Nominee would be first Alaska Native, second woman to serve in assistant secretary role

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FARMINGTON — The U.S. Department of the Interior announced this week the selection of two individuals to lead offices that further the government-to-government relations with tribes.

Tara Mac Lean Sweeney was nominated on Tuesday by President Donald Trump to serve as assistant secretary of Indian affairs, according to an Oct. 17 press release from the Interior Department.

"I am honored to be nominated to serve Indian Country in this capacity. My goal is to develop strong relationships with tribes, Alaska Native corporations and Native Hawaiian organizations to work on innovative solutions for lifting up our communities," Sweeney said in the release.

Sweeney is a member of the Native Village of Barrow and the Iñupiat Community of the Arctic Slope.

She is the executive vice president of external affairs for the Arctic Slope Regional Corp., a private, for-profit corporation headquartered in Barrow, Alaska.

The U.S. Senate still needs to confirm her nomination before she can assume the role.

If confirmed, Sweeney would be the first Alaska Native and second woman to serve as assistant secretary.

On Monday, the department announced Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke had named Bryan Rice director of the Bureau of Indian Affairs.

Rice, who is a citizen of the Cherokee Nation of Oklahoma, started his tenure on Monday, according to a release.

"I am honored to accept this position and look forward to implementing President Trump's and Secretary Zinke's regulatory reform initiative for Indian Country to liberate Native Americans from the bureaucracy that has held them back economically," Rice said in the release.

Zinke said in the release Rice is well versed in the mission of the BIA and has "extensive knowledge" about the agency.

"Bryan will be a strong leader for the bureau and closely follow the secretary's plans for reforming the BIA into a top-notch service delivery agency for tribes and tribal leaders," Zinke said.

Prior to Rice's selection, he was director for the Office of Wildland Fire under the Interior Department.

Noel Lyn Smith covers the Navajo Nation for The Daily Times. She can be reached at 505-564-4636.

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