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BIA Head Sidesteps Casino Issues

6 May 2004

WASHINGTON, DC – As reported by the Washington Post: "The nation's top Indian affairs official has recused himself from the highest-profile issues related to his job -- tribal recognition, casino gambling and related land disputes -- just four months after being confirmed by the Senate.

"David Anderson, assistant secretary of the interior for Indian affairs and head of the Bureau of Indian Affairs, was traveling and could not be reached to comment, said Nedra Darling, a BIA spokeswoman.

"…He will continue to oversee other important BIA issues, she said, including education, law enforcement, tribal government services and self-governance.

"…Anderson, a barbecue restaurant magnate and co-founder of Grand Casinos Inc., was nominated by President Bush and confirmed by the Senate in December. Anderson said during confirmation hearings that he would recuse himself from tribal recognition and casino issues on a case-by-case basis, when they involved former business partners.

"…Connecticut Attorney General Richard Blumenthal told members of the House Committee on Government Reform he was deeply troubled that Anderson had delegated all decisions on those key issues to Martin.

"…Anderson's office controls the bureau's 10,000 employees, who administer almost 60 million acres of land held in trust for Indians and Alaska Natives, provide for health and human services, and run other programs for about 1.5 million Indians.

"With the advent of Indian gambling, the BIA's mission has become more complicated and the agency has come under increasing pressure to recognize -- and not recognize -- tribes. There are nearly 200 casino-owning tribes, which generate about $10 billion in annual revenue…"

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