Delegation to BIA: An Alaskan Should Be Alaska Regional Director
Senators Say Alaskans “Insulted,” Gesture Would Signal “Honest Partnership”
WASHINGTON, DC – Senators Lisa Murkowski and Mark Begich have reached out to the Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA) within the Department of Interior to express their concerns that the BIA is not engaged fully with the Alaska Native Community as it considers the next Alaska Regional Director – particularly that the agency is not prioritizing Alaskans for the position.
In the letter (attached), the Senators write: “It concerns us that the BIA has disregarded the concerns of Alaska tribes that applicants under consideration are not Alaskan. It is essential that this position be filled by an individual with deep knowledge of Alaska’s tribal governance systems, as well as the geography and diversity of Alaska Native communities in order to fully appreciate and improve the experience of Alaska tribes and their interactions with the BIA… an honest partnership begins with appropriate tribal consultation in Alaska.”
In Alaska there are 229 federally recognized tribes; therefore, the BIA’s policies and actions affect Alaska in a disproportionate way. Under its tribal consultation policy, the BIA is required to give timely notification of the finalists for Alaska Regional Director to the tribes it serves. In this case, the BIA informed tribes via e-mail in a large attachment that some in rural areas with limited internet capacity could not open. The overall perception that Alaskans were excluded in the process has left a negative impression on tribal organizations across the state.
Both Senators Murkowski and Begich sit on the Senate Indian Affairs Committee.