Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke, far right, meets with the Spokane Tribe in Washington on March 22, 2018. Photo: Secretary Zinke

Tribal citizens disproportionately affected by Trump reorganization

James Burckman, one of the reassigned officials, is not Native American.

Of the 33 senior career officials who were reassigned by the Trump administration at the Department of the Interior last year, a third are Native Americans, Talking Points Memo reports.

Native Americans make up less than 10 percent of the workforce at Interior and even fewer are part of the Senior Executive Service -- less than 2 percent, according to the Office of Personnel and Management. So they were disproportionately affected by what has been called a "Thursday Night Massacre" at the department because employees were informed about their new assignments on the evening of Thursday, June 15.

SES participants are often required to shift jobs when needed but it's unclear why so many tribal citizens were reassigned, as Interior did not respond to TPM's request for comment about the situation.

One tribal leader who worked at the department during the Obama era has an idea, though.

“If you have experienced people who understand the U.S. government’s responsibility to Indian tribes, they’re more likely to stand up and say, ‘Hey, we have an obligation to our 567 tribes, and you can’t just open everything up to mining and drilling,'” Bryan Newland, the chairman of the Bay Mills Indian Community, told TPM. “Those folks were moved to get them out of the way so that the oil- and gas-centric policy can move quickly.”

In response to a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit, the department released a list of all 33 reassigned employees. Not all of the assignments went through -- Stan Speaks, for example, chose to retire at the end of 2017 rather than be moved from the Bureau of Indian Affairs regional office in Portland, Oregon, to the regional office in Anadarko, Oklahoma. He is a citizen of the Chickasaw Nation.

According to the document, George Watie Bearpaw (Cherokee Nation) was not transferred from BIA headquarters in Washington, D.C., to Minneapolis, Minnesota, though no explanation was provided. Mike Black, who was serving as the director of the BIA at the time, had his reassignment delayed but he eventually moved from D.C. to Montana. He is a citizen of the Oglala Sioux Tribe.

The list of tribal citizens who were told to be reassigned follows:
• Stan Speaks
• Dan Deerinwater
• Jeannette Hanna
• Helen Riggs
• Bruce Loudermilk
• Mike Black
• Darren Cruzan
James Burckman -- Not Native American
• George Watie Bearpaw
• James D. James
• Doug Lords
• Jerry Gidner

Though not listed in the document, Debra DuMontier, who is affiliated with the Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes, was also affected by the shuffle. She was serving as the "acting" head of the Office of the Special Trustee for American Indians when Gidner, who is a citizen of the Sault Ste. Marie Tribe of Chippewa Indians, took her place as part of his reassignment.

Read More on the Story:
Zinke’s Interior Dept Disproportionately Reassigned Native American Workers (Talking Points Memo April 2, 2018)

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