Washington NFL Team’s New Native American Foundation Is Already Off to a Great Start

Mark Gail/Mct/ZUMA; Photoillustration by Matt Connolly

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The CEO of the Washington football team’s recently unveiled Original Americans Foundation also runs an organization that was criticized in a federal investigation for wasting nearly $1 million and providing “no benefit” after receiving a Bureau of Indian Affairs contract.

Gary Edwards, who was announced as head of the team’s foundation this week, is CEO of the National Native American Law Enforcement Association. In 2009, the NNALEA won a contract with the Bureau of Indian Affairs to “recruit for and hire critically needed law enforcement officers (police, corrections, and criminal investigator positions) to work in Indian Country.” According to a 2012 investigation into the contract, first reported by USA Today, NNALEA produced 748 applicants for law enforcement positions—only about 4 percent of which were Native American. Even worse, not a single applicant was qualified, meaning the $967,100 in funds amounted to absolutely nothing.

The investigation mostly comes down hard on Bureau of Indian Affairs officials for allowing Edwards to negotiate the terms of the contract into something essentially useless. While the contract’s original language called for “500 qualified Native American law enforcement applicants,” according to the investigation, it was later modified to “500 pre-screened potential applicants,” effectively removing the requirements that the NNALEA provide applicants who are Native American and qualified for law enforcement jobs. In its invoices to the Bureau, NNALEA reported holding a recruiting event at the 2009 Crow Fair Celebration and placing ads in South Dakota’s Aberdeen News, though according to the investigation an official who attended the fair saw no recruiting booth or NNALEA representatives, and the Aberdeen News had no record of NNALEA ever ordering the ads.

“The NNALEA believes it met and exceeded all of its obligations under the contract with the Bureau of Indian Affairs’ Office of Justice Services, and subsequently was paid after the contract was completed,” Edwards said in a statement released Thursday night.

See the full investigation below:

 

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DEMOCRACY DOES NOT EXIST...

without free and fair elections, a vigorous free press, and engaged citizens to reclaim power from those who abuse it.

In this election year unlike any other—against a backdrop of a pandemic, an economic crisis, racial reckoning, and so much daily crazy—Mother Jones' journalism is driven by one simple question: Will America will move closer to, or further from, justice and equity in the years to come?

If you're able to, please join us in this mission with a donation today. Our reporting right now is focused on voting rights and election security, corruption, disinformation, racial and gender equity, and the climate crisis. We can’t do it without the support of readers like you, and we need to give it everything we've got between now and November. Thank you.

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