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Kolby KickingWoman

Indian Country Today

The White House Office of Intergovernmental Affairs announced Tuesday the reestablishment of the White House Council on Native American Affairs to be headed by Tyler Fish, Cherokee and Muscogee (Creek) Nation.

Since last July, Fish has served as the White House senior policy advisor & tribal liaison and will make the transition to executive director of the White House council on May 4.

(Related story: Finally. ‘Crucial that there’s somebody in the White House’ working on tribal issues)

The White House Council on Native American Affairs was originally established by the Obama administration by executive order in June 2013. The council established by President Obama met at least three times a year and was mostly made up by members of his cabinet.

As was the case in 2013, the reestablished council will be chaired by the Secretary of the Interior David Bernhardt but with Fish serving as executive director, Indian Country may have a direct line to the White House.

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Assistant Secretary for Indian Affairs Tara Sweeney, a member of the Native Village of Barrow and the Iñupiat Community of the Arctic Slope, said the council will help the Trump administration be more effective and responsive to Indian Country.

“We are looking forward to partnering with Tyler, whose proven leadership and legacy of bridge building throughout the Federal government is meaningful and beneficial for all of us in the Administration, Indian Country and Alaska Native communities,” Sweeney said in a Department of the Interior press release.

The council will coordinate with the COVID-19 Response Team for Indian Country that was established in early March and will drive policy priorities supporting Indian Country, according to the press release.

These priorities include: economic development and rural prosperity, energy development, infrastructure, public health, cultural resources, public safety, veterans’ affairs and education & workforce development.

Members of the Navajo Nation Council shared their gratitude and eagerness to continue working with Fish in his new role.

“This is a tremendous sign of progress,” Council Delegate Mark Freeland said. “The White House Council on Native American Affairs has a strong, proven leader with Tyler Fish. We congratulate him and look forward to working together for the benefit of the people of the Navajo Nation.”

While Fish has been appointed to this role, it is unknown if the White House Tribal Nations Conference will resume.