On Monday, U.S. Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke announced an interesting choice — one with ties to Southeast Alaska — as director of the Bureau of Indian Affairs.
Bryan Rice, a former forester with the Tongass National Forest who earned a Master of Business Administration from the University of Alaska-Southeast, was scheduled to start work Monday at the helm of the federal agency that “coordinates government-to-government relations with 567 federally recognized tribes in the United States,” according to the Interior Department.
In addition to his experience in Southeast Alaska, Rice, who’s a citizen of the Cherokee Nation of Oklahoma, has a fairly extensive resume in government service.
Rice most recently served as director of the Interior Department’s Office of Wildland Fire after a stint from 2014 to 2016 as director of forest management for the U.S. Forest Service. He’s also had experience with the BIA, serving from 2011 to 2014 as deputy director of the agency’s Office of Trust Services.
He’s also worked as a timber sale officer on the Yakama Reservation, according to Interior Department information.
The department’s announcement of Rice’s appointment contained a set of quotations that strongly indicate the agency’s focus in the near future.
Zinke is quoted as saying that he has “full confidence that Bryan is the right person at this pivotal time as we work to renew the department’s focus on self-determination and self-governance, give power back to the tribes, and provide real meaning to the concept of tribal sovereignty.”
John Tahsuda, the department’s acting assistant secretary for Indian affairs, said Rice will be a “strong leader for the Bureau and closely follow the secretary’s plans for reforming the BIA into a top-notch service delivery agency for tribes and tribal leaders.”
For his part, Rice said that “Native Americans face significant regulatory and bureaucratic hurdles to economic freedom and success.
“I am honored to accept this position and look forward to implementing President Trump’s and Secretary Zinke’s regulatory reform initiative for Indian Country to liberate Native Americans from the bureaucracy that has held them back economically,” said Rice.
Those are strong words, especially from Rice and Zinke. Time will tell how the Interior Department and BIA translate those words into action.
For now, we’re encouraged that the new BIA director has BIA experience, can likely tell a spruce from a pine, and can find Southeast Alaska on a map.
— Ketchikan Daily News, Oct. 17, 2017