Levi Rickert, editor-in-chief in Native Currents. Discussion »
WASHINGTON Kevin Washburn, President Barack Obama's nominee to be the Assistant Secretary for Indian Affairs within the Department of the Interior, told the US Senate Committee on Indian Affairs last Friday his wife is the
chief guide, partner and supporter.
Senate Committee Chairman Akaka and Kevin Washburn After Hearing
“And if not for her influence in my life, I would have no business being before you today,”
Washburn told the senators. He and his wife, Elizabeth Rodke Washburn are both tribal citizens of the Chickasaw Nation of Oklahoma.
Washburn, the current dean of the University of New Mexico Law School, was nominated by President Obama last month and testified Friday before the US Committee on Indian Affairs in a standing room only crowd in the Dirksen Senate Office Building, Room 628.
He was introduced to the Committee by Chickasaw Governor Bill Anoatubby, tribal chairman.
US Representative Tom Cole - Chickasaw with Washburn
“Like some Indian women, my mother has a lot of strength and has even been accused of being domineering on occasion. I would never say that, of course,”
Washburn told the senators at the hearing.
Growing up on the reservation equips him with personal knowledge of receiving medical care at Indian Health Service hospitals where waiting for service take hours.
When I was a child, we often waited hours beyond the time of our appointment to be seen at the IHS hospital, as a result my mother often had to take all three kids to the hospital even if only one of us had an appointment because she had no idea if the appointment would be concluded by the time the other children would be finished with school. I had a brother who suffered from asthma throughout his childhood, and thus I spent many hours of my youth with both my siblings and my mother in IHS hospitals in Ada and Talihina, Oklahoma. We did not know any other way,
It was a crowded Senate Hearing Room
Washburn saw the benefits of tribal self-governance. He recounted the benefits of the Chickasaw Nation taking over management of that hospital.
I am proud to say that, under the leadership of Governor Bill Anoatubby, the Chickasaw Nation took over the operation of the Carl Albert Indian Hospital under a 638 contract and later a self-governance compact. Frankly, this action was initially controversial. Our modern government was still relatively young, and after decades of being taught that we could not run this sort of program ourselves, I think that some Chickasaw citizens were a little skeptical about whether this was a good idea,
If confirmed, Washburn will work cooperatively with tribal leaders in the area of self-governance and tribes providing direct services.
“I think that there is a deeper truth at work and it is this: Indian tribes can serve their citizens, in many cases, better than the federal government can,”
It is possible the Committee will vote on his confirmation this week and ask Senator Harry Reid to advance his nomination to the full US Senate.
posted September 17, 2012 9:10 am edt