There’s a new leader of the Indian Affairs section at the Department of the Interior. Kevin Washburn, the dean of the University of New Mexico School of Law, has been named as assistant secretary, one of the most important positions for Native Americans in the federal government.
Washburn replaces Larry Echo Hawk, who stepped down in April to accept a leadership role in the Church of Latter Day Saints (Mormons). He was chosen over the acting secretary, Del Laverdure, who was serving since Echo Hawk’s departure.
Washburn, a member of Oklahoma’s Chickasaw Nation, has been dean at the New Mexico university’s law school since 2009. He is a highly respected legal expert on tribal issues, having held teaching positions at the University of Arizona, the University of Minnesota and Harvard Law School. He is a graduate of the University of Oklahoma and Yale Law School.
Interior Secretary Ken Salazar praised Washburn for his “keen understanding of the many issues that affect Indian Country.”
“His strong professional and academic experience will be a key asset to the department as we continue to strengthen the integrity of the government-to-government relationship with Indian tribes and empower Native American and Alaska Native communities,” said Salazar. “He will be an excellent addition to our team.”