Washburn took over last October for Larry EchoHawk, who returned to his home state of Utah to take a top position in the Mormon Church. A scholar on federal Indian law, Washburn worked as a law clerk and a U.S. attorney in the 1990s and went on to teach law in the past decade, with a 30-month stint as general counsel to the National Indian Gaming Commission in between. Most recently, he was dean of the University of Mexico Law School for four years. A member of the Chickasaw Nation in Oklahoma, Washburn, 45, was raised by a single mother faced with the difficulties of life on tribal lands. "Back in those days, if one of the kids had to go to the hospital, we kind of all had to go to the hospital, because we never knew when the appointment was going to occur or when we were going to get out of the hospital," he said at his confirmation hearing. Washburn graduated with honors from the University of Oklahoma and earned a degree at Yale Law School in 1993. His responsibilities include "promoting the self-determination and economic self-sufficiency of the nation's 566 federally recognized American Indian and Alaska Native tribes," which have nearly 2 million members, according to his job description at Interior.