EchoHawk, President Obamas choice to head the Bureau of Indian
Affairs, was born August 2, 1948, in Cody, Wyoming. A member of
the Pawnee Native American tribe of Oklahoma, he is a leading supporter
of Native American rights, a Democrat, and a devout Mormon. EchoHawk
is one of six children born to a mother with only an eighth grade
education. All of her children attended college, four achieved graduate
degrees, and three achieved law degrees.
The EchoHawk name was given to Larry EchoHawks great-grandfather
who was a Pawnee scout in the 1800s. Due to his bravery he was given
the name hawk, which represents bravery in Pawnee culture. Echo
was added because many other tribe members spoke of his actions
and thus his deeds were said to echo through the tribe.
Although born in Cody, Wyoming, Larry EchoHawk grew up in Farmington,
New Mexico. At the age of 14 he met Mormon missionaries by the names
of Boyd Camphuysen and Lee Pearson and was baptized into the faith.
EchoHawk has provided services to the Church of Jesus Christ of
Latter-Day Saints in numerous ways over his lifetime. He has held
the positions of stake president, bishop, high council member, and
board of trustees member for LDS Family Services, a private nonprofit
organization owned and operated by the Church of Jesus Christ of
Latter-Day Saints that offers drug and family counseling, adoptive
services, and whose main goal is counseling women to avoid abortion.
EchoHawk attended Brigham Young University for his undergraduate
studies on a football scholarship, where he played the safety position
and received his bachelor degree in Physical Education in 1970.
He then attended the University of Utah law school, obtaining his
JD in 1973. Upon graduation, EchoHawk pursued some postgraduate
studies at the Stanford Graduate School of Business.
In 1975 he began practicing law in Salt Lake City, Utah. In 1977
EchoHawk became general legal counsel for the Fort Hall, Idaho-based
Shoshone-Bannock Indian tribes. He served in this position, often
fighting against states jurisdiction over tribes, until 1986.
EchoHawk first entered politics in 1982, winning a seat in the Idaho
State House of Representatives from Bannock County. He held this
post until 1986, when he was elected Bannock County prosecuting
attorney. In 1990 EchoHawk was elected Idaho Attorney General, becoming
the first Native American in any state to be elected to a state
constitutional elective office. As attorney general he fought for
Indian autonomy from state regulation, but also for state freedom
from being burdened with any obligations to Indian gaming. EchoHawk
took sides on numerous social issues as well. He backed state legislation
to exclude gay and lesbian groups from state funding and to restrict
classroom discussions, research projects, and library holdings from
covering gay or lesbian topics. EchoHawk wrote, Academic freedom
at public universities would be curtailed to ensure public funds
were not expended in a manner that could have the 'effect' of 'expressing
approval' of homosexuality.'' He also supported a state bill allowing
the state to more severely punish pregnant women found to be doing
While he was state attorney general, EchoHawk also served as national
co-chair for Native Americans for Bill Clintons 1992 presidential
campaign, and was invited with his wife to spend a night in the
White House. He was also a principal speaker at the 1992 Democratic
In 1994 EchoHawk ran for governor of Idaho when fellow Democrat
Cecil B. Andrus retired. He won the primary and led Republican Phil
Batt in the throughout most of the general election campaign. Yet
EchoHawk ended up losing. Controversy related to his complicated
stance on abortion may have had a hand in this. During the campaign,
EchoHawk flew to Utah to participate in fundraisers put on by the
Mormon Church. Questions arose over his connection to the church
and many voters may have been alienated. EchoHawk also was indecisive
on the issue of abortion. He is pro-life, yet he vowed not to change
Idahos existing abortion laws, which allow abortions, and
he supported state abortion funding for low-income pregnant women.
Pro-lifers felt he was not fighting for their cause, while pro-choicers
did not agree with his personal stance. EchoHawk has not run for
elected office since then.
Shortly after his defeat in the gubernatorial race, EchoHawk accepted
a faculty position at Brigham Young Universitys J. Reuben
Clark Law School in 1995. He taught courses on criminal law, criminal
procedure, and federal Indian law, and published numerous academic
papers on Indian land issues, treaty rights, jurisdiction, and justice.
On April 10, 2009, President Obama nominated EchoHawk to become
the Assistant Secretary for Indian Affairs within the Department
of the Interior.
Larry EchoHawk and his wife Terry, author of a childrens book,
Call Me Little Echo Hawk, have six children and many grandchildren.