Senator Ken Salazar Selected To Lead Department of Interior

Salazar tapped as interior secretary

President–Elect Obama has selected Senator Ken Salazar, a Democrat from Colorado, to lead the U.S. Department of Interior, which includes the Bureau of Indian Affairs. “Among the many responsibilities Ken will bear as our next Secretary of the Interior is helping ensure that we finally live up to the treaty obligations that are owed to the first Americans,” Obama said. “We need more than just a government-to-government relationship – we need a nation-to-nation relationship, and Ken and I will work together to make sure that Tribal nations have a voice in this administration.” “I look forward to helping address the challenges faced by our Native American communities all across this nation,” Salazar said.

Salazar currently holds the Senate seat formerly occupied by Ben Nighthorse Campbell, a Republican and member of the Northern Cheyenne Tribe. Despite being from opposing political parties, Nighthorse Campbell has endorsed Salazar’s selection to head the Department. “President-Elect Obama couldn’t have picked a better person,” Nighthorse Campbell said. “Kenny has a really strong voting record on Indian water rights, land claims, and things of that nature – he’s just a wonderful candidate. I think, very frankly, that Native America is going to be very happy with him.”

Salazar previously led Colorado’s Department of Natural Resources and worked as the state’s Attorney General. He also served on the U.S. Senate’s Energy and Natural Resources Committee. While in the Senate, he co-sponsored numerous legislative bills focused on Native American issues, including the National American Indian and Alaska Native Heritage Month Act, the Indian Health Care Improvement Act, the Sand Creek Massacre National Historic Site Trust Act, and a bill honoring Native Code Talkers.

Southern Ute Tribe Expands Hunting Onto Public Lands

Members of the Southern Ute Tribe have long hunted game on the Tribe's reservation land in southwest Colorado. Starting in 2009, Tribal hunters will begin pursuing quarry further afield -- they will hunt on public lands, exercising long-dormant rights under a century-old treaty with the federal government. Under the 1874 treaty known as the Brunot agreement, the Utes relinquished 4 million acres to the United States but retained the right to hunt on the land for "so long as the game lasts and the Indians are at peace with the white people."

One hundred thirty-four years later, the Southern Utes are invoking those rights. "It's really not as much about the animals as it is wanting to protect the treaty rights and the Tribe's sovereign authority," said Steve Whiteman, the Tribe's wildlife management director. Under the agreement, Tribal members don't have to acquire a state permit to hunt on public lands, and the Tribe will serve as the regulatory body overseeing the hunter’s activities. The 1,400-member Tribe's plans have prompted opposition among non-Native hunters, who fear the Southern Utes will hunt year-round or trespass on private land.

The Los Angeles Times has more details on the plan for hunting on public lands.

Find more information about the Southern Ute Tribe.