Photo: Tia Dufour / White House

Cherokee citizen Tyler Fish hired to work on Indian issues at White House

Tyler Fish, a citizen of the Cherokee Nation, will be working on tribal issues at the White House, Indian Country Today reports.

Fish, an attorney who served in the United States Marine Corps, will hold the title of a senior policy advisor and tribal liaison, Jourdan Bennett-Begaye reports for ICT. But no one from the White House would go on the record to explain what Fish is going to be doing in the nation's capital.

“It’s certainly crucial that there’s somebody in the White House that’s a point person on tribal issues and relationships with Indian tribes,” Joel Williams, a staff attorney at the Native American Rights Fund, told ICT. WIlliams, who is also Cherokee, called Fish "a very intelligent, very bright gentleman."

Tyler Fish is seen in a photo published by the U.S. Forest Service in 2014.

According to Fish's LinkedIn profile, he began working at the White House this month. In the past, he has worked for the U.S. Air Force, the Department of the Interior, the Small Business Administration, the U.S. Forest Service, the Department of Justice and the Cherokee Nation.

During his time at the U.S. Forest Service, Fish was a Presidential Management Fellow at the Superior National Forest in Minnesota. In the Winter 2014 issue of Tribal Relations News, he described himself as an "advocate" for Indian issues.

“As a tribal citizen, advocate, and American Indian law and policy practitioner, I hope to positively influence the Forest Service-tribal relationship,” Fish stated in the newsletter, which also said he has ancestry from the Muscogee (Creek) Nation.

Fish's interest in Minnesota at one point extended beyond forest issues. In a guest post on Procopio Blogging Circle, a site run by the Native American Practice Group at the Procopio law firm, he discussed a closely-watched legal dispute affecting the Fond du Lac Band of Lake Superior Chippewa.

The Superior National Forest, coincidentally, is home to the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness. During the Obama administration -- when Fish worked at the U.S. Forest Service -- the Department of the Interior and the Department of Agriculture took action to prevent mineral development in the one-million acre area.

The Trump administration has since reversed course and has opened the door for a foreign-owned copper mine adjacent to the area. The Chilean billionaire whose family controls Twin Metals happens to own a pricey Washington, D.C, home that he rents to Trump's daughter, Ivanka, and her husband, Jared Kushner, both of whom work in senior positions at the White House.

Fish's arrival at the White House comes halfway through the third year of the Trump presidency. No one held a similar role on a permanent basis since January 2017, although at one point two tribal citizens -- Benjamin Keel, a citizen of the Chickasaw Nation, and Billy Kirkland, a citizen of the Navajo Nation -- have worked at the White House in various capacities. Keel since departed the administration while Kirkland moved over to the staff of Vice President Mike Pence.

Shortly after the November 2016, Carlyle Begay, a citizen of the Navajo Nation, claimed on social media that he was going to work at the White House. But it turned out that wasn't true, The Arizona Republic reported.

Overall, Trump has been slow to fill the top Indian policy positions. The Indian Health Service, for example, remains without a permanent director, while other jobs went vacant for long periods due to vetting and ethics issues.

The lack of staff has hindered the Trump administration's attempts to engage with tribal nations. The White House sent two mid-level staffers with little to no experience in Indian issues to a "listening session" with tribal leaders.

During the Obama years, a record number of tribal citizens worked at the White House. They included Kim Teehee, a citizen of the Cherokee Nation who was the first-ever Senior Policy Advisor for Native American Affairs. She was followed in that role by Jodi Archambault Gillette, a citizen of the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe, and finally by Karen Diver, a former chairwoman of the Fond du Lac Band of Lake Superior Chippewa.

Alison Grigonis, a citizen of the Pokagon Band of Potawatomi Indians; Charlie Gabraith, a citizen of the Navajo Nation; and Raina Thele, who is Dena’ina Athabascan and Yup’ik, also worked at the White House in the Obama era.

Read More on the Story
Finally. ‘Crucial that there’s somebody in the White House’ working on tribal issues (Indian Country Today July 10, 2019)

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