Alaska’s U.S. senators joined an unanimous vote which elevated Tara Sweeney to head the federal Bureau of Indian Affairs, marking a first for the state.

Alaska lawmakers widely hailed Sweeney’s smooth passage through the Senate Thursday, joining Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke in welcoming her to her new job. She is the first Alaska Native to hold the position of assistant secretary for Indian Affairs.

“She is a results-driven team leader and coalition builder who has an impressive combination of business acumen and service to her community,” Zinke said in a joint statement with the congressional delegation. “Her lifelong active engagement in Native American policy development and her outreach, advocacy, and organization skills are the combination we need to carry out the President’s reform initiative for Indian Country. I look forward to welcoming her to the Department."

“I believe that if anyone is up to this hard and difficult task that it is Tara Sweeney,” said Sen. Lisa Murkowski. “She has the determination and tenacity to take on this challenge and achieve remarkable things in her position. She truly has a heart for all Native people. As a proud Inupiaq, she has lived first-hand the challenges that many in Indian Country face.”

“Tara has a long history of relentlessly advocating for Alaska Native cultural values, rights, and economic opportunity,” said Sen. Dan Sullivan. “She will bring this focus and determination to all Indigenous people throughout the country. I am absolutely certain that there is no one who will work harder for the rights, for the economic empowerment, and for the culture of America’s First Peoples than Tara Sweeney. It’s a great day for Alaska and a great day for our country.”

“Tara is a natural leader and has been an influential voice for American Indians and Alaska Natives,” said Rep. Don Young. “Throughout her years of dedicated service to Alaska Native communities, she has championed the economic and social well-being of our First Peoples and the spirit of tribal self-determination. Her career has been marked by many notable successes and I’m very proud that she has been entrusted to positively shape the future of BIA.”

Gov. Bill Walker joined in praising Sweeney Thursday afternoon.

Arctic Slope Regional Corp., where Sweeney has served as executive vice president of external affairs, also hailed her confirmation Thursday.

“This has been a long and exhaustive process, but we always knew Tara was up for the challenge,” said Rex A. Rock Sr., ASRC president and CEO. “We are all so proud of her, and look forward to her tenacity and fearless leadership while serving those in Indian Country.”

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