Alaskan chosen by President Trump for top Indian Affairs job
An Alaska Native corporation leader, Tara Sweeney, is being nominated by President Trump to oversee Indian Affairs for the U.S. Department of Interior.
Alaskan politicians commented on the nomination following the news, which was announced late Monday afternoon. The nomination was met with near-universal approval from the Alaskan lawmakers.
Gov. Bill Walker applauded the news from Washington, D.C.:
"Tara's selection for this position is cause for celebration in Alaska. In each of my conversations with Secretary Zinke, I have encouraged him to include Alaskans for significant roles in his department," said Governor Walker. "Tara's leadership in seeking self-determination and economic development for the people of the Arctic has been exemplary. As an Inupiaq tribal and corporate leader, she has sought the necessary balance between economic development and sustaining the ways of life and cultures of Alaska's First People. While many will be sad to see her leave ASRC, Tara's expertise will serve our state and nation well in this new role."
Senator Lisa Murkowski said Sweeny had her full support:
“Tara has a very strong record of professionalism and accomplishment in Alaska, across the country, and internationally, especially with the indigenous people of the circumpolar north. She has significant experience on Arctic issues and chaired the Arctic Economic Council. She is an expert on energy, infrastructure, broadband, economic development, Native self-determination, and a wide range of policy issues that will come before her. Secretary Zinke could not have chosen a better leader to help him fulfill the federal government’s trust responsibility, and I know Tara has the heart and drive to excel in this position.”
Sen. Dan Sullivan said it was a historic appointment for Alaskans:
“I’ve worked with Tara Sweeney for years and I have witnessed first-hand her integrity, her strong leadership skills and her devotion to public service. Tara has a deep love for our state and people, and is relentless in her commitment to securing a better future for Alaska and the nation. With her long history of advocating for Alaska Native cultural values, rights, and economic opportunity, I can’t think of anyone better to have as our nation’s next Assistant Secretary for Indian Affairs.”
Congressman Don Young said it was an outstanding choice:
“Tara’s knowledge, experience and leadership will go a long way in straightening out the BIA, allowing it to run more efficiently for the good of all First Americans. She has extensive experience not only in business, but also within Alaska Native groups and organizations. Tara knows first-hand the fight for Native empowerment and self-determination because she’s been on the front lines for years. There’s long been a problem with Native issues not receiving the priority they deserve but with Tara Sweeney at the helm, I have no doubt the Department of Interior will be paying close attention and the voices of our Native communities will be heard. Tara follows in great Alaskan footsteps, those of my dear friend Morris Thompson, and will do a fantastic job working on behalf of American Indians and Alaska Natives across the country.”
Sweeney will oversee the Bureau of Indian Affairs, among other things, in her new role. She would still need to be confirmed by the U.S. Senate before she can assume the role.
Sweeney is Iñupiaq and a lifelong Alaskan from Ukpiaġvik. Sweeney has served on the Alaska Federation of Natives Board since 2007, previously serving as board co-chairman. She earned her bachelor’s degree in science from Cornell University.
Sweeney served her Arctic Slope Regional Corporation and its subsidiaries in a variety of capacities for nearly two decades. She engaged with state and national policy arenas during that time, focusing on advocating for responsible Indian energy policy, rural broadband connectivity, Arctic growth and Native American self-determination.