Trump taps former Arctic Economic Council head for top Indian affairs spot


President Donald Trump announced Monday that he would nominate Tara Sweeney, an executive vice president of Arctic Slope Regional Corp. and the former chair of the Arctic Economic Council to serve as Assistant Secretary of Indian Affairs in the Interior Department.

If confirmed by the U.S. Senate, Sweeney, who is an Iñupiaq from Utqiagvik (formerly Barrow) would be the first Alaska Native to hold the position, which oversees the U.S. Bureau of Indian Affairs and reports to the Secretary of the Interior.

Tara Sweeney is the senior vice president of external affairs for Arctic Slope Regional Corp. She was elected co-chair of the Alaska Federation of Natives in October 2013. (Courtesy of Tara Sweeney)
Tara Sweeney, former chair of the Arctic Economic Council and co-chair of the Alaska Federation of Natives, has been tapped by President Donald Trump as Assistant Secretary of Indian Affairs. (Courtesy of Tara Sweeney)

“I am humbled and honored to be considered for this important position,” Sweeney said in a release from ASRC. “I look forward to working with this administration and Congress to strengthen the federal government’s relationship with Indian Country.”

In addition to chairing the Arctic Economic Council during the U.S. chairmanship of the Arctic Council, Sweeney has also co-chaired the Alaska Federation of Natives, the state’s largest Alaska Native group.

Her nomination was greeted with widespread acclaim in Alaska, where “reaction on Tuesday bordered on ecstatic,” especially by Alaska Native leaders, reported Alaska Dispatch News. Alaska’s congressional delegation and governor also welcomed the news, reported TV station KTUU.

Sweeney took over leadership of the Arctic Economic Council shortly after it was formed during the 2013-2015 Canadian Arctic Council chairmanship, and helped secure a solid footing for the organization by establishing a permanent secretariat in Tromsø and creating of working groups, two initiatives that parallel the Arctic Council’s structure.

In May, as the U.S. handed chairmanship of the Arctic Council to Finland, Sweeney stepped down as chair of the Arctic Economic Council and Tero Vauraste, head of the Finnish national icebreaker company Arctia, Ltd., assumed leadership.