Raina Thiele in Alaska during President Barack Obama's trip to the state in 2015. Photo courtesy Raina Thiele / Thiele Strategies

Alaska Native insider starts new venture after exiting White House

The administration of President Barack Obama is drawing to a close but a new chapter is opening for a former White House staffer who worked with Indian Country.

Raina Thiele, who is Dena’ina Athabascan and Yup’ik, spent more than two years helping tribes as an associate director within the Office of Intergovernmental Affairs. Prior to that, she worked at the Office of Management and Budget, serving a total of seven years in the administration.

Thiele is hoping her experience will benefit tribes and other clients through a new consulting venture, Thiele Strategies, that will focus on federal policy, climate change, public relations and additional areas of expertise. She officially launched her company on Wednesday, less than three weeks after leaving her post at the White House.

"Thiele plans to bring her skills and knowledge to bear on work for her clients across a broad range of issue areas," a press release stated.

Thiele, who was born and raised in Alaska, has said a highlight of her work was helping organize Obama's historic three-day visit to the 49th state last year. The president met with Native leaders as soon as he touched ground in Anchorage, visited two Native communities in far reaches of the state and learned about fishing from a Native woman and a Native elder from the Bristol Bay region.

"The fact that President Obama cared to see a piece of Alaska that is typically shrouded from view by remoteness and a lack of accessibility, and that he was able to witness first-hand why Alaska’s natural resources are worth protecting, filled me with hope. And it filled Alaskans with hope," Thiele wrote after the trip.

Working on Native youth issues also was a highlight. Through Generation Indigenous, Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama have focused an unprecedented amount of attention on young tribal members, Thiele said at a meeting of the Native American Council during the Democratic National Convention last week.

"Our youth are our future," Thiele said. Of youth councils and other efforts that have sprung up in response to Generation Indigenous, she added: "It's just been great to see all of these youth who finally feel their voices are finally being heard."

Thiele plans to split her time between Alaska and Washington, D.C.

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