Former ASU Law staffer to join Obama Administration in Assistant Secretary of Indian Affairs Office

Congratulations to Ann Marie Bledsoe Downes!

The White House appointed Ann Marie Downes, ASU Law Class of 1994 and former executive director of the Indian Legal Program at the Sandra Day O’Connor College of Law at Arizona State University, to serve in the assistant secretary’s office of the Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA), part of the U.S. Department of the Interior. Downes is now deputy assistant secretary for policy and economic development.

“I’m a big believer in public service,” Downes said about the opportunity to join BIA, where she will work under Assistant Secretary Kevin Washburn. “It was hard to leave my team at ASU, but it was an opportunity I couldn’t turn down. When you get the chance to serve, you take it.”

In her new role, Downes will oversee the Office of Self-Governance and the Office of Indian Energy and Economic Development. She also will be a part of a new initiative, the White House Council on Native American Affairs. The council establishes a national policy to ensure that the federal government engages in a government-to-government relationship with federally recognized tribes in a more coordinated and effective manner.

“It’s an active and thriving office,” Downes said. “I see so much progress and positive steps being taken for Indian Country under this administration, and I look forward to continuing that work.”

Downes, a member of the Winnebago Tribe of Nebraska, served as policy adviser for Tribal Affairs under former Arizona Gov. Janet Napolitano before joining the Indian Legal Program at ASU.

“Ann Marie has dedicated her entire career to serving the needs of Indian Country, and I could not be more proud of her as she answers this call to public service,” said College of Law Dean Douglas Sylvester. “We are extremely grateful for the work she accomplished as part of the ASU community and wish her the best in her new role.”

Professor Patty Ferguson-Bohnee, faculty director of the Indian Legal Program, said she will miss Downes’ leadership, “but the BIA will now have another incredible lawyer. Although the College of Law will feel the loss, the Indian Legal Program will continue to be the nation’s largest and strongest — and plans already are underway to find Ann Marie’s replacement.”

“The Department of Interior is gaining an invaluable resource with Ann Marie joining their team,” Ferguson-Bohnee added. “With her experience, Ann Marie takes a diverse background of tribal law and policy to an agency that works primarily with Indian tribes on a daily basis.”

Downes is a licensed attorney in California and earned her J.D. from the ASU College of Law in 1994.