May 7, 2009

Echo Hawk Nomination Moving Quickly Through Senate Committee on Indian Affairs

Larry Echo Hawk’s nomination to be Assistant Secretary for Indian Affairs at the Department of the Interior appeared Thursday to be moving rapidly through the Senate Committee on Indian Affairs, and perhaps the Senate. Echo Hawk appeared before the committee on Thursday, May 7, less than three weeks after President Barack Obama submitted the nomination to the Senate for confirmation.
As the hearing concluded, Committee Chairman Byron Dorgan (D-ND) said it is his intention to schedule a vote on Echo Hawk’s nomination at its next regularly scheduled business meeting, set for Thursday, May 14. He said he hoped the full Senate might vote on the nomination the week after that.
It is “essential” to fill the post quickly, Dorgan noted because it has been “empty four of the last eight years. “We have over 500 Indian Tribes in this country and countless promises and treaty obligations to them. But we’ve had no permanent Assistant Secretary to run the Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA),” Dorgan said. “That’s disgraceful. We need an Assistant Secretary there to run it.”
“I am confident that you will provide the leadership that the Bureau of Indian Affairs has needed for far too long,” Dorgan told the nominee.
Echo Hawk was introduced to the committee by former committee Chairman Daniel Inouye (D-HI), who praised Echo Hawk’s background and qualifications for the post.
Committee Vice Chairman John Barrasso (R-WY) voiced his support for Echo Hawk, saying he was the “right man” for the job. Both Dorgan and Barrasso suggested that if Echo Hawk is confirmed by the Senate, he should move quickly to shore up BIA management. Working with the BIA sometimes is often like “walking through wet cement,” Dorgan said. “It’s a pretty slow slog.”
Echo Hawk said, if confirmed, his top priorities will include economic development, education, and public safety in Indian Country. He also said Indian health is an area that requires special attention.
The Assistant Secretary for Indian Affairs develops Interior Department policy on Indian affairs related issues and makes budget recommendations that affect Indian education, public safety, social health and welfare, economic development, energy development, federal recognition of Tribes, and other issues. If confirmed, Mr. Echo Hawk would also oversee agencies that carry out those functions. These agencies include: the Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA), the Bureau of Indian Education (BIE), the Office of Indian Gaming, the Office of Self-Governance, the Office of Indian Energy and Economic Development (OIEED), the Office of Federal Acknowledgement, the Office of Budget Management, and other offices at the Department of the Interior relating to Indian Tribes, individual Indians and Indian lands.
Echo Hawk currently teaches at Brigham Young University’s law school in Provo, Utah.