The nomination of Tara Sweeney
as Assistant Secretary for Indian Affairs is being held up due to her ties to a Native corporation, Alaska Public Media reports.
Nominees of every presidential administration come with business, legal and personal backgrounds that need to be addressed. But the Office of Government Ethics, an independent federal agency
, can't seem to figure out how to deal with Sweeney, who is a shareholder and executive for Arctic Slope Regional
, a Native corporation, and that's the reason she has yet to secure a confirmation hearing in the Senate
The situation is particularly unique because Congress created the Native corporate system with the Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act
. That's unlike other cases in which a nominee could easily sell, divest or re-direct their business interests.
“No Native person should be asked to sell off, or give up their birthright in order to serve in the administration,” Sen. Lisa Murkowski
(R-Alaska) told Alaska Public Media.
President Donald Trump
nominated Sweeney last October. She has won near universal praise from tribes and Alaska Natives for her work on Native issues so it had been unclear why she was being held up.
"To say that you can't be a Native Alaskan to represent Native Alaskans is
unconscionable," Secretary of the
Interior Ryan Zinke
, who would be Sweeney's boss, told the National Congress of American Indians
during its winter session in Washington, D.C., last month. "It's like saying the
only people that can't represent the [tribal] nations are the nations. That's
"I have confidence in Tara and we're doing everything we can to get her
in there and to get her through," Zinke, the leader of the Department of the Interior
, said on
If confirmed by the Senate, Sweeney would be the first Alaska Native to serve as
the Assistant Secretary for Indian Affairs. There have been 12 confirmed Assistant
Secretaries since 1977.
Prior to the creation of the Assistant Secretary position, the late Morris
, who was Alaska Native, led the Bureau of Indian Affairs
from from 1973–1976. He held
the title of Commissioner of Indian Affairs, which did not require Senate
The Assistant Secretary post has been vacant since January 2016.
Read More on the Story:
Sweeney nomination to Interior Department in limbo
(Alaska Public Media March 8, 2018)
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