Monday, October 2, 2023
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It’s official: Tara Sweeney heads BIA

The entire U.S. Senate confirmed Alaskan Tara Sweeney as the assistant Interior Secretary for Indian Affairs on Thursday. That means an Alaskan from Anchorage and Barrow-Utqiagvik is heading the Bureau of Indian Affairs.

Sweeney has been vice president of external affairs at Arctic Slope Regional Corporation and a past co-chair of the Alaska Federation of Natives. She is said to be the first Alaska Native to become an assistant Interior secretary and the second woman to hold the position.

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Sweeney grew up in rural Alaska and has been engaged in state and national policy arenas focused on advocating for responsible Indian energy policy, rural broadband connectivity, Arctic growth and Native American self-determination.

She served ASRC and its subsidiaries numerous capacities for nearly two decades. The $2.6 billion corporation is the largest locally-owned and operated business in Alaska, with about 13,000 Iñupiat Eskimo members and 12,000 employees worldwide. It is diversified in six major business sectors, including energy support services, industrial services, construction, petroleum refining and marketing, government services, and resource development.

The Senate’s vote was unanimous.

Another lifelong Alaskan, Joe Balash, is assistant secretary for Interior’s Assistant Secretary for Land and Minerals Management, which includes the Bureau of Land Management. His confirmation came in December.

Pro-tip: It’s time for BIA to update its Wikipedia entry.   (If, that is, it’s not “tired of winning.”)


Suzanne Downing
Suzanne Downing
Suzanne Downing had careers in business and journalism before serving as the Director of Faith and Community-based Initiatives for Florida Gov. Jeb Bush and returning to Alaska to serve as speechwriter for Gov. Sean Parnell. Born on the Oregon coast, she moved to Alaska in 1969.


  1. Guess her refusal to assist in a federal investigation of one of her fellow AK Natives did not surface. Lucky you.

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