January 27, 2009

EchoHawk to run BIA?

Obama's potential BIA nominee draws fire over gamingPresident Barack Obama has yet to announce his nominee for the Bureau of Indian Affairs but a potential pick is already generating some fire.

Larry EchoHawk, a member of the Pawnee Nation of Oklahoma, is a familiar name in Indian Country. After two terms in the Idaho Legislature, where he worked on tribal issues, he became the first Native American elected to a statewide office when he was attorney general of Idaho from 1991 to 1995.

The EchoHawk family is known for their Indian advocacy too. Larry's brother, John, serves as executive director of the Native American Rights Fund, where a cousin, Walter, also works. Along with his two of sons, Larry EchoHawk runs a law firm in Idaho that specializes in tribal representation.
Sounds good. So what's the problem?But that record isn't enough to convince Scott Crowell, another attorney, that EchoHawk is the right man to serve as assistant secretary of Indian affairs. After word of the potential nomination spread among tribal leaders who were in Washington, D.C. last week for Obama's inauguration, Crowell accused EchoHawk of not being committed to Indian Country.

"I urge you to look behind the euphoria of the new administration, and the great respect that rightfully belongs to the EchoHawk name, and look at the specific facts regarding this specific man, and call upon the Obama administration and [Interior] Secretary [Ken] Salazar to choose someone other than Larry EchoHawk for this important position," Cromwell, whose law firm exclusively deals with tribes, said in an open letter.

"Imagine that, while at the table with a federal obligation to negotiate in good faith, Larry EchoHawk instead headed up the extraordinary effort to change Idaho law to deprive tribes of their federal and inherent rights to operate Class III games on their lands," Cromwell wrote in a second letter.
Comment:  Obama's support of Indian gaming has been mild at best. If he nominates Echohawk, this may be his way of having it both ways. He picks an Indian who has a good record on most Native issues but is a Mormon who opposes the expansion of gaming.

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