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Artman ushers in leadership changes at BIA

After more than two years of uncertainty, the Bureau of Indian Affairs is taking steps to stabilize its leadership team in Washington, D.C.

The BIA suffered a leadership void when entrepreneur Dave Anderson left the agency in February 2004. But that changed when Carl Artman, a member of the Oneida Nation of Wisconsin, was confirmed as assistant secretary with near unanimous support last month.

Now that Artman is in place, he is making changes of his own. Effective today, George Skibine, a member of the Osage Nation of Oklahoma, will serve as the acting principal deputy assistant secretary at the BIA.

"George Skibine is an able executive with long experience in Indian affairs," Artman said on Friday.

Artman's confirmation and Skibine's appointment mark the end of a shaky time for the BIA. For the first time since the self-determination era, the agency's top two positions were held by non-Indians.

Jim Cason, the associate deputy secretary at the Interior Department, had been running the BIA for more than two years. Mike Olsen, an attorney who has been given another Interior job, was the acting principal deputy for 18 months.

Neither Cason nor Olsen were nominated by the president or confirmed by the Senate to their posts.

Despite the changes, the BIA's team remains up in the air. With the clock ticking on the Bush administration, Artman said he will continue to search for a permanent principal deputy.

Skibine, meanwhile, assumes even more duties in his new role. A longtime employee of the BIA, his official title is director of the Office of Indian Gaming Management.

He also serves as the deputy assistant secretary for policy and economic development but in an acting capacity since the administration has not made a permanent appointment. At one point, Skibine had been offered the job, which was created by a reorganization of the BIA, but declined.

Lance Morgan, a member of the Winnebago Tribe of Nebraska and CEO of Ho-Chunk Inc., also was offered the job but instead chose to serve as a consultant for Anderson on policy and economic development issues. Ho-Chunk Inc. owns Indianz.Com and its sister e-commerce site AllNative.Com.

With less than 18 months remaining in the Bush administration, Artman doesn't have much time to make an imprint on Indian Country. His priorities include Indian education, the methamphetamine crisis and land-into-trust applications.

Artman has expressed confidence in other senior officials who were brought on board before his nomination. The team includes Tom Dowd, a member of the Hopi Tribe of Arizona who runs the newly-created Bureau of Indian Education; Chris Chaney, a member of the Seneca-Cayuga Tribe of Oklahoma who heads up law enforcement; and Pat Ragsdale, a member of the Cherokee Nation who serves as director of the BIA.

DOI Press Release:
Michael Olsen to Leave Indian Affairs for ASLM; George Skibine to Serve as Acting Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary (March 30, 2007)

Senate Roll Call:
On the Nomination (Confirmation Carl J. Artman, of Colorado, to be Assistant Secretary of the Interior) (March 5, 2007)

Hearing Webcast/Testimony:
CONFIRMATION HEARING on the President's nomination of Mr. Carl Joseph Artman, to be Assistant Secretary-Indian Affairs, U.S. Department of the Interior (February 1, 2007)

September 2006 Senate Confirmation Hearing:
Webcast | Carl Artman Testimony

White House News:
Personnel Announcement (August 1, 2006)

Relevant Links:
Oneida Nation -