, the special assistant to the special assistant will get it. She is allowed to work from home whenever she wants. That's how it works in the BIA. 

The BIA Great Plains Region has the highest land fractionation and the Midwest Region has nothing, but BIA is placing the position in the Midwest. Wow, shouldn't that position be in Aberdeen, South Dakota? Figure that one out. The Montana Mafia did a great disservice to the region when they transferred a long time trust-land deputy to the human services side just so that leaders could bring a friend in to take her job. This is just one of many things that they have done to put their folks in place. It continues today and will continue. The BIA director knows that his time left in office is short, so he has arranged a change in Billings, Montana, so he can slide into it and be close to his children. That's how it works in the BIA. It's an ugly world but Indian country continues to let the BIA get away with it. 

I'm not knocking the working folks in the BIA because they work hard. It's upper level management that does what they want. The Great Plains Tribal Chairman's Association should call the BIA on the carpet for this. The GS-15 position at the Midwest Regional Office needs to be in the Great Plains Region. This is an important time for Indian country and the BIA shouldn't be neglecting your needs. 

I'm just appalled that even though the Great Plains Region has the highest fractionation, they are being treated like a stepchild. Some one needs to step up and make the BIA be accountable. I am a former BIA employee, but right is right. The Great Plains Regional Director is from Montana and buddies with the others and he's letting it happen without a word. The "Montana Mafia" needs to answer to the regional tribes. Enough is enough. But all I can do is say it. Someone needs to stand up stop the actions that are happening. The reign needs to stop.

Jay Daniels has 30 years of experience working in Indian country managing trust lands and is a member of the Cherokee Nation of Oklahoma. You can find resources and information at RoundhouseTalk.com

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Anonymous's picture
from aiahninchi ohoyo this kind of stuff always tickles me i guess i am really lucky to be living free as a non-reservation, non-tribally affiliated skin who has the wherewithall to sit and look at this kind of behavior and just shake my head it just fascinates and disgusts me how reservation people on the one hand want and expect services from the united states govt/BIA, and on the other hand resent those same services/paternilism because they are overbearing and overdemanding
Anonymous
Anonymous's picture
Perhaps I could take your article more seriously if it didn't sound like you have a personal ax to grind...
Anonymous
Two Bears Growling's picture
Amen brother! Isn't it amusing to them to post a position that's coming up all the while they know EXACTLY who IS going to get that job that isn't even needed in the area it's being set up in! MORE of the same old same old good ole boy system being paid for by yours truly: WE THE TAX PAYER! The US government needs to cut out MORE of these positions for their pets& their pet's pets. Put a position where it's going to be needed versus creating a job just for the sake of creating a unnecessary job for their buddies. This is WRONG & a huge waste to the tax payers. We need to be managing our OWN tribal nations without the US government butting in OUR business! We need to control our OWN money & decide what WE need as First Nations people! How else are we ever going to cut the apron strings with the nanny state mentality of the US government always telling us what WE need when they have no clue about what WE need!
Two Bears Growling
Anonymous's picture
WalksFarWoman The corrupt actions of BIA officials is widespread. In ENA and the Phoenix Area Office, complaints and investigative inquiries are unanswered or ignored. We have contacted Congressional Delegates and we are hopeful that something will be done. These officials are to be held to a higher threshold of accountability, but we as native people cannot sit idly by and not address these issues.
Anonymous
Anonymous's picture
Where is AIM? Why don't they address this? Where is there lawyers to help address these issues?
Anonymous
Anonymous's picture
So, some vague complaint (that we don't even know what it was about) followed up by a vague bureaucratic response is proof that there's some sort of "mafia" going on? You better get a dictionary.
Anonymous
Anonymous's picture
These people are linked to Jeanette Hanna, Paul Tsosie, and Larry Echohawk. Take a look at all the bad press the BIA at the Osage Agency in Pawhuska, OK. Deliberate mismanagement for the past ten years.
Anonymous
Anonymous's picture
There is a lot of truth to the article....there is no accountability and the leaders do set each other up, let's pray the Tribes up north take some actionob the issue. I don't believe tax payers should have to pay for this type of abuse. There is too much abuse of authority in the BIA.
Anonymous
Anonymous's picture
Folks, it's more than you think. But i am not at not liberty liberally to discuss them. It's not a personal vendetta, but it's about doing what is right. But if Indian Country is ok with it, then so be it. I just wanted everyone to know. I have no personal vendetta. because all of these folks were my friends for 20 plus years. it's just that they are tearing up Indian Country and I couldn't stand by and let them do it. So have your opinion. I gave mine and you can have yours. No offense but I just thought you might want to know.
Anonymous
Anonymous's picture
All by Designed by the U.S. and their paternal gatekeepers of systematic oppression, repression, lie's, falsehood's, thievery, destruction and national genocide of all authentic Traditional Sovereign First Nation Governments, Ancestral Indigenous Red Homeland's, Treaty Lands, and all other Resources through the BIA puppet government's, called the IRA Tribal Government's that knowingly are killing and destroying their own people, spirituality, children, cultures and destiny as a authentically free, sovereign and liberated that are committing genocide upon their own kind ! U.S genocidal institutionalized construct of domination and conquest over the free world that historical is the most dehumanizing, violent, exploitive and victimizing evil, hateful, racist construct of white mans white supremacy upon our red intrinsic, divine, consecrated, ordained homeland's, given only to our authentic genuine, sovereign red indigenous, sovereign, governments by God and the Son of God! This U.S. construct of genocide is by design, and they know what the out come it, because the construct of death, hopelessness, oppression, despair, and the suicide of our red elders, youth and parents; engenders, this kind of out come, and institutional racism and hatred and economical genocide of our red indigenous, sovereign, authentic, traditional nationhood's that are free and liberated from Empires dehumanizing existence, racism and domination of Life, all Life!. Wanbli 2013
Anonymous