The Interior Department has tapped a former government official and Indian chief to oversee the creation of a new office to manage Indian trust funds. Ross Swimmer, the assistant secretary of Indian Affairs during the Reagan administration, will lead the reorganization effort
to improve the agency's troubled trust accounting system. Swimmer, a former chief of the Cherokee Nation in Oklahoma, will devise a plan for consolidating the trust duties currently performed by several offices into the new Bureau of Indian Trust Assets Management. Interior Secretary Gale Norton praised Swimmer for his extensive experience working with Native American issues and his government background. "His knowledge, commitment and impressive array of management and advocacy skills will provide the leadership that is required to transition the Indian trust program," Norton said. Swimmer is responsible for ensuring the new office gets enough staff and money to operate and for developing strategic plans for trust activities, according to an Interior Department statement. An assistant secretary, not yet named, will lead the new bureau. "The department wants to get through the consultation process with the tribes" before it decides on a new assistant secretary, said Interior spokesman John Wright. Swimmer, who is also an attorney and banker, will serve as a liaison with Indian tribes, Congress, department employees and others interested in the reorganization.