May 07, 2009

Crapo Introduces BIA Nominee EchoHawk

Former Idaho Attorney General begins confirmation process

Washington, DC - Former Idaho Attorney General Larry EchoHawk today began the process of Senate confirmation regarding his nomination to be the next Assistant Secretary for Indian Affairs, Department of Interior. As a member of the Senate Select Committee on Indian Affairs and fellow Idahoan, Idaho Senator Mike Crapo had the honor of introducing EchoHawk before the Committee during today's hearing. EchoHawk's nomination must still be approved by the full Senate.

Alonzo Coby, Chairman of the Fort Hall Business Council for the Shoshone-Bannock Tribes, also spoke at today's hearing and endorsed the nomination. EchoHawk was universally praised by the members of the committee.

Crapo made the following statement today in introducing EchoHawk:

"Thank you, Mr. Chairman, Senator Barrasso, and members of the committee. I appreciate the opportunity to introduce Larry EchoHawk to the Committee on the occasion of his nomination hearing.

"I am pleased that President Obama has nominated Larry for the important position of Assistant Secretary of Interior for Indian Affairs. Although Larry was born and raised outside of Idaho, we Idahoans can correctly point out that he has lived his adult life in our great state and that some of his greatest political and professional successes have been in Idaho. I congratulate Larry and his wife Terry, their children and grandchildren on the distinct honor of his selection.

"Larry's diverse background and professional experiences make him an outstanding candidate for the position. Although his Pawnee Tribe background has made him many times a 'first' in elective office, Larry's real legacy is in the high regard he is held by those who have worked with him.

"Larry has served as Bannock County Prosecuting Attorney and as a two-term member of the Idaho State House of Representatives. He and I served together, he in the House and me in the Senate, from 1985 until his election to Attorney General in 1990. In addition to being Idaho's first Native American state-wide officeholder, Larry was the Democratic nominee for governor in 1994. Although he has been out of public service for over a decade, he is still remembered fondly and with great respect in the halls of power in Idaho.

"Since his time in elective office, Larry has taught criminal law and Native American law at Brigham Young University, our Alma Mater and where he played football, and is the senior partner of EchoHawk Law Offices. Among his clients are the Shoshone-Bannock Tribes of the Fort Hall Indian Reservation in Idaho, to which he has been a general legal counsel since 1977.

"The challenge for the Bureau of Indian Affairs remains the same as it ever was - to do as much as possible to fulfill the trustee responsibility of the federal government to Native Americans. Unfortunately, while so much good has been done, for too long now, this trustee responsibility has suffered through periods characterized by confusion, neglect, underfunding, conflict, and miscommunication. While much has been done in recent years to address the historic problems plaguing the Bureau-administered programs, so much more needs to be done.

"Per-person outlays for tribal health services, while never a perfect measure of a program's effectiveness, lag well behind comparative spending through Medicare and Medicaid. Investments in tribal education, justice, housing, and transportation also are chronically short-changed. We cannot expect Larry or any other Bureau official to overcome these challenges overnight, but it is my hope that steps to address this situation can be made.

"But funding issues aren't the only way to help tribes. Appropriate respect for sovereignty is a persistent challenge that the federal government can help promote by leading by example. In our state, the federally-recognized tribes have demonstrated tribal capacity to be a real player in solving problems. The Nez Perce Tribe provides the monitoring of wolf recovery on behalf of the federal and state governments. The Kootenai Tribe is the first tribe to sign an MOU with the Department of Homeland Security to use its identity cards for valid cross-border travel documentation and manages important salmon hatcheries that help us recover endangered fish stocks. The Shoshone-Paiutes in Southwest Idaho played a major part in bringing to fruition the Owyhee Initiative management statute. The Coeur d'Alene Tribe remains a major partner in the implementation of the Lake Management Plan for Coeur d'Alene Lake. And the Shoshone-Bannock Tribes, as Larry well knows, is a major leader in the environmental protection of Southeast Idaho.

"Mr. Chairman and members of the committee, I believe Larry EchoHawk has the background and temperament to help bring proper attention to the needs of and problems facing our nation's tribes. His service in the public and private sector, as well as his groundbreaking role as a Native American pioneer, demonstrate the capacity to do well in the difficult position of Assistant Secretary of Interior for Indian Affairs.

"As a fellow Idahoan and advocate for Idaho's tribes, I am pleased to present Larry EchoHawk for the committee and Senate consideration. If he is confirmed, I look forward to working with him again in his new position to promote the needs of Native Americans. Thank you, Mr. Chairman."