HURON, S.D. - A South Dakota attorney wants his name to be considered for
appointment as the assistant secretary for Indian affairs.
Ron Volesky, attorney and member of the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe, recently
sent a letter to President Bush asking that his name be placed on the list
for the nomination. Volesky went through Rep. Stephanie Herseth, D-S.D.,
who endorsed Volesky for the position.
"I think it would be a tremendous challenge. I have the background and
qualifications to fill that position. 1 have always had an interest in
Indian affairs and am interested in that position," Volesky said.
Volesky said he would come to the position with no strings attached whether
politically or financially. He said he has no tribal contracts, although he
has done some work for tribes. "I don't have the baggage, I don't have the
conflict of issues that plagued Anderson," he said.
Dave Anderson, appointed by Bush to head the BIA, resigned in March.
Anderson was under the microscope before he ever took office because of his
ties to Indian gaming as a part owner in a gaming corporation. He also
owned his own business, Famous Dave's Bar-B-Que.
This is a political appointment and Volesky, a former Republican, is now a
Democrat. He served in the South Dakota Legislature for 16 years as a
representative and two years as a senator. He was a candidate for governor,
ending second in a field of four for the democratic nomination in a primary
election. He was also the democratic candidate for attorney general.
Volesky said Democratic presidents have appointed Republicans to cabinet
posts, and vice versa. "It wouldn't be out of the realm of possibilities.
People say this certainly will go to a Republican; is that the way it has
Volesky said he has given a lot of thought to trust reform and supports a
decentralized version with more local control and input.
"It is always going to have to be looked at and always something on the
table and modified and reformed for some time. We need to be open and
willing to accept suggestions from tribes," he said.
Volesky said in his letter to the president that he understood the
partisanship involved in the appointment but that he wished his
qualifications would overcome it.
"I am very proud of my heritage and I would be honored to be given
respectful and meaningful consideration for an appointment as the new
director of the Bureau of Indian Affairs," Volesky wrote to the president.
He said he has not sought endorsement for his appointment from any tribal
government or entity. His petition to the appointment has been under the
radar, he said, but with more awareness he does expect to receive some
"I think I have a very good relationship with tribal governments and always
tried to maintain good contact with the tribes. I believe one of my
strengths is that I work well with people; and besides having leadership
qualities, I reach out and listen and respect other people's opinions," he
The assistant secretary position has been empty since March 15, and there
has been little word from the Department of Interior or the White House
about any movement toward an appointment. At this time is it not known
what, if any, Volesky's competition will be.
"Indian affairs is an important aspect of national government and policy; a
position that needs to be filled in the near future. It is too important to
remain in an interim status. I hope the Bush administration moves forward,"