Saturday, August 24, 2019


Dave Anderson resigns from BIA
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Dave Anderson has spent just a year in his post as head of the Bureau of Indian Affairs. He resigned Monday, saying he could be more effective in helping Indians in the private sector. (Photo by David Melmer, courtesy of Indian Country Today)
Dave Anderson is stepping down as head of the Bureau of Indian Affairs. Anderson, is a member of Lac Courte Oreilles Lake Superior Band of Ojibwe Indians from Wisconsin. A Minnesota resident, he founded the successful Famous Dave's barbecue chain. Anderson's time at the BIA was brief: just a year. Some say that didn't give Anderson much time to help the region's tribes.

Washington, D.C. — As the Red Lake Band of Ojibwe's self governance coordinator, Lisa Spears had a chance to work with Dave Anderson.

Spears says her tribe was able to convince Anderson and the BIA, at least in theory, that Red Lake needs a new water and sewer infrastructure.

Officials at Red Lake have been fighting for years to get Federal funds for the reservation's collapsing water system.

Now with Anderson's departure, Spears fears their work was in vain.

"In a lot of instances where that happens they tend to bring in a whole new group of people," she says. "And I guess we start all over again sometimes with re-deucation that group of people. Hopefully we will not have to start that whole process over again."

Spears says she's disappointed with Anderson's tenure at the BIA.

She respects his priorities, which were economic development and helping youth on the reservation, but she says they came at the expense of other needs.

"There's maybe funds being taken away for other initiatives to fund his initiatives and he didn't go out and find new money for those things," she says. "I felt like there was just money moved around to different areas."

Spears has a list of qualities she'd like to see in the next head of the BIA.

She wants someone who's worked at the tribal level, not a Washington insider.

And she wants someone who knows the needs of Indian Country, someone who's not afraid to come back to the reservation for frank talk.

There was a sense of pride among Minnesota's native population when Dave Anderson took the Washington job.

And there was a hope that having a Minnesota resident in that position would be good for the region's tribes.

Julie Pelletier teaches Native American cultural issues at University of Minnesota at Morris.

She's also a member of the Mi'kmaq-Maliseet tribe of Quebec and Maine.

"Any constituent would feel that way wouldn't they?" she says. "Your sense is this person will understand our problems better and look out for us better."

Pelletier says despite their hope, Minnesota Indians were disappointed that Anderson didn't deal with the controversial issue of Indian gaming.

Anderson excused himself from any decisions dealing with gambling for ethical reasons.

He founded Grand Casinos Inc., the former casino management company for the Mille Lacs Band of Ojibwe, before leaving to start Famous Dave's.

"Certainly his connection to Indian gaming was probably a lot closer than it should be and so maybe he was ethically correct in removing himself," Pelletier says. "But then perhaps he was not the correct person for that position, since he had such a close tie to Indian gaming."

Peletier says some were also disappointed that Anderson didn't weigh in on the issue of which tribes get federal recognition or that he didn't clear up controversial money problems at the BIA.

But then she says there wasn't much he could have done with only 12 months on the job.

Anderson's resignation is effective February 12th.