John Tahsuda. Photo: U.S. Department of the Interior

Secretary Zinke announces another senior hire for the Bureau of Indian Affairs

Secretary Ryan Zinke has filled another leadership position at the Bureau of Indian Affairs though it's not the top job at the agency.

John Tahsuda, a citizen of the Kiowa Tribe, started work as the Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary for Indian Affairs last week, as Indianz.Com reported. He is the Trump administration's second political hire at the BIA.

“I want to welcome John Tahsuda to my Indian Affairs leadership team,” Zinke said in a press release on Wednesday. “John possesses extensive experience in federal Indian law and tribal government, and deeply understands and respects our government-to-government relationship with tribes. He’ll be a strong leader for the Indian Affairs organization.”

Tahsuda, an attorney, is well known in Indian policy circles in Washington, D.C. He worked for the Senate Committee on Indian Affairs under Sen. John McCain (R-Arizona) and retired Sen. Ben Nighthorse Campbell (R-Colorado) between 2002 and 2007. He also spent time at the National Indian Gaming Association, which represents more than 180 tribes.

Since 2007, Tahsuda has led the tribal affairs practice at Navigators Global, a Washington lobbying, management and communications firm. Recent clients include the Southern California Tribal Chairmen's Association, the Viejas Band of Kumeyaay Indians, the Oklahoma Indian Gaming Association and the Osage Nation's gaming enterprise, according to Senate lobbying records.

“I appreciate Secretary Zinke for giving me this tremendous opportunity to bring greater prosperity to tribes and their communities,” Tahsuda said in DOI's press release. “I’m looking forward to working with tribal leaders on finding ways to make Indian Affairs programs more responsive to their needs.”

Tahsuda joins Gavin Clarkson, a citizen of the Choctaw Nation, as the Trump team's two political hires at the BIA. Clarkson has been serving as Deputy Assistant Secretary for Policy and Economic Development since June.

Still, President Donald Trump has yet to nominate someone to serve as the Assistant Secretary for Indian Affairs. His predecessors, a Democrat and a Republican, already had their picks confirmed by the Senate by this time in their first terms of office.

Aides in the Senate had been told by the White House to expect an announcement by the end of the summer. Zinke himself indicated that he had someone lined up for the job.

"I think the tribes are going to be thrilled," Zinke said during an appearance before the House Committee on Natural Resources on June 22.

After Trump took office in January, Tahsuda had been rumored as a potential pick, as had Clarkson.

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Kiowa citizen John Tahsuda set to join Bureau of Indian Affairs leadership team (August 24, 2017)
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Choctaw Nation citizen lands senior job at Bureau of Indian Affairs (June 12, 2017)