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BIA head Anderson speaks to tribal youth
Wednesday, February 18, 2004

The new head of the Bureau of Indian Affairs is taking his message of positivity and empowerment to the next generation of tribal leaders.

As founder of the Lifeskills Center for Leadership, Dave Anderson is used to working with Native youth. But his appearance before the United National Indian Tribal Youth last Friday was his first as a government bureaucrat.

Yet Anderson didn't necessarily want attendees of the Washington, D.C., meeting to see him that way. Calling attention to his own troubled past, he urged Native youth to stay free of drugs and alcohol as they lead tribes in the next century.

"As Native youth, you are the leaders of tomorrow," he said. "You are the leaders of Indian Country."

Anderson said his battle with substance abuse was so bad that at one point he didn't remember wrecking his car. Another time, he suffered a heart attack from drug use.

"My immune system was so shocked that I barely made it to the hospital," he recalled. "The doctors told me that if I had gotten there two hours later that I would have been on life support."

"So today, I really feel I'm living a life of gratitude," he continued. "I really feel that, today, my purpose in life, the reason God kept me alive, was so that I could be able to come and share my story with you."

A member of the Lac Courte Oreilles Band of Ojibwe from Wisconsin, Anderson's message mixes Native empowerment with business acumen and a big heaping of motivational-style speaking. In 1994, he opened a restaurant near his tribe's reservation. Famous Dave's is now a publicly-traded chain of of 87 restaurants in 23 states.

Part of the reason for his success, he said, was his desire to be more than average. He spent most of his early life that way -- ranking at the bottom of the class and failing graduate from high school.

"There is no reason for you, as Native people, why you should live lives of mediocrity or just being average," he said.

Another factor, he told the youth, is to keep a positive outlook when encountering obstacles. "Become solution conscious, not problem conscious," he said.

That's a philosophy he intends to take as head of the BIA, one of the most troubled agencies in the federal government. He's jumping headfirst into the scandal over the broken trust fund, a reorganization that tribal leaders oppose and other problems.

But he said he doesn't intend to shoulder it alone. He urged youth not to blame the federal government, or their tribes, for everything that goes wrong. "Don't go your tribe and say, 'Where's my free housing?'" he said. "Every one of you should be thinking, 'How can I become a homeowner?'"

Anderson was sworn in to his post two weeks ago. His next major appearance is before the National Congress of American Indians, which is holding its annual winter session in Washington, D.C., next week.

Relevant Links:
United National Indian Tribal Youth - http://www.unityinc.org/index.php
Famous Daves - http://www.famousdaves.com
LifeSkills Center for Leadership - http://www.lifeskills-center.org

Related Stories:
Anderson asks for prayers in new job as head of BIA (02/05)
Dave Anderson finally sworn in as head of BIA (2/3)
Q&A with Dave Anderson: 'I'm not an Indian leader' (12/15)
Dave Anderson: So much to do, so little time (12/12)
'Famous' Dave Anderson confirmed to head BIA (12/11)
'Nobody better' to head BIA than Anderson (12/10)
Dave Anderson nomination hits another snag in Senate (12/01)
Daschle meets with BIA nominee Dave Anderson (11/21)
Anderson asked to reconsider Pequot recognition (11/20)
Indian Affairs panel had placed hold on Anderson (11/17)
Ex-Anderson partner funding Nipmuc recognition bid (11/11)
Anderson faces challenges upon arrival at BIA (11/10)
Hold on Anderson nomination for BIA baffles some (11/3)
Anderson nomination to head BIA put on hold (10/31)
Anderson involved in opening of new restaurant (10/31)
Minn. senator rejects talk of Anderson hearing snub (10/24)
BIA nominee wins endorsement of Senate panel (10/23)
Minn. senator upset over Anderson hearing snub (10/23)
Anderson firm took 40 percent of casino profits (10/22)
Anderson's marching orders: Avoid controversy (10/22)
Hearing on BIA pick Anderson moved to new room (10/21)
Editorial: 'Cloud' hanging over Famous Dave (10/17)
Ex-Anderson partner has projects before BIA (10/13)
BIA nominee Anderson not so famous beyond BBQ (09/26)
Martin not upset she was passed over for BIA post (09/25)
White House acts to fill top BIA leadership post (09/15)
Biography: BIA nominee 'Famous' Dave Anderson (09/15)
Lack of BIA nominee puzzles Indian Country (08/07)

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