Anderson finally receives nod to take over BIA
Wednesday, December 10, 2003

In one of its last actions before adjourning for the year, the U.S. Senate on Tuesday confirmed Dave Anderson, the founder of a national chain of barbecue restaurants, to head the Bureau of Indian Affairs.

Anderson, a member of the Lac Courte Oreilles Band of Ojibwe of Wisconsin, will be the ninth assistant secretary of the agency. He replaces Neal McCaleb, who resigned from the post a year ago this month amid scrutiny over the handling of billions of dollars of Indian money.

The trust fund is just one of the many challenges Anderson will face in the coming months. In a statement, he said his "first order of business is to continue to immerse myself in the issues at hand and to work and hand-in-hand with the American Indian and Alaska Native tribal governments."

"Next, I look forward to setting the state for a new positive direction in Indian Country for our youth, one that is full of achievement and accomplishment," he added.

As he moved through the Senate, Anderson was a largely non-controversial nominee. During his hearing before the Senate Committee on Indian Affairs this October, he avoided discussing any subject in depth, including trust reform, the federal budget and sovereignty.

The panel quickly endorsed Anderson but the Republican-led Senate was slower to act. After two delays, including one unrelated to his position, he was confirmed yesterday by unanimous consent. "Dave Anderson's inspiring vision, proven management expertise and compassion for India issues will help us improve our ability to support tribal governments," Interior Secretary Gale Norton said in response.

Anderson, a resident of Minnesota, is best known as the founder of the Famous Dave's barbecue restaurant. Since first opening near the Lac Courte Oreilles Reservation in 1994, the company has expanded to 87 locations in 23 states. Last year, the publicly-traded chain reported $90.8 million in revenues.

Anderson has stepped down from all duties at the company. He also promised to recuse himself from matters affecting a former business partner who has decisions pending at the BIA, and to divest his shares in Park Place Entertainment, the largest gaming company in the world. Park Place has partnered with several tribes with decisions before the agency.

With just several months before the 2004 election, Anderson's confirmation comes at a critical time. The BIA is undergoing a major reorganization affecting its operations in Washington, D.C., and throughout Indian Country. Tribal leaders say they have been left out of the process.

There is little Anderson can do to influence what is already in place. The central office in D.C. has already been reshuffled and the top deputies that a nominee would normally have a say in have already been chosen. Changes at the 12 regional offices are underway.

Anderson also has little role to play in the BIA budgets for the two coming years. Funding for 2004 has been signed into law and the 2005 budget, to be announced in February, is in the final stages of approval within the White House and the administration.

In a statement, Sen. Mark Dayton (D-Minn.) said he was "happy" to learn that Anderson has been confirmed. "I look forward to welcoming him to Washington. I am anxious to help him in anyway I can when he assumes the duties of the Interior's new Assistant Secretary for Indian Affairs including working together to improve conditions for Native Americans across Minnesota," he said.

The BIA is the main point of contact within the federal government for more than 560 federally recognized tribes in the lower 48 and in Alaska. It is responsible for providing services to more than 1 million American Indians and Alaska Natives. The agency oversees more than 180 schools that educate about 50,000 Indian children.

Video of Confirmation Hearing:
Senate Committee on Indian Affairs (October 22, 2003)

Relevant Documents:
Witness List, Testimony (October 22, 2003)

Relevant Links:
Famous Daves -
LifeSkills Center for Leadership -

Related Stories:
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)

All stories in the Indianz.Com Archive are available for publishing under a Creative Commons License: Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International (CC BY-NC-ND 4.0)