Indian Country Reacts to Larry Echo Hawk’s Announcement

Following the March 31 announcement from the Church of Latter-day Saints, and confirmed by the Department of the Interior, that Larry Echo Hawk, Assistant Secretary of Indian Affairs (ASIA), will be stepping down from his post within the Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA) to fulfill a calling within the church, individuals connected to Indian country shared their thoughts.

Following the March 31 announcement from the Church of Latter-day Saints, and confirmed by the Department of the Interior, that Larry Echo Hawk, Assistant Secretary of Indian Affairs (ASIA), will be stepping down from his post within the Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA) to fulfill a calling within the church, individuals connected to Indian country shared their thoughts:

Jefferson Keel, National Congress of American Indians president and Lt. Governor of the Chickasaw Nation:

“Larry Echo Hawk’s leadership at the Bureau of Indian Affairs has set a new standard for generations to come. While he will be greatly missed in this position, his legacy - the manner in which he carefully listened to tribal leaders and tribal citizens, acted to remove historic barriers for tribes, and framed a new vision for the BIA’s relationship with sovereign tribal governments - is a legacy that will continue to ripple through the federal government. Larry’s service was not only exemplary as a federal official, but also as an American Indian leader who served the United States and tribal nations with dignity and respect. He elevated our nation-to-nation relationship to its rightful place, and for that we are grateful.”

Jacqueline Pata, NCAI’s executive director:

“There is no doubt that in the last three years a new era for tribal relations with the United States has emerged and Larry Echo Hawk played no small part in it. He will always be remembered for the way he acted as the top official of the BIA. He listened with great conviction, setting a tone for consultation that we must always ensure is reflected in the federal government’s approach to nation-to-nation meetings. Larry, much like his brother John Echohawk, leads with a quiet strength. He would stay through long meetings, contentious discussions, and resolve to find clear paths for moving forward. His even keeled approach to engaging with his federal counter parts allowed so much work to get done and we wish him the best in his future endeavors.”

John Echohawk, Larry Echo Hawk’s brother, is the Executive Director of the Native American Rights Fund:

“Well, he had a calling from the church and, as I understand it, those are the kind of calls that you really have to accept. It’s a great honor and he really felt he needed to honor the church and accept the call. I think we’re all going to miss him very much in Indian affairs.”

Ray Halbritter, Oneida Indian Nation Representative and CEO

“We extend our best wishes to our friend, Larry Echo Hawk, as he starts this new chapter in his career. The Oneida Indian Nation enjoyed a respectful relationship with Mr. Echo Hawk due to his commitment to promote our government-to-government relationship with the United States.”

Bill John Baker, principal chief Cherokee Nation

“I wish Assistant Secretary [of Indian Affairs] Echo Hawk all the best as he embarks on this new endeavor with the Church of Latter-day Saints. In my short time as principal chief, he has been nothing but gracious and helpful towards my administration and I am certain that the LDS Church will benefit greatly from his keen intellect, passion for public service and courteous professionalism.”

Ernie Stevens, chairman of National Indian Gaming Association:

“It has to be a tremendous appointment for him to go into the church and serve at a level that would take him away from his responsibilities in the United States government. It’s a great disappointment for me because I like when an assistant secretary is run out of Washington. I like to see an assistant secretary beat up and just shown the door,” he joked. “It’s like my father when he left – he didn’t leave Washington, but he left the bureau (BIA) because he advocated for Indian country and he stood proud and he saved lives in so many ways. So I guess I shouldn’t joke about Larry’s departure because it is very dignified and it’s tremendous for him. Larry Echo Hawk under this Obama administration – and again I’m a bipartisan person in my job – but you’ve got to recognize that this administration has done a tremendous job in communicating and advocating and trying to understand and be visible in Indian country. And there’s a whole bunch of people under Larry’s watch that you would give credit to, I’m sure. But the bottom line starts at the top and Larry Echo Hawk has done a tremendous job and he’s someone that I respect and admire and I think wherever he goes, even if it’s working in the church, we’re still going to call on him, we’re still going to need him. He’s a compassionate person who cares deeply about Indian country. I just hope the church doesn’t keep him all to itself. I hope it’ll let him continue to work in Indian country.”

Gabriel S. Galanda, an enrolled member of the Round Valley Indian Tribes, and partner with Galanda Broadman, PLLC, in Seattle:

“Larry Echo Hawk converted words to action for the benefit of Indian people, perhaps like nobody who previously held the Assistant Secretary of Indian Affairs post in modern times. Landmark federal-tribal accomplishments occurred on his watch, including the passage of the Tribal Law and Order Act, the impending settlement of over 100 tribal government trust mismanagement lawsuits, the reopening of the federal fee-to-trust process, and the advancement of the federal Indian consultation right. In all of these and many other regards, instead of functioning in the silo that can be ASIA and the BIA, he successfully made inroads to various other parts of the Executive Branch and in many instances, caused federal officials in other departments and agencies to behave differently towards Indian country. In turn, change was accomplished, not just talked about. History will tell a very positive story about Secretary Echo Hawk's time in Washington and his robust accomplishments on behalf of Indian people. His legacy will certainly last the test of time.”

Harold Monteau is a Chippewa Cree Attorney and former Chairman of the National Indian Gaming Commission:

“I can understand Larry’s accepting the high appointment in his church. I understand enough about the Mormon Church structure to know that this is kind of like being in a cabinet level appointment. I also can’t blame him for not wanting to depend on Indian Country for a living post-service. Indian Country does not treat its former political appointees the way non-Indians do. In the non-Indian world you are rewarded for service (usually as a lobbyist or consultant) and anyone who does serve as a political appointee knows they will be rewarded by “business arrangements” when they leave. Not so for Indian Country. We tend to treat Indians who do their service in DC political positions like so much road kill. We tend to focus on what they didn’t do for Indians, not what they did for Indians.”

Oklahoma Congressman Tom Cole, R-District 4:

"Larry Echo Hawk is a great friend to Indian country. During his tenure at the BIA, [Assistant Secretary of Indian Affairs] Echo Hawk has worked tirelessly to resolve important issues of tribal land and sovereignty and to bring greater economic development, education and security to tribal lands. He has been a stabilizing presence at the BIA, and his efforts will benefit tribes in Oklahoma and across the nation for years to come.

"On a personal note, I wish to note how much I will miss Larry Echo Hawk as a friend and a dedicated public servant. As I learned traveling across parts of Indian country in Larry's company, he is a man of deep understanding, profound compassion, enormous energy and genuine bipartisanship. He has served the first Americans and all Americans with distinction and integrity."