RAPID CITY, S.D. - While basketball ruled the day just down the hall, Dave
Anderson, assistant secretary for Indian Affairs met with tribal chairmen
and tribal members.
Anderson came to the Lakota Nation Invitational tournament to spend time
not just with adult leaders, but to meet with the most important people,
"Our youth are the real strength of our nations," Anderson said.
He told the tribal chairmen at the Great Plains Tribal Chairmen's
association meeting that the Cobell lawsuit has caused a necessary change
in the BIA.
"Tribes, tribal people and tribal economies are all changing, probably at a
faster rate than what bureau has been able to keep up with. We have to
recognize today that the bureau has to be about change," Anderson said.
He said the bureau has to set higher standards and that business as usual
is not appropriate. Anderson recognized that the tribes are growing more
sophisticated and more technologically advanced than the bureau.
"We are in a period of time that, I believe we will see more change happen
in the coming years than we have ever seen throughout the course of the
history of the bureau. It's very challenging, but I have to look at it very
optimistically because as an Indian person myself I recognize that we are
also at a point in time, for the first time because of the Internet we can
communicate with all of our people," Anderson said.
Anderson has been at the helm of the BIA for about a year. In that time he
has traveled the country, met with tribal people and leaders, attended
large conventions and gatherings and has gone into the schools to speak
He spoke to a gathering of young people at the LNI in his usual
cheerleading way. He spoke of a new era in BIA education that would create
leadership academies out of the BIA schools.
He said if they can create such schools in Harlem, N.Y. that boast 100
percent admission to colleges with only a letter from the school, why can't
Indian country do the same?
"I don't believe Native American youth were born into the world with fewer
brain cells than others," he said.
Anderson recognized that many people in the BIA are of retirement age and
there is a need to attract younger people. He said, however, the tribes are
hiring the brightest people and that leaves the BIA with a smaller pool of
He reminded the chairmen that he didn't have all the answers. "But I came
because I care. The leadership is more knowledgeable than I will ever be.
"I spend hours praying for guidance and wisdom. I have to deal with tribes
with problems every day."
Economic development is an issue that Anderson is dealing with. He said
there will be an economic development summit held in February. But to get
the ball rolling, he has hired Lance Morgan on a part-time basis to head up
the economic development sector of the BIA.
Morgan is the executive director of Ho-Chunk Inc. and under his guidance
has created a $100 million business for the Winnebago of Nebraska.
"The economic development office was an orphan step child. It had three
guys with no budget and ran the guaranteed loan program. Now I want people
on board that have been in the trenches," Anderson said.
Lyle Jack, councilman from Pine Ridge, said his tribe has a lot of trouble
with infrastructure, as do some others, and that it is a Catch-22 to
accomplish anything resembling good economic development. The tribe can't
impose a tax, doesn't have the funding from the federal government to
improve roads, water and sewer and therefore can't attract business
"I recognize your problem," Anderson said.
But the BIA is not the only game in town when it comes to economic
development assistance. Ken Davis, newly-elected chairman at Turtle
Mountain, said other agencies in the federal government have help, but
under the Bush administration's economic development plan the domestic area
is not a priority.
Davis said he has given a lot of testimony to the BIA, but hasn't seen any
The Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe has been allocated $2.2 million a year for
road repair and construction through the BIA, but the money has been
diverted to other areas. No road work has occurred and to date the estimate
is that the road construction fund should be at $11 million, but is not. It
would take $200 million to get roads up to standard on the Cheyenne River.
"I hear you loud and clear. I have frustration too. There is not enough
money and I can't change what Congress gives me.
Morgan said in the short time he has been with the BIA, just three months,
his frustration is there is not understanding of what is happening on the
"The answer lies on the reservations. Stabilize the governments and once
established the government will play a supplemental role."
Other areas include the need to identify American Indian businesses so that
the Buy Indian Act can be implemented. Morgan said there is no database to
search to find American Indian-owned businesses from the government or
He said Indian country is faced with callous attitudes in the BIA, and they
are looking for leadership and guidance.
Anderson said he faced criticism when he first took over his role at the
BIA. He said he received five pages of ethics violations. "I was just
trying to help the tribes," he said. He didn't go into detail about the
"I have recognized the need to reach out to other agencies. We need to find
ways to cut the red tape so we can have home ownership and create a wealth
on the reservations that can be leveraged," Anderson said.
"When I took office I asked those of the BIA if there was any training, or
leadership training, or program training or a program to deal with working
with people. The answer to all of that was, 'no,'" Anderson said.
"The BIA should become solution conscious not problem conscious," Anderson