Alaskan Tara Sweeney has been replaced by a temporary appointee at the Department of Interior, Bureau of Indian Affairs.
Darryl LaCounte, a member of the Turtle Mountain Band of Chippewa Indians in North Dakota, will be exercising the delegated authority of the Assistant Secretary – Indian Affairs in the U.S. Department of the Interior. Over the weekend, Sweeney’s information disappeared from the Department of Interior’s website.
LaCounte appears to be a placeholder, however with “delegated authority.” He has been director at BIA since last year.
Sweeney had been the first Alaska Native to head the BIA.
President Joe Biden also added EarthJustice and Wilderness Society lawyers to high-ranking positions in the Department of Interior.
In an announcement today, Daniel Cordalis, formerly of EarthJustice and Native American Rights Fund, was named the new deputy solicitor of Water.
He replaces Brandon Middleton, who had come to the position after serving as a lawyer in the Environment and Natural Resources Division at the Department of Justice.
Nada Culver was named deputy director for Policy and Programs, Bureau of Land Management. She is coming from the position of vice president, public lands and senior policy counsel at the National Audubon Society. She had served in a similar position for the Wilderness Society.
Culver is a vigorous environmental advocate in the “keep it in the ground” movement.
Culver replaces William Perry Pendley, who came to the position from the Mountain States Legal Fund, but who had served as deputy assistant secretary of the Interior, Energy and Minerals and as director of the Minerals Management Service.
Bryan Newland has been named principal deputy assistant secretary, Indian Affairs. Until Alaskan Tara Sweeney is replaced as head of the BIA, Newland is a Biden political appointment who reports to her. Newland is Ojibwe and served as chief judge of the Bay Mills Tribal Court, and as a counselor and policy advisor to the head of the BIA from 2009-2012.
He was part of the consortium of Native and environmental groups who successfully lobbied to halt the easement for the Enbridge Line 5 oil and gas conduit beneath the Straits of Mackinac in Michigan. Michigan governor Gretchen Whitmer revoked the permit.
John Tahsuda III was the prior principal deputy assistant secretary, Indian Affairs.
Prior Biden appointments to the Department of Interior show a 180-degree policy shift from the Trump Administration, which took a multi-use approach to public lands.