Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke has an appalling record of disrespecting Native Americans, and it just got much worse.
Ryan Zinke’s management of the Department of the Interior has been horrible for Native Americans. Now, it seems Zinke may have a chilling strategy to silence criticism from within his own department: reassigning the Native Americans working there.
According to a report from Talking Points Memo, Zinke transferred more than 30 percent of senior officials with a tribal affiliation, “even though Native Americans make up less than 10 percent of the Department’s workforce.”
Furthermore, former government officials told TPM they viewed such reassignment “as part of an effort to remove internal opposition to Zinke’s plan to open up more tribal and public lands to the fossil fuel industry.”
This revelation comes as congressional Democrats are already demanding an investigation into whether such reassignment practices were discriminatory.
Zinke drew nationwide outrage last year when he reduced the size of Bears Ears National Monument in Utah. His decision, spurred largely by the lobbying of a uranium company, could open over one million acres of artifact-strewn ancestral Navajo land to drilling and mining.
He also lifted the moratorium on permits for coal extraction on public lands without consulting local tribes, who promptly sued.
Retaliating against Native Americans who opposed, or might oppose, this decision would not be out of character for Zinke. Last week, Interior officials revealed that he flatly said in a recent speech to his staff, “I don’t care about diversity” and he doesn’t “really think that’s important anymore.”
And in public, he has shown a cynically self-serving attitude toward the welfare of Native people, invoking them for his own ends. He even claimed that we should not remove Confederate white supremacist monuments because Native Americans might get offended.
For Zinke, the approach to Native relations appears to be “out of sight, out of mind.” And if his suspicious pattern of employee reassignments is any indication, that goes for his own people too.