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Contact: Dan DuBray
Jan. 3, 2003

Norton Applauds Nomination of Ross O. Swimmer
As Special Trustee for American Indians

Interior Secretary Gale A. Norton today applauded President Bush's nomination of Ross O. Swimmer, currently director of the Office of Indian Trust Transition and a former Assistant Secretary for Indian Affairs, to be Special Trustee for American Indians.

"Ross Swimmer is an outstanding selection to be Special Trustee for American Indians," Norton said. "The first Native American ever to be nominated to this position and a former tribal chief of the Cherokee Nation, he has an 18-year record of leadership and service to Indian Country and brings with him a wealth of experience in managing issues important to Native Americans."

"It is hard, in fact, to imagine a more qualified person than Ross Swimmer to be Special Trustee," Norton said. "He has a lifetime of service to Indian country as an advocate on behalf of tribes for tribal sovereignty through tribal self-sufficiency."

"Along with his deep knowledge of issues important to Native Americans, he has a strong background in banking and finance and in managing government programs as Assistant Secretary for Indian Affairs in the Reagan administration," she said.

The position of Special Trustee for American Indians was created by Congress in the 1994 American Indian Trust Fund Management Reform Act. The Special Trustee ensures that the policies, procedures, practices, and systems of the Bureau of Indian Affairs, Minerals Management Service, and the Bureau of Land Management related to the discharge of the Secretary's trust responsibilities are coordinated, consistent, and integrated. The Special Trustee also accounts for the daily and annual balance of all funds held in trust by the United States for the benefit of an Indian tribe or individual Indians and has direct fiduciary responsibility for these assets.

Swimmer served as Assistant Secretary of Indian Affairs from 1985 to 1989. He was responsible for the general policy regarding Indian affairs and oversight of Indian activities. He had direct experience with the management of tribal trust funds and settlement of tribal water right claims in the West.

In 2001, Swimmer returned to the Department to serve as director of the Office of Indian Trust Transition.

Swimmer also served as principal chief of the Cherokee Nation of Oklahoma, where he was elected to three successive terms. Under his leadership, he focused on implementing the concept of self-help for rural development, which became a model for Indian tribes and rural areas throughout the country.

During his tenure, the Cherokee Nation was recognized as innovative and progressive. His accomplishments as principal chief include improving economic development, health care, rural housing, water and waste water facilities, and education.

"I've known Ross Swimmer since he became Principal Chief of the Cherokee Nation in 1975," said Chad Smith, Principal Chief of the Cherokee Nation. " He was a chief with vision and determination for our tribe then and I think he would make an outstanding Special Trustee for American Indians now. I applaud the President for his nomination and I'm looking forward to working with Ross in the future."

Chairman John Barrett with the Citizen Pottawomi Nation in Shawnee Oklahoma said, "I wholeheartedly endorse the nomination of Ross Swimmer to be the next Special Trustee for American Indians. I believe he is uniquely qualified for the position and will protect the interests of Indian People."

Swimmer served as president of the Cherokee Group L.L.C., from 1995 to 2000. The Group is a consulting firm that represents Indian clients engaged in government issues at the state and federal level and supports the development of businesses on Indian lands.

Swimmer's prior positions include serving as "of counsel" to the law firm of Hall, Estill, Hardwick, Gable, Golden & Nelson, P.C., where he organized the Indian law practice section of the firm.

Swimmer also served as Chairman of First State Bank located in Hulbert, Okla., at the time, one of only two American Indian owned banks in the U.S. Before that he was Chairman and CEO of Cherokee Nation Industries, a manufacturing company that he reorganized in the mid-1970's during his term as principal chief.

With his roots in Oklahoma, Swimmer attended Oklahoma University, where he received both his Bachelor of Arts and Juris Doctor degrees.

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