Kevin K. Washburn

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Kevin K. Washburn
12th Assistant Secretary of the Interior for Indian Affairs
Assumed office
October 9, 2012
President Barack Obama
Preceded by Donald Laverdure (Acting)
Personal details
Born Kevin K. Washburn
Nationality American, Chickasaw
Alma mater University of Oklahoma (B.A.)
Yale Law School (J.D.)
Profession academic, attorney
Website Assistant Secretary - Indian Affairs

Kevin K. Washburn is the Assistant Secretary - Indian Affairs at the U.S. Department of the Interior. He was nominated in August 2012 by President Barack Obama to become Assistant Secretary of Indian Affairs. His nomination was unanimously confirmed by the United States Senate on September 21, 2012. [1]Previously, he served as the dean of the University of New Mexico School of Law. He is a former federal prosecutor, a trial attorney at the U.S. Department of Justice, and the General Counsel of the National Indian Gaming Commission.

Life and work[edit]

Mr. Washburn, an enrolled member of the Chickasaw Nation in Oklahoma, was confirmed by the United States Senate as the Assistant Secretary – Indian Affairs for the U.S. Department of the Interior on September 21, 2012, and was sworn into office by Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar on October 9, 2012. He is the 12th Assistant Secretary – Indian Affairs to be confirmed since the position was established by Congress in the late 1970s. In addition to carrying out the Department’s trust responsibilities regarding the management of tribal and individual Indian trust lands and assets, the Assistant Secretary is responsible for promoting the self-determination and economic self-sufficiency of the nation’s 566 federally recognized American Indian and Alaska Native tribes and their approximately two million enrolled members. [2]

While serving as a trial attorney at the U.S. Department of Justice's Environment and Natural Resources Division, Washburn successfully argued Montana v. EPA, in which the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit upheld the decision of the Environmental Protection Agency to recognize the Salish & Kootenai Tribes as a state for purposes of setting water quality standards under the Clean Water Act.[3] Washburn also served as an Assistant United States Attorney in New Mexico,[4] and was a professor at the University of Minnesota Law School.

Much of Washburn's scholarship focuses on the intersection of Federal Indian law and criminal law.[5] In one of his articles, he focuses on the federal criminal justice system that applies on Indian reservations and the federal constitutional values of criminal procedure.[6] In another piece, Washburn writes about the federalized criminal justice system and federal Indian policy involving Native American self-determination.[7] His groundbreaking work in this field was discussed at length in a piece in the High Country News.[8] In July 2008, Senator Byron Dorgan introduced S. 3320: Tribal Law and Order Act of 2008 in an attempt to fix some of the problems highlighted in Washburn's scholarship.[9] The Tribal Law and Order Act was signed into law in 2010.

Washburn is also one of the country's leading experts on Gaming and Gambling Law. He served as the General Counsel of the National Indian Gaming Commission (NIGC) from January 2000 to July 2002.[10] In addition, he is the author of a law school casebook on Gaming Law and Regulation published by Aspen Publishers in 2010. He frequently testifies before Congress and the courts on issues involving Indian gaming. While visiting at Harvard Law School during the 2007-08 academic year, Professor Washburn taught the first course on Gaming/Gambling Law in that school’s history.[11] Professor Washburn has taught Gaming/Gambling Law at the University of Minnesota Law School, Harvard Law School, the University of Arizona James E. Rogers College of Law, and the University of New Mexico School of Law.

Washburn is also an expert in Federal Indian Law. He is an author of one of the principal casebooks on Federal Indian Law, entitled American Indian Law: Native Nations and the Federal System. He is also an author/editor of Indian Law Stories, a book that provides the back stories of several key American Indian law cases. In addition, he is an author and member of the Executive Board of Editors of Felix Cohen's Handbook of Federal Indian Law, the leading treatise in the filed of Federal Indian Law.

Washburn is married to Libby Rodke Washburn, the chief of staff to the Deputy Secretary of the U.S. Department of the Interior, and they have two children.


Washburn received a B.A. in economics, with honors, from the University of Oklahoma in 1989. Professor Washburn earned his law degree at Yale Law School in 1993, and was the Editor-In-Chief of the Yale Journal on Regulation. After graduating from law school, Professor Washburn clerked for Judge William C. Canby, Jr. of the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit.[12]


Elected member of the American Law Institute since 2007; Board of Trustees 2006-09 of the Law School Admission Council; Executive Editor of Felix Cohen’s Handbook of Federal Indian Law since 2005; Member of the Criminal Law and Procedure Drafting Committee for the National Conference of Bar Examiners 2006-15; Yale Law School Fund Board of Directors 1998-2004; Enrolled member of the Chickasaw Nation of Oklahoma, a federally recognized Indian nation.[13]

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