FROM THE ARCHIVE

Neal McCaleb in Review

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MONDAY, JULY 23, 2001

Last week, Indianz.Com had the chance to sit down with Assistant Secretary Neal McCaleb for a conversation about his new job running the Bureau of Indian Affairs.

Parts 1 and 2 of our interview are still available for readers' enjoyment but you can also catch of glimpse of what did and didn't make the cut by reading some of McCaleb's views on sovereignty, education and a few other topics covered in the hour-plus interview. (The trust fund and federal recognition weren't covered, for those who are curious.)

On Taking On The BIA:
"I've had an active interest in Indian affairs -- I'd say Indian opportunities -- since 1966, when I was one of the founders of Oklahomans for Indian Opportunity. The issue appeared to me that most of the social dysfunction that we have on the reservations is a product of poverty."

On Failed Indian Policies:
"The Bureau has had lot of ideas about economic solutions, [including] the relocation program. That didn't work. Even termination was an economic solution. Congress and overseers said: 'The only place have problems is on reservations, let's just eliminate the reservations and terminate the federal relationship.' When they did that, it was an economic tragedy."

On His Own Policies:
"The history of the federal-tribal relationship has been one of trying to find an economic solution. Obviously, I don't have the answers . . but I have had some economic success on my own part and I've seen a lot of tribes that have enjoyed economic success. So, this job, I think, affords the greatest opportunity to do something about economic emergence for not just tribal governments but fundamentally, Indian individuals."

On True Economic Development:
"We [American Indians and Alaska Natives] won't be full participants in the greater economy until we have individual economic access and individual economic opportunity. But right now, the best vehicle to accommodate that are sovereign tribes."

On The New Economy:
"Our economy is rocketing from an industrialized economy to a knowledge-based economy. The geographic remoteness of tribes won't make a difference if we get the tools, skills and attract the capital so that we can become participants."

On What He Brings to the BIA:
"Expertise is a euphemism for the mistakes I've made. Having been in business for almost 30 years . . . I've ridden the economic roller coaster. Those experiences are useful [to the BIA]."

On Taking the Lead:
"Will Rogers once said 'Everybody talks about the weather but no one does anything about it.' Economic development is the same way. A lot of people are talking about it but not enough people are doing it."

On Tribal Leaders:
"What's the key to stable tribes? Good leadership. Its certainly not anything the federal government's going to be able to supply. Its got to come right from the grass roots of the tribe."

On Education:
"Another big part of [success] is getting a good education. By education, I'm just mean a marketable skill. Not everyone can be a computer engineer. Not everyone can be, or wants to be, a doctor. But everybody can find a useful skill."

Continued: Page 2