The Associated Press is reporting today that Larry Echohawk, the top official for the U.S. Bureau of Indian Affairs, part of the U.S. Department of the Interior, is resigning to accept a leadership position with The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Echohaw thus ends three years with the BIA that Interior Secretary Ken Salazar said "opened a new chapter" in U.S. relationships with American Indian tribes.
Mr. Echo Hawk, the assistant secretary of the Interior in charge of the Bureau of Indian Affairs, is being appointed to the Quorum of the Seventy, the Mormon Church's third-highest governing body.
President Barack Obama appointed Echohawk to oversee the BIA in 2009.
Echo Hawk, a citizen of the Pawnee Nation, was elected Idaho attorney general in 1990. He ran unsuccessfully in 1994 for Idaho governor.
He was a Brigham Young University law professor for 14 years before leading the BIA.
After his appointment, Echo Hawk said in a speech in Salt Lake City in 2009 that he wrestled with the decision to accept a position that would make him a "face" for a federal government that has had a sordid history of mistreating Indians. He finally reconciled his hesitation by vowing to be an "agent for change" instead of a mere caretaker.
"How do you reverse 200 years of struggles?" he said then. "It's not going to be easy."