Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary for Indian Affairs John Tahsuda addresses tribal leaders at a Department of the Interior reorganization session in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, on August 7, 2018. "Thank you, Tribal Leaders, for submitting your valuable comments on this important issue!" a post on Twitter read. Photo: Office of Public Affairs - Indian Affairs

'We are against this': Tribes continue to oppose Trump reorganization

The Question: To Unify or Not To Unify
Dept. of Interior conducts listening sessions with Tribal leaders on reorganization proposal By Rosemary Stephens, Editor-in-Chief
Cheyenne & Arapaho Tribal Tribune Correspondent

The Department of Interior (DOI) Office of the Assistant Secretary of Indian Affairs, Principal Deputy Assistant John Tahsuda hosted consultations in Montana, New Mexico, Michigan, California, Alaska, and most recently at the Embassy Suites in Oklahoma City on August 7. The consultations was part of a listening tour to gather input from Tribes directly impacted by a major DOI reorganization proposal.

On March 13, 2017, President Donald Trump signed Executive Order 13781 for Federal Agencies to examine ways it could reorganize to improve efficiency, effectiveness and accountability. The Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke announced his vision to establish 13 unified regional office boundaries across all the Department’s Bureaus.

Tahsuda stated the DOI has not been reorganized in 150 years, “despite all that has changed.” The goals listed for the reorganization include reducing administrative redundancies and maximizing use, improve service to people, improve communication and coordination across agencies and streamlining the decision process.

“All bureaus in the regions can make decisions in these regions without having to come to Washington, D.C., making the decision process faster and more efficient,” Tahsuda said.

Currently there are nine bureaus with 61 regions in operation, with over 70,000 employees. The proposal being discussed, not yet written, is combining the 61 regions into 13 unified regions.

The biggest obstacle that faced Tahsuda from Tribal leaders in the room was the aura of mistrust surrounding the Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA), the Trump administration and the overall federal government. Mistrust developed from years of broken treaties between the federal government and Tribes.

“The secretary wanted to make sure you knew this was your decision on the behalf of the Tribes to decide whether you would like your region to participate in the unified regions. From there we will have more discussions and more consultations,” Tahsuda said.

Tahsuda displayed a color coded map showing what the 13 unified regions with Tribal lands and existing BIA regions would look like, as he prepared to turn the meeting over to Tribal leaders for their input.

“I see it two ways, you can say, ‘well we really don’t want our region to participate in that, we would like to keep ourselves separate,’ which is fine, it’s your decision, but we will have to have a conversation about what that means for our region to effectively participate in the now reunified regions. We will have to figure that out. If you decide that it’s a good idea and would like to talk further about how it’s going to work, than we will have further discussion about how our BIA region can participate in the reunified region and how it’s going to impact you,” Tahsuda said.

A "daft" map released by the Trump administration shows the proposed 13 regions of the Department of the Interior. The existing 12 regions of the Bureau of Indian Affairs, with the exception of Alaska, would be replaced if the plan goes through.

Opening up the floor for Tribes to speak, the first one to the microphone was Edwina Butler-Wolfe, governor of the Absentee Shawnee Tribe. She stated as a Tribal leader her first concern was the cutting of funds she felt would come along with this new reorganization.

“As a Tribal leader I am against this and I just wanted to let you know the Absentee Shawnee Tribe is not in favor of this, and let everyone else know we are against this,” she said.

And that seemed to be the consensus that followed with every Tribal leader that approached the microphone.

The Cheyenne and Arapaho Tribes’ Lt. Gov. Gilbert Miles stated the Cheyenne and Arapaho Tribes are happy with the way things are.

“I’ve seen very few decision made by the bureau or the interior where a lawyer wasn’t involved. Most of the time when there is a decision to be made you’re talking about going across the hall to see the interior regional director and a bunch of people are going to make decisions, but I’ve seen very few decisions ever made like that in the bureau. They end up going to the solicitor and being repealed,” Miles said. “What I see from this is you’re asking us to buy into something we don’t know if the wheels are going to fall off somewhere down the road and then the next thing you know we’ve gambled and made a choice, a decision we had no idea where it was going. I think we are flying blind here. For us, we’re saying we’re not in favor of this, we’re happy with the way things are right now. I know the decisions are slow and in increments, but we’ve gotten used to that, we’ve learned how to play the game, and we’ve learned the hoops we have to jump through.”

Other Tribes who were opposed to the proposed plan, who stood up were the Ho-Chunk Nation, the Kiowa Tribe, the Delaware Tribe, the Comanche Tribe, the Sac & Fox Nation, the Cherokee Nation and the Pawnee Nation.

The Chickasaw Nation stated they would reserve their opinion for their written response to Tahsuda.

Some of the points made by Tribal leaders included, BIA has not had good relations with Native Nations, current president is not for the Native Nations, too much polities involved in the reorganization, will it change again once President Trump is out of office, how much is the reorganization going to cost, political appointees for the regional director will have political agenda, not enough concrete information about the reorganization plan, how will this plan affect Tribal Sovereignty and how will it benefit Native Nations.

Due to requests from several Tribes, additional consultation dates were added to the tour in the Great Plains and Northwest regions. The next meeting dates are 9 a.m. – 1 p.m., Tuesday, August 21 at the Best Western Ramkota Hotel in Rapid City, S.D., and 1 p.m. – 4 p.m., Thursday, August 23 at the Jackson Federal Building South Auditorium in Seattle, Wash.

For more information about the reorganization proposal visit

The Cheyenne and Arapaho Tribal Tribune can be reached at:
Public Information Office
700 North Black Kettle Blvd.
Concho, OK 73022
P.O. Box 167

Editor in Chief Rosemary Stephens can be reached at

A Native American newspaper with a big voice and strong dedication to its readers, the Tribal Tribune is your best source for Cheyenne & Arapaho news. Follow the Tribal Tribune on Twitter @CATribalTribune

Join the Conversation