From left: Sen. Dan Sullivan (R-Alaska), Tara Sweeney, Sen. Jon Tester (D-Montana) and Sen. Heidi Heitkamp (D-North Dakota) exchange greetings as the Senate Committee on Indian Affairs took up Sweeney's nomination to serve as the Assistant Secretary for Indian Affairs on May 9, 2018. Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) and Sen. Tom Udall (D-New Mexico) can be seen in the background to the left. Photo by Indianz.Com (CC BY-NC-SA 4.0)

Recap: Tara Sweeney confirmation hearing as Assistant Secretary for Indian Affairs

After a long wait, Tara Sweeney finally got her day on Capitol Hill. The Native corporate executive, who hails from an Inupiat village on the northern slope of Alaska, went before the Senate Committee on Indian Affairs on Wednesday afternoon to share her story.

"I believe in self-determination," Sweeney told lawmakers at her confirmation hearing to serve as Assistant Secretary for Indian Affairs.

If confirmed to the post, Sweeney would oversee the Bureau of Indian Affairs and the Bureau of Indian Education. Though most of her experience lies in Alaska, where she serves as vice president for the Arctic Slope Regional Corporation and on the board of the Alaska Federation of Natives, she vowed to represent all of Indian Country.

"For those who may fear that I am too Alaska-centric or I don’t have lower 48 experience, I want to dispel that myth," Sweeney testified. "I am committed to working very hard for Indian Country ... and for Native self-determination, regardless of geography."

The hearing, which started around 4pm Eastern, lasted about 2 hours, during which Sweeney fielded questions about a slew of pressing issues -- including harassment. An internal study showed that employees at the BIA reported the highest rates of harassment within the Department of the Interior. The director of the BIA, a career-level position, recently resigned after being accused of harassing a female subordinate, as Indianz.Com first reported last month.

"I have a zero tolerance policy for sexual harassment," Sweeney said. "No employee should ever fear coming to work because of harassment."

The next step in the process would be for the committee to hold a business meeting on Sweeney's nomination. Assuming she is approved, she would then need a final vote on the Senate floor before she can take over the BIA.

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