Earlier this morning the U.S. Senate confirmed Rep. Ryan Zinke (R- MT) as the 52nd U.S. Secretary of the Interior. Secretary Zinke will oversee a diverse collection of federal agencies including the National Park Service, Minerals Management Service, Bureau of Reclamation and Bureau of Indian Affairs. The Department of the Interior oversees more than 500 million acres of federal land including more than 50 million acres of tribal trust lands. The Bureau of Indian Affairs administers programs on tribal lands for education, natural resource management, housing, and economic development.
As a member of the House of Representatives, Secretary Zinke was an ally for tribal interests in the financial services industry. Last year, he wrote a letter to former Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell in support of tribal online lending and counseled Secretary Jewell against federal regulation that might harm this burgeoning economic development opportunity for Native Americans. He asked that tribal impacts be considered in any potential rulemaking instigated by the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau and stressed that “[I] firmly believe it is the duty of both your agencies [Bureau of Indian Affairs and CFPB] to protect the interests and sovereignty of Tribes.” He encouraged collaboration with tribes and championed the tribal lending model that balances consumer protections and tribal economic independence. NAFSA looks forward to working closely with Secretary Zinke to build sustainable tribal economies and promote sovereignty and self-determination.