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Opinion: Get rid of assistant secretary position
Friday, May 30, 2008
Filed Under: Opinion

"Since 1974, I have watched a long line of sincere men enter full of hope and ideas, only to leave disillusioned and targets of tribal dissidents. Please believe me. It would not make a difference if the AS-IA was an Indian or a non-Indian, a Democrat or Republican. This would happen regardless of which political party was in power. I suggest you refuse the nomination while you still have your honor and integrity.

In its sad history, only three men have held the job longer than one year. Eddie Brown, Tohono O'odham, served for four years with Secretary Manuel Chavez. The next-longest service was by Ross Swimmer, Oklahoma Cherokee, who lasted two and a half years. Ken Smith, Warm Springs, Ore., served two years. All the rest resigned after one year or less. Then things got worse. The following came and left just since the year 2000, eight AS-IAs in eight years: Kevin Gover, Michael Anderson, James McDevitt, Neil McCaleb, Aurene M. Martin, David W. Anderson, James A. Cason and Carl Artman.

The people who agreed to serve were honest and sincere, but they forgot their political party's golden rule: ''If appointed to a position in the president's administration, you must be loyal to the party and work at the pleasure of the president.'' When I warned one recent appointee of this golden rule, he said he had been promised that he could make changes and suggestions to improve the BIA's service to Indian people. He quickly learned otherwise. Their motto seems to be, ''Promises are made to be broken.''

All political appointees to the position of assistant secretary for Indian Affairs have been required to carry out the mandates and policies of the president, and with little input or consultation by or with tribal leadership. It's time to put an end to this foolishness, and to reinstate the position of commissioner of Indian Affairs."

Get the Story:
Elmer Savilla: Bring back our commissioner (Indian Country Today 5/30)

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