No one has publicly cast the Interior Department's handling of the Shakopee enrollment issue as a political quid pro quo. But critics are questioning the agency's ability to do its job. "Clearly they've made the determination in the past that something is wrong and yet they haven't taken action," says Sam Willett, legislative assistant for Minnesota Rep. Gil Gutknecht, one of five members of Congress who joined Young in requesting the investigation. "Congressman Gutknecht believes there is enough information out there that we have an obligation to shed the light of day on some of these facts."
Speaking on condition of anonymity, another congressional staffer says a failure to restore "tribal integrity" in Shakopee could have broad implications for tribes across the nation. "This could be a real black eye for Indian gaming if we don't straighten this out," he opines. But while some fear that a Congressional investigation will lead to attacks on tribal sovereignty, the aide says, the House Resources Committee has no such agenda. "Occasionally," he notes wryly, "Congress does things for the sake of good government. We're looking into this because it's the right thing to do, not for any spin or political angle."
Winifred Feezor--a Mdewakanton elder and one of James Cohen's clients--is not worried about Capitol Hill politics either. Along with her sister Cecilia St. Pierre, Feezor is suing the Interior Department for its role in a scandal she calls "as plain as the nose on your face." After years of clamoring for a federal investigation, Feezor views the prospect of a congressional inquiry as welcome news. But she remains guarded. "It sounds good," she says wearily. "I hope the BIA will just admit that they've made mistakes and won't put this on the shelf. But until I see some action, I'm not believing."