Anderson to be Indian Affairs nominee

Department of Interior

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President Bush announced Sept. 12 that he intends to nominate David Anderson to serve as assistant secretary for Indian Affairs, an Interior Department position that has been vacant for nearly a year.

Anderson, a member of the Chippewa and Choctaw tribes, is best known as the founder and chairman of Famous Dave's of America Inc., a nationwide chain of barbecue restaurants.

Anderson's impending nomination would need approval from the Senate before he could assume an office that has been empty since former assistant secretary Neal McCaleb resigned last December. Deputy assistant secretary Aurene Martin has filled the position on an interim basis since January.

As assistant secretary, Anderson would oversee the Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA) and administer the management of Interior's Indian Trust Fund. He would manage approximately 10,500 employees who provide services to nearly 1.4 million American Indians.

Interior Secretary Gale Norton said she supports the nomination.

"David Anderson's innovative leadership and dedication to constant improvement will serve him well as assistant secretary for Indian Affairs," Norton said in a statement. "His inspiring vision, proven management expertise and compassion for Indian issues will help us in our efforts to improve the quality of services we provide to Indian country."

Anderson would take over the agency at a critical time. Interior has been involved in a seven-year legal struggle in which the department is accused of mishandling billions of dollars through the Indian Trust Fund. Related to the legal issues, a large percentage of Interior offices — including the BIA — remains disconnected from Internet services."

Anderson has donated more than $6 million to Indian programs. He created the YouthSkills Foundation to raise money for disadvantaged American Indian children. Anderson also founded the LifeSkills Center for Leadership, which targets at-risk American Indian youths and young adults.

Commissions on which Anderson has participated include: the American Indian Education Foundation (2003); the Presidential Advisory Council for Tribal Colleges and Universities (2001); and the National Task Force on Reservation Gambling (1983). He has a master's degree from Harvard University.

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