Opinion | Politics

Clara Caufield: Ryan Zinke brings tribal record to the table at Interior






Rep. Ryan Zinke (R-Montana), center, participated in an honoring ceremony in October 2015 for Michael Kenneth Bell, a Navy SEAL from the Fort Peck Tribes who was murdered in 2006. Photo: Office of Congressman Ryan Zinke

Rep. Ryan Zinke a decent pick for Secretary of Interior
By Clara Caufield
Native Sun News Today Columnist
nativesunnews.today

Though many in Indian Country wish it were otherwise, the fact is now that the Federal government will be dominated by Republicans, including the Department of Interior, a most crucial agency to tribal interests and western states which have a large percentage of public lands within their borders, especially western States like Montana, Wyoming, North and South Dakota. Often residents of these states feel that federal policy for public lands is largely driven by areas with larger urban populations that do not share our same appreciation for western lands.

In Montana for example, the current moratorium on new federal coal leases hurts the Montana coal industry, including the Crow Tribe which relies heavily on this industry to support the operations of its tribal government and the needs of its members through quarterly per capita distributions from coal royalty revenues. Other Tribes, such as Northern Cheyenne see only an indirect effect of limitations on federal coal leases, when tribal members stand to lose well-paying jobs in the coal industry located near the reservation.

Rep. Ryan Zinke for example introduced the Certainty for States and Tribes Act, which gives Montanans, including Tribes a seat at the table when discussing national leasing and regulatory decisions. That is one reason many Montanans are pleased with the nomination of Zinke to be the Secretary of the Interior.

However, in his short tenure as the lone Congressman for Montana, he developed a good reputation for supporting many tribal interests and was even endorsed by organized labor in Montana, unusual for a Republican. He has been pushing for a bill to get the Montana Little Shell Tribe federal recognition, an ongoing effort in several other Administrations and he will support that effort in his new role.

Of course, he has stood strong with the Crow Tribe’s right to mine coal and helping to secure funding for reservation road and emergency services. Recently Zinke and Senator Daines introduced a resolution to designate May 5, 2017, as a National Day of Awareness for Missing and Murdered Native Women and Girls, honoring the memory of the late Hanna Harris, a Northern Cheyenne.

As a Congressman he personally visited the Montana reservations and tribal leaders many times, even finding himself an honorary adopted member of the Fort Peck Assiniboine and Sioux Tribes. Finally, he has been a personal mentor to now Montana Senator Jason Small, Northern Cheyenne and the only Native American to be elected as a Republican to the Montana Legislature in 2016.

Long story short, as a Congressman, Zinke became personally acquainted with the Tribes and tribal issues in Montana and thus is already a step ahead of the game, especially for many matters affecting Tribes in the Great Plains region. Of course, we may not find ourselves agreeing with every policy or decision of this Administration, but at least with Zinke, we should have access, not having to start from scratch when discussing our issues and needs.


Read the rest of the story on the Native Sun News Today website: Rep. Ryan Zinke a decent pick for Secretary of Interior

(Clara Caufield can be reached at acheyennevoice@gmail.com)

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