Senate Confirms Kevin Washburn as Assistant Secretary for Indian Affairs

Senate Confirms Kevin Washburn as Assistant Secretary for Indian Affairs

The U.S. Senate confirmed Kevin Washburn as the Assistant Secretary for Indian Affairs on September 21st, 2012. The vote approved the President’s nomination by unanimous consent. Mr. Washburn is replacing Larry Echo Hawk, who left the post in April after serving as Assistant Secretary for three years.

Kevin Washburn has acted as the Dean of the University of New Mexico Law School since 2009, and is an enrolled member of the Chickasaw Nation of Oklahoma. Prior to that, he served as the Rosenstiel Distinguished Professor of Law at the University of Arizona James E. Rogers College of Law from 2008 to 2009 and as an Associate Professor of Law at the University of Minnesota Law School from 2002 to 2008. From 2007 to 2008, Mr. Washburn was the Oneida Indian Nation Visiting Professor at Harvard Law School. Previously, he served as General Counsel for the National Indian Gaming Commission from 2000 to 2002, and as an Assistant United States Attorney in Albuquerque, New Mexico, from 1997 to 2000. Mr. Washburn was a trial attorney in the Indian Resources Section of the U.S. Department of Justice from 1994 to 1997. He earned a B.A. from the University of Oklahoma and a J.D. from Yale Law School.

The confirmation was met with support on both sides of the aisle. “Kevin understands the pressing needs of Indian Country, and he brings the experience and enthusiasm needed to meet those challenges, Sen. Jeff Bingaman (D-NM), said in a statement. “The Senate’s quick approval of his nomination demonstrates the broad support he has in Washington and around the country.”

Mr. Washburn also received a broad base of support across Indian country after being nominated by President Obama this past August. NCAI President and Lieutenant Governor of the Chickasaw Nation Jefferson Keel said that “Law enforcement and trust reform will be two of the most important issues for the BIA in the coming years. Kevin’s experience as a federal prosecutor will be a great benefit.”

Washburn during his confirmation hearing noted that he would work to ensure the federal government meets its obligations to American Indians and would support those tribes working toward greater self-governance.

Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar also praised the confirmation, stating that “As we continue to strengthen the integrity of the nation’s government-to-government relationship with federally-recognized Indian tribes and empower Native American and Alaska Native communities, Kevin Washburn will be an outstanding addition to our leadership team and a vital asset for President Obama’s initiatives in Indian Country.”

House Passes Stafford Act Amendment

House Passes Stafford Act Amendment

The House passed H.R. 2903 on September 19th, 2012. The bill modifies the Stafford Act to allow tribes to request a declaration of emergency or major disaster directly from the President. Currently, tribes must rely on state governments to make a request when there is a disaster on tribal land.

The legislation was introduced by Representative Jeff Denham (R-CA) and passed the House with unanimous support.

Congressman Ben Ray Lujan (D-NM), the Ranking Member on the Indian and Alaska Native Affairs Subcommittee, said, “It’s clear that some states have been slow to act when tribal communities are facing emergency situations. Enabling tribal governments to request a disaster declaration directly from the President will speed up the process and streamline the effort to get tribes that assistance they need during a difficult time.”

The bill has been received by the Senate and referred to the Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs. The full text of the legislation can be found here.

September 20th Senate Committee on Indian Affairs Oversight Hearing on Advancing the Federal-Tribal Relationship through Self-Governance and Self-Determination

September 20th Senate Committee on Indian Affairs Oversight Hearing on Advancing the Federal-Tribal Relationship through Self-Governance and Self-Determination

The Senate Committee on Indian Affairs has scheduled an oversight hearing to examine the Indian self-determination and self-governance processes. The discussion could include a look at legislative proposals to improve the existing process for compacts and contracts, as well as the possible impacts of the recent Supreme Court decision regarding contract support costs.

The hearing will take place on Thursday, September 20th, at 2:15 PM in room 628 Dirksen Senate Office Building. Witnesses for testimony will be by invitation only, and a list will be posted on the Committee’s website once it is confirmed.

The webcast of this hearing will be available on the scheduled hearing date on the Committee website. For more information about the Senate Committee on Indian Affairs please visit: http://indian.senate.gov/

September 13th Senate Committee on Indian Affairs Oversight Hearing on Addressing Costly Administrative Burdens and Negative Impacts of the Carcieri and Patchak Decisions

September 13th Senate Committee on Indian Affairs Oversight Hearing on Addressing Costly Administrative Burdens and Negative Impacts of the Carcieri and Patchak Decisions

The Senate Committee on Indian Affairs has scheduled an oversight hearing to examine the potential impacts of the Supreme Court’s recent Match-E-Be-Nash-She-Wish (Gun Lake) Tribe v. Patchak decision, as well as the related ongoing impacts of the Court’s 2009 Carcieri decision. The hearing title is “Addressing the Costly Administrative Burdens and Negative Impacts of the Carcieri and Patchak Decisions.” Both decisions threaten existing tribal land holdings, make it more difficult for tribes to restore their homelands, and discourage future investment in reservation economies.

The hearing will take place on Thursday, September 13th, at 2:15 PM in room 628 Dirksen Senate Office Building. Witnesses for testimony will be by invitation only, and a list will be posted on the Committee’s website once it is confirmed.

The webcast of this hearing will be available on the scheduled hearing date on the Committee website. For more information about the Senate Committee on Indian Affairs please visit: http://indian.senate.gov/

September 14th House Subcommittee on Indian and Alaska Native Affairs Oversight Hearing on the Taxation of Trust Per Capita Distributions

September 14th House Subcommittee on Indian and Alaska Native Affairs Oversight Hearing on the Taxation of Trust Per Capita Distributions

The House Subcommittee on Indian and Alaska Native Affairs has scheduled an oversight hearing titled, “Per Capita Act and Federal Treatment of Trust Per Capita Distributions.”

The hearing will take place on Friday, September 14th, at 11:00 AM in room 1324 Longworth House Office Building. Witnesses for testimony will be by invitation only, and a list will be posted on the Subcommittee’s website once it is confirmed.

The webcast of this hearing will be available on the scheduled hearing date on the Subcommittee website. For more information about the House Subcommittee on Indian and Alaska Native Affairs please visit: http://naturalresources.house.gov/subcommittees/subcommittee/?SubcommitteeID=5066