Washington in brief
Humetewa confirmed as U.S. attorney for Arizona
Diane Humetewa has been confirmed by the Senate as the U.S. attorney for Arizona, becoming the first American Indian woman to serve as a U.S. attorney. The vote occurred Dec. 13, less than a month after her nomination by President Bush. The fast-track treatment followed a lengthy career as an assistant U.S. attorney and a one-year wait as the smoke cleared around the controversial firing of eight U.S. attorneys, one of them her predecessor in Arizona, Paul Charlton.
The Hopi citizen's credentials and experience punched her ticket, according to testimonials that began on Capitol Hill with Arizona Sens. John McCain and Jon Kyl, who recommended Humetewa to Bush in January. Assigned from the Justice Department to the Senate Committee on Indian Affairs, Humetewa worked for McCain as counsel during his two terms as committee chairman. She has supervised a victim witness program, prosecuted federal crimes and defended the government in civil cases, trained law enforcement personnel on the statutory fine points of domestic and child abuse, and served as an appellate court judge in the Hopi court system and as a tribal liaison to the Arizona U.S. attorney's office.
At a time when the Bush administration has come under withering criticism from Indian country over the U.S attorney firings - of the eight, five had shown a focus for justice in Indian country that contributed to their dismissals, according to testimony before Congress - Humetewa brings to her post a past and continuing engagement with Indian country.
Campbell 'Creation Pendant' will benefit NMAI
Retired Sen. Ben Nighthorse Campbell, an artist before he was a congressman, donated his limited-edition ''Creation Pendant'' to the Smithsonian Institution's National Museum of the American Indian at a gathering there Dec. 4. All proceeds from the reversible, center-stoned silver hand-casting will benefit NMAI programs.
Campbell accompanied the donation with brief remarks in his trademark style, the unlikely genesis of a master jeweler being the germane case in point: ''Jewelry was probably an odd thing to be attracted to, but it was something that I learned really from my dad when I was a boy. We were very, very poor, and we used to put coins on the railroad tracks, Southern Pacific railroad tracks - we were out in California on the wrong side of the tracks, by the way - and the train would flatten that silver and that's what we would use for our metal.''
Campbell, who is Northern Cheyenne, said that toward the end of his 20-year career in Congress, as politics became more partisan and less cooperative, the artistic visions he used to wake up with had stopped visiting him. But two years into an active retirement, he added, they're beginning to come back - good news for NMAI.
The Creation Pendant is sold through the museum at (800) 242-NMAI, or online at www.AmericanIndian.si.edu/give.
Johnson sponsors wind energy companion bill
On Dec. 19, Sen. Tim Johnson, D-S.D., sponsored a Senate bill identical to H.R. 1954 in the House of Representatives, seeking to provide tribes with a sharable tax credit for renewable energy production. Johnson's co-sponsors of S. 2520 are Sens. Byron Dorgan, D-N.D., and Gordon Smith, R-Ore. ''It wouldn't be better if it were wrapped in a red ribbon,'' said Bob Gough on the eve of the Christmas season.
Rep. Raul Grijalva, D-Ariz., has pushed his bill in the House, where all tax bills must commence. H.R. 1954 is before the House Ways and Means Committee. The Johnson bill, S. 2520, has been referred to the Senate Finance Committee. A bill must pass both chambers in identical form to become law.
Gough, of Intertribal Council on Utilities Policy in Rosebud, S.D., and Native Wind in Boulder, Colo., said that because tribes are tax-exempt, they can't benefit from the tax credit available under current law as an incentive for renewable energy production. Other renewable energy suppliers automatically lower their prices by 2 cents per kilowatt hour to reflect the value of their tax credit, leaving the price of tribally generated renewable energy 2 cents per kilowatt-hour more expensive from the start. H.R. 1954 and S. 2520 propose changing the Internal Revenue Code to permit tribes to share the tax credit, which they can already possess but not transfer.
Gough anticipates that once the Grijalva-Johnson bill is enacted, tribes with wind energy potential will transfer the entire value of their tax credit for the duration of production to investors, thereby financing the front-end cost of wind tower construction. Initial construction is the biggest cost factor of the wind towers that generate wind energy, he said.
Chief of staff Garland leaves SCIA for Conrad
Senate Committee on Indian Affairs staff director Sara Garland announced in early December that she will leave the committee for the same post with North Dakota Sen. Kent Conrad.
On the committee, she served Sen. Byron Dorgan, also a North Dakota Democrat. Garland said that when the opportunity arose with Conrad, the lure of dealing with people and issues in her home state proved irresistible.
Dorgan has chosen Allison Binney, the committee's general counsel from 2005, to assume Garland's duties. Garland will stay on into January to minimize disruption in the transition.
McSwain nominated as IHS director
President Bush has nominated current acting director Bob McSwain as the IHS director, following Charles W. Grim's unexpected withdrawal from the post in September.
McSwain will fill a large pair of shoes, as the IHS budget increased in every year of Grim's tenure. Grim also oversaw the early stage of a transition in the IHS from acute care to preventive health and disease management.
However, McSwain will not be at a loss. He is a 30-year IHS veteran, and as deputy director from 2005 he has contributed to the identification and definition of agency priorities, policies, strategic directions and budget justifications, according to the agency. A citizen of the North Fork Rancheria of Mono Indians of California, McSwain began his career in Indian health in California in the mid-1970s, joining the IHS in 1976.
Mike Leavitt, secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services (of which IHS is a part), applauded McSwain's commitment to IHS clients and called on the Senate for a swift confirmation.