EchoHawk Should NOT Be Assistant Secretary of Indian Affairs

Larry EchoHawk

( – promoted by navajo)

To begin, let’s look at what Scott Crowell’s introduction in his opposition letter says regarding his extreme disapproval of EchoHawk being “vetted for Assistant Secretary of Indian Affairs.”


I must express my shock and dismay to hear that Larry EchoHawk is being vetted as Assistant Secretary of Indian Affairs. I have great respect for the EchoHawk name, and the highest respect for John and his stewardship of the Native American Rights Fund, and I have had the pleasure of working with many of the EchoHawks now practicing Indian law in the northwest. But I must take exception with Larry EchoHawk and share with you the specific facts as to why.

Crowell has “had the pleasure of working with many of the EchoHawks now practicing Indian law in the northwest.” What are his reasons for opposing Larry EchoHawk? We’ll look at them, and then I’ll add my thoughts in regards to the matter.

He sets the foundation leading up to the fact that Larry EchoHawk was in a position of power and he used that power to make a suggestion to “Governor Andrus to convene a Special Session of the Idaho Legislature.”  EchoHawk’s manipulative “suggestion” was for the Idaho Constitution to be amended “to change the language so that the State no longer would have a legal obligation under IGRA to negotiate for Class III gaming with Idaho’s Tribes.”

In the early 1990’s, when all the Idaho Tribes first requested gaming compacts under IGRA with the State of Idaho, there was first a dispute as to whether the Tribes could even operate bingo under Idaho law. Then-Idaho Governor Cecil Andrus asked DOI to review the situation and stated that he would honor DOI’s opinion and findings. Then- DOI Solicitor Tom Sansonetti came to Idaho, reviewed the laws and statutes and travelled the State to see what Idaho law and policy truly were regarding gaming. Sansonetti’s official opinion letter not only concluded that Idaho could not stop the Tribes from operating bingo, but that the State’s broad and bold State Lottery meant the State was obligated to negotiate Class III compacts with Tribes allowing for casino gaming, including machine gaming.

Continuing, these are the specifics of how EchoHawk, who is being considered for Assistant Secretary of Indian Affairs, attacked the Idaho Tribe’s ability to have Class III gaming.

(emphasis mine)

Larry EchoHawk,
then the Attorney General of the State of Idaho, while formally at the negotiating table with the Idaho Tribes, responded to DOI’s official opinion letter by calling on Governor Andrus
to convene a Special Session of the Idaho Legislature (a very rare occurrence in Idaho) to amend the Idaho Constitution to change the language so that the State no longer would have a legal obligation under IGRA to negotiate for Class III gaming with Idaho’s Tribes.
Imagine that, while at the table with a federal obligation to negotiate in good faith, Larry Echohawk instead headed up the extraordinary effort to change Idaho law to deprive Tribes of their federal and inherent rights to operate Class III games on their lands. Regardless of what other credentials and supporters that advocate for Larry EchoHawk’s appointment may exist, these facts and these circumstances demonstrate that he does not have the commitment to Indian Country required for the important office of Assistant Secretary of Indian Affairs.

Essentially, that’s from the “how” formula of attacking Tribal Sovereignty. Now, what about the “why?” Let’s look at his own words first.

For me, life began to change at the age of 14, when two missionaries from the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Lee Pearson and Boyd Camphuysen, came into my home and presented the missionary lessons. Up until that time I knew very little about Christian religion and had seldom attended any church. When the time came for the missionaries to challenge our family to be baptized, they first asked my dad, and then my mother, and then the children, from the oldest to the youngest. I was the second youngest in the family, and by the time they got to me everyone else had said yes. When they asked me, I remember looking at my dad, who had a stern look on his face, and I knew what my answer should be.

I was baptized, but I did not have a testimony of the truthfulness of the restoration of the gospel of Jesus Christ through the Prophet Joseph Smith.

Now, let’s look at a comment about EchoHawk from someone I absolutely trust.

…First he’s a Mormon who calls Indians “Lammonites” along with the strange Mormon beliefs of us being the “lost tribes of Israel…”

And what, is a “Lammonite?”

(emphasis mine)


The book of Mormon claims to be an account of the history of America; beginning from 600 BC to 424 AD. It names the first settlers to America, the “Jaredites”, a people who had been dispersed at the Tower of Babel. Later, another group called the Lammonites came to America (a barbaric people with dark skins); these were the American Indians.
Besides the Lammonites, another tribe called the Nephites came to this land. They were suppose to be the lost tribe of Israel.

Therefore, Larry EchoHawk is likely motivated to attack Tribal Sovereignty and Culture, because of his religious views. I’ll back that up by citing an instance from recent history, that is still going on today up to a point with Peabody Coal.

Indigenous People have been assimilated into Christianity and it is no easy subject, for it requires considering a judgment be made that is uncomfortable. A general clarification as well as an example will be given with my opinion before proceeding to McCain’s part in this forced relocation, because the “several First Mesa Hopi who had been converted to Mormonism” needs at least some general clarification before proceeding. Indigenous People in cases like this who have been assimilated into Christianity have also adapted the behaviors of their assimilators. For example, I heard an elder speak of how once they entered Boarding School as an adolescent, the ones who had been assimilated mocked them for speaking the language. How many people’s history has been lost because similar things happened in their own families and now it’s too late to retrieve? Indigenous People who have been assimilated into Christianity have every right to believe as they wish. However, abandoning the fact that in their ancestral lands lie the flesh of their ancestors which is the Earth Mother, they may see no problem fighting their relatives who hold that land sacred. So my uncomfortable judgment is, their replaced beliefs give them no right to act as predators…

I can assure Mr. EchoHawk that I am not part of the “lost tribes of Israel.” I’m an example of successful Cultural Genocide, but I got over it. I’ll be civil with my last thoughts.

EchoHawk should not become Assistant Secretary of Indian Affairs.


  1. I’ll post at Kos tomorrow morning. Why people keep trusting the extreme religious ones with power, I’ll never figure out.

  2. I have to say that your criticism of Echohawk is weak.  First, you cite to and rely on Crowell’s version of events Crowell was not a part of.  Where is there any evidence that EchoHawk “called on” the governor to call a special session?  Where is there any evidence that Echohawk personally advocated against Indian gaming? Where does Crowell get his information to support his statements that EchoHawk had a primary role in negotiations or policy-making?  He doesn’t cite any firsthand sources and neither do you–because you can’t.   You and Crowell both fail to understand that the attorney general takes an oath to act as a lawyer for the state.  What would you have had Echohawk do? Resign? So the first native attorney general in u.s. history could be replaced by a non-Indian with no interest in advancing Indian interests?  Crowell is not a tribal leader, and he does not speak for Idaho tribes who were there and have worked directly with Echohawk for years.  Did you know that the Idaho tribes are supporting Echohawk for Assistant Secretary?  If Crowell were right about Echohawk’s fitness to represent Indian interests, do you think the Idaho tribes would support Echohawk? No; Crowell got it wrong, and your reliance on him for insight about Echohawk is misplaced by a longshot.  The three largest gaming tribes in Idaho have issued letters supporting EchoHawk and that says a lot more than one man’s opinion who is not a tribal leader. The second problem with your criticism is that you judge the man based on his religion.  Your argument carried through would mean that no mormon indian is fit to represent or serve in the government over Indian affairs.  Quite a statement about yourself if you are ready to judge a man simply by your limited knowledge of his religion.  Why do believe a non-Indian attorney is right, and Idaho tribes who know Echohawk are wrong?  

  3. but first I’d like to know why you use Crowdog as you screen name? I’m curious because I’m related to Crowdog.

    I’m against a Mormon taking control of the BIA because the Mormons have some strange beliefs about our people that can be very harmful to us. They believe in taking ndn children away from their families and adopting them into wite Mormon families. They believe dark skin is bad and a recent prophet said he could “see” Indian children getting “whiter” as they became better Mormons. Putting a Mormon in charge of Indian Affairs is the same as putting a Mormon in charge of Gay and Lesbian affairs. It’s disrespectful and wrong and only done by overpowering our people. He should at least be vetted on how his beliefs would impact our ability to retain our ancient beliefs and traditions under a missionary type regime.

    As for representing the state as their lawyer, he wasn’t doing that, the State would have been better off supporting the tribes and legally should have. He opposed them to weaken them and to stop their economic development on behalf of economic interests not State interests, in other words he sold out our people and was willing to hurt our sovereignty on behalf of his white masters and church rulers. THEY, didn’t want us to make our own decisions on gambling, THEY said ndns shouldn’t gamble and were willing to force their beliefs on us, so Larry scouted for them and helped them attack the tribes plans. We don’t need someone like him in charge.

    In politics Larry Echohawk is a conservative, bluedog type who will go along with Salazar in siding with ranchers and developers all across the west. Anyone who values progressive ideas on the environment and in Indian Affairs should oppose him. The fact that some of his home state tribes endorse him is meaningless to he rest of us around the nation because we’ll be subject to his policies and his philosopy towards our people. Both his religion and his politics are bad for Indian Country and our people.

  4. Crowell’s letter says, ” I have had the pleasure of working with many of the EchoHawks now practicing Indian law in the northwest.” What would be wrong with another EchoHawk? I see many that there wouldn’t be this problem with.

    Obama needs to stop reaching so far across the aisle, that he’d have to be the leader of the Fantastic Four to get him arm back.

    ccamp, who do you think would best be Assistant Secretary of Indian Affairs?

  5. An panel at The Nation magazine had this to say about John Echohawk of NARF….

    Garrett Epps (law professor, University of Baltimore): The Rehnquist Court was the most Western Court we’ve ever had; for America’s Native people, that was not a good thing. The unthinking background of many older white Westerners includes a helping of contempt for their Indian neighbors, and the Rehnquist years completed the transition of the Court from a protector of Native people to an all-but-avowed enemy of their rights. In Lyng v. Northwest Indian Cemetery Protective Association, for example, Arizona rancher’s daughter Sandra Day O’Connor held that the US government could proceed with a logging road that the government’s own study showed would destroy the traditional religion of Native people nearby. Rehnquist led a decades-long, largely successful crusade to strip tribal governments of any jurisdiction over white people–even those living on reservation land. Obama has an appointee at hand who could begin to mend this sorry record: John Echohawk, a legendary lawyer who has run the Native American Rights Fund in Boulder, Colorado, for more than thirty years. Echohawk is a 64-year-old Pawnee and was the first Native graduate of the University of New Mexico Law School. NARF has represented tribal governments in their ongoing fight to reclaim shreds of sovereignty from federal and state governments. Echohawk was a member of Obama’s transition team at the Interior Department. The appointment of Echohawk would begin, after 230 years, to bring balance to the Court.

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