The top Native American at the Bureau of Indian Affairs, Dave Anderson, needs to immediately resign from his post. Anderson has neglected a major part of his job, and he seems more interested in maintaining the Bush administration's agenda of indifference than meeting the needs of Indian Country.
In the few months since heading up the bureau, Anderson, who is Choctaw and Ojibwe, has been running into a beltway buzzsaw of criticism for his refusal to perform a key duty of his job -- overseeing tribal gaming.
Many, including Sen. Ben Nighthorse Campbell, R-Colo., the lone Indian (Cheyenne) in Congress, are wondering why Anderson accepted the appointment from President Bush in the first place.
The outrage began in April when Anderson announced that he would stay out of all decision-making related to Indian gaming. The successful chain restaurant owner from Minnesota (founder of "Famous Dave's) said he was concerned with drawing conflict-of-interest accusations. He had business ties to a New England group seeking tribal recognition, but that association was 10 years ago.
In addition to advocating for more federal dollars to help fill desperate health, education and law enforcement gaps throughout Indian Country, a big part of Anderson's job requires him to be actively engaged in gaming affairs. To walk out of the meeting room when the topic turns to gaming matters is a lot like a baseball manager walking off the field after every fifth inning.
Indian leaders were puzzled when the Bush administration chose Anderson for this critical liaison role. Anderson does not have any tribal government experience. His understanding of complex federal Indian policy is murky, at best. The only positive Anderson seems to have is a "If I can do it, so can you" attitude.
Anderson's self-help approach to Indian Country shifts focus away from the federal government's treaty-bound obligation to fund basic survival services to Indians.
Though the bureau has its own history of indifference to tribes, it has improved its mission to serve Indians in the past number of years, especially under the leadership of Kevin Gover (Pawnee). It provided tribal nations with a glimpse of how a true government-to-government relationship could work.
Unfortunately, unless Dave Anderson walks out of the room permanently, this vision of building stronger relations between Washington and Indian Country will quickly fade.
Mark Anthony Rolo is a member of the Bad River Band of Ojibwe in Wisconsin. He is the former executive director of the Native American Journalists Association. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.