BIA chief steps down
February 7, 2005
By Kathryn Boughton
Kent Good Times Dispatch
65 Bank Street, P.O. Box 1139
New Milford, CT 06776
To submit a Letter to the Editor: [email protected]
Dave Anderson, acting head of the Bureau of Indian Affairs, has submitted a letter of resignation to Gale Norton, Secretary of the Department of the Interior. In his January 27 letter, which the Interior Secretary accepted with "understanding and regret," Mr. Anderson said he believes he can do more to help American Indians by working in the private sector.
The resignation becomes effective February 12.
Mr. Anderson's resignation came only a few weeks after Connecticut Attorney General Richard Blumenthal wrote to President George Bush demanding that the BIA head be fired because he was "ineffective" when dealing with tribal recognition issues.
Mr. Blumenthal said that his demand had nothing to do with Anderson personally, but resulted from the acting secretary's decision to recuse himself from recognition votes.
"David Anderson is a person of talent and dedication, but was completely unsuited to head the Bureau of Indian Affairs. His departure is good news -- for the public, for him and for Indian tribes -- because he was unable to perform highly significant, necessary responsibilities of his job. His recusal from recognition decisions was proper in light of his conflict of interest. His appointment was a grave mistake," the Attorney General said in a statement this week.
"Mr. Anderson's resignation -- which I urged last year -- provides an opportunity to appoint a leader who will seek essential, long overdue reform of a tribal recognition system that is truly broken," he concluded.
Mr. Anderson has worked with tribes on casino projects and declines to participate in tribal recognition votes because it could be viewed as a conflict of interest.
American Indian tribes [that are] recognized by the federal government are guaranteed the right to operate casinos on their reservations.
In his letter of resignation Mr. Anderson said, "I have concluded that I can have the greatest impact to improve the future of Indian country not by managing the day-to-day operations of BIA programs, but by focusing my time on developing private sector economic opportunities for Indian entrepreneurs."
Mr. Anderson was at the helm when the BIA voted to recognize the Schaghticoke Tribal Nation in January 2005.
The highly controversial vote is being appealed to the Interior Board of Indian Affairs by the State of Connecticut and a large number of Western Connecticut towns and agencies.
In December Mr. Blumenthal asked Secretary Norton to set aside the 2004 Schaghticoke decision when an internal Interior Department report revealed that the data on which the decision was based had been flawed.
The number of intra-tribal marriages had been miscalculated, raising the percentage of Indian-to-Indian marriages from 20 to 50 percent. Fifty percent has been the informal benchmark in previous recognition votes that established cultural and political continuity for a tribe.
Secretary Norton declined to set aside the recognition granted to the Connecticut tribe, but asked the BIA to expedite its review.
Copyright 2005, The Kent Good Times Dispatch.