Top Bureau of Indian Affairs official Larry Echo Hawk
stepping down to take LDS Church post
Utah: The top official for the U.S. Bureau of Indian Affairs is
resigning to accept a full-time leadership position with The
Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, ending three years
with the department that Interior Secretary Ken Salazar says
“opened a new chapter” in U.S. relationships with American
Larry Echo Hawk, the assistant secretary of the Interior for
Indian Affairs, is being appointed to the Quorum of the Seventy,
the Mormon Church’s third-highest governing body. The
announcement from the church came Saturday during its
semi-annual general conference in Salt Lake City.
President Barack Obama appointed Echo Hawk, 63, to oversee the
BIA in 2009.
“With Larry Echo Hawk’s leadership, we have opened a new chapter
in our nation to nation relationships with American Indian and
Alaska Native tribal governments, accelerated the restoration of
tribal homelands, improved safety in tribal communities,
resolved century-old water disputes, invested in education, and
reached many more milestones that are helping Indian nations
pursue the future of their choosing,” Salazar said in a
During Echo Hawk’s tenure, the Interior Department settled a
$3.4 billion class-action lawsuit with Native American
landowners over mismanaged royalties. The settlement reached in
late 2009 is under appeal.
Salazar said he would work with Echo Hawk to ensure a smooth
transition within the BIA. It was not clear who would be
appointed to oversee the BIA after Echo Hawk’s departure.
Echo Hawk, a member of the Pawnee Nation, was elected Idaho
attorney general in 1990, the first Native American to be
elected to the position in any state. He ran unsuccessfully in
1994 for Idaho governor as a Democrat.
He was a Brigham Young University law professor for 14 years
before leading the BIA.
After his appointment, Echo Hawk said in a speech in Salt Lake
City in 2009 that he wrestled with the decision to accept a
position that would make him a “face” for a federal government
that has had a sordid history of mistreating Indians. He finally
reconciled his hesitation by vowing to be an “agent for change”
instead of a mere caretaker.
“How do you reverse 200 years of struggles?” he said then. “It’s
not going to be easy.”
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