This West Is OUR West

Are you concerned about Ryan Zinke as Secretary of the Interior? Please help...

For those of us who are concerned and/or disappointed in the nomination of Ryan Zinke for Secretary of the Interior, we are asking that you contact Trump's transition team and others shown below, and/or other avenues you may be aware of in order to post comments. Though we may be limited in what change we can effect, we think it is truly worth the effort. We may not be able to effect a change in Trump’s selection, but it certainly appears that we need to do some intense educating of both President-Elect Trump and Ryan Zinke, particularly on the tribal issues.

Trump contact sites:

President's Transition team

Facebook transition team (there are avenues to comment under the posts):

Other contacts:

Rep. Ryan Zinke, MT: 202-225-3211, Fax 202-225-5687, Email

Jeff Sessions, US Senator from Alabama

Roger Stone: served as an advisor to the 2016 presidential campaign of Donald Trump. There is a “contact” button on his website:

Steven Bannon:  became chief executive officer of the 2016 presidential campaign of Donald Trump in August 2016. Bannon has been named chief strategist and Senior Counselor for the Presidency of Donald Trump.  Bannon was executive chair of Breitbart News, but took a leave of absence from Breitbart in order to work for the campaign. Steve Bannon is on Facebook and Twitter. If anyone has another way of contacting him, we would love to post it.

You may also wish to contact the following:

Sen. Steve Daines, MT: 202-224-2651, Fax 202-224-9412,

Rep. Rob Bishop, UT & Chair, House Subcommittee on Indian and Alaska Native Affairs

Rep. Don Young, AL & Chair, House Natural Resources Committee

Rep. John Fleming, LA & Chair, House Subcommittee on Water, Power and Oceans

Rep. Mike Conaway, TX & Chair, House Committee on Agriculture

Rep. Glenn Thompson, PA & Chair, House Subcommittee on conservation and Forestry

Sen. John Barrasso, WY & Chair, Senate Subcommittee on Public Lands, Forests, and Mining

Sen. Mike Lee, UT & Chair, Senate Subcommittee on Water and Power

Sen. Pat Roberts, KS & chair, Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition & Forestry

Sen. David Perdue, GA & Chair, Senate Subcommittee on Conservation, Forestry and Natural Resources

Another avenue worth pursuing is to contact any other Senators you may know, asking that the Senate "not approve" this choice, or simply share your concerns.  Any other ideas or thoughts are welcome as well.

We encourage you to share this information widely with your email lists and on websites.

For more information and articles covering our concerns as to why this is so important, please read below.

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“Indian Country” has reported their excitement with this nomination.  "Indian Country" is very pleased with Congressman Ryan Zinke as the new Secretary of Interior. Check out the article below from - a major Indian Country News website:


Republican lawmaker with a better tribal record tapped for Interior Secretary
Thursday, December 15, 2016

This time it's official -- Republican president-elect Donald Trump has tapped a lawmaker with a more favorable record on tribal issues to head up the Interior Department. Since joining Congress in 2015, Rep. Ryan Zinke (R-Montana) has supported tribes on water, taxation, health care, federal recognition, economic development, energy, violence against Native women, and sovereignty matters.

If he is confirmed as Secretary of the Interior, he would be the key person in the incoming administration that deals with Indian issues. But Trump didn't mention tribes at all as his transition team made the official announcement on Wednesday. Instead he indicated that other issues on Interior's plate, including public lands management and exploitation of natural resources, were his priorities.

Zinke, however, didn't leave Indian Country out. The announcement noted that he is an adopted member of the Fort Peck Tribes in Montana. "Most important, our sovereign Indian Nations and territories must have the respect and freedom they deserve," Zinke said. As Montana's sole representative in the House, Zinke has championed a number of causes for tribes in his state. The very first bill he introduced after taking office in January 2015 was H.R.286 to extend federal recognition to the Little Shell Tribe of Chippewa Indians. While the bill did not become law after it was added to a controversial recognition reform measure, Chairman Gerald Gray counted Zinke among the tribe's "allies and friends" in a statement posted on Facebook on Tuesday. And that support could prove crucial because the Bureau of Indian Affairs, an agency at Interior, is still considering whether to grant federal status to the descendants of Chief Little Shell.

Another one of Zinke's initiatives was more successful. He helped secure passage of a long-delayed water rights settlement for the Blackfeet Nation. H.R.5633, the Blackfeet Water Rights Settlement Act, was included in S.612, a national water bill that awaits signature from President Barack Obama. "Water is more than a drinking source to the Blackfeet, it’s their life source and we must respect and honor their culture and rights," Zinke said in a press release on Tuesday in which Chairman Harry Barnes offered praise for the lawmaker. Zinke's experience with water rights will prove crucial should he be confirmed to the Interior post.

The BIA and the Bureau of Reclamation, another agency at the department, play critical roles in negotiating and implementing settlements across Indian Country. And in yet another area of interest, Zinke would have the authority to make changes at Interior that he wasn't able to achieve through legislation. He could revive a committee of tribal and state officials that deals with mineral resource issues, something he tried to do with H.R.5259, the Certainty for States and Tribes Act.

Zinke's pro-energy stance could turn out to be helpful for some within Indian Country. He has repeatedly accused the Obama administration of engaging in a "war on coal" which he said hindered economic development opportunities for the Crow Tribe. But his push for a coal export terminal that would have benefited the tribe came at the expense of another. During his re-election campaign, he accused his Democratic rival of taking "blood money" from the Lummi Nation, whose leaders opposed the project.

Zinke derided the Lummis as a "wealthy tribe" but did not explain that they opposed the terminal because it would infringe on their treaty-protected fishing rights. The Obama administration halted the project in May in direct response to those concerns. But now that Zinke has been tapped for the president's Cabinet, his departure from Congress could open the door for Denise Juneau, a member of the Mandan, Hidatsa and Arikara Nation who was his rival in the race.

Federal law requires an election to fill a vacancy in the U.S. House although she hasn't committed to running again. "I look forward to a little time off to re-adjust the sails and think about what it is I want to do and accomplish," Juneau, who was hoping to become the first Native woman in Congress, told Montana Public Radio on Monday. Confirmation hearings for Zinke are expected to take place early next year, after the 115th Congress convenes. He would go before the Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources. "As a westerner, Ryan understands the challenges of having the federal government as your largest neighbor and I couldn't think of a better fit for Secretary of the Interior," Sen. Steve Daines (R-Montana) , who serves on the committee, said in a press release on Tuesday, before the official announcement.

Trump had been considering another Republican lawmaker with a less favorable tribal record for the Interior job. But Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-Washington) basically withdrew herself from the running as Zinke's stock rose. "It was an honor to be invited to spend time with the President-elect, and I’m energized more than ever to continue leading in Congress as we think big, reimagine this government, and put people back at the center of it," McMorris Rodgers said on Facebook on Tuesday.

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Ryan Zinke was also a co-sponsor of a bill on the tribal forestry issue by a Democratic Congressman from New Mexico that was included in the Energy Bill S.2012. He was also a supporter of the CSKT Water Compact, an unconstitutional “taking” of on and off-reservation water in Montana.

In addition to the Indian issues, we are very concerned about Ryan Zinke’s stance regarding public lands. According to one reliable source, Zinke refused to sit with the Montana Delegation at the National Republican Convention because he so stridently disagreed with the Montana Republican Platform position on the transfer of public lands. He also supported the arrest of the Bundy’s and others for speaking out on their grazing rights on public lands. All of this adds up to a very questionable stance on the protection of private property and states’ rights.

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It’s the Republican party’s official policy to steal 640 million acres of public land from the American people. And with both the legislative and executive branches of the federal government soon to be under their control, there appeard [sic] to be little that could stop them. But then President-elect Donald Trump announced that he was nominating Ryan Zinke, a former Navy SEAL who voices strong opposition to the great public land heist, as the Secretary of the Interior. 

Zinke is a first-term Republican Congressman from Montana who has twice bucked the party line and voted against measures to transfer ownership of public lands from federal to state control. In fact, he’s made the issue something of a calling card. “The sale or transfer of our land is an extreme proposal and I won’t tolerate it,” he said in a June press release

Read more here

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Congress has been very busy accommodating Indian Tribes this session. Here's an "index" of bills nearing Obama's signature that we should study and watch. 

- Elaine Willman


Congress wrapped up its work for the year by passing a national water bill that contains numerous benefits for Indian Country.

S.612, the Water Infrastructure Improvements for the Nation Act (WIIN Act) , includes at least 10 separate Indian bills. There's one repatriation provision, two major infrastructure packages, three land-into-trust acquisitions and four water settlements in the 277-page measure. "Congress has taken major action on behalf of tribal communities,” Sen. John Barrasso (R-Wyoming), the outgoing chairman of the Senate Committee on Indian Affairs, said in a press release.

Barrasso's committee advanced many of the individual components of S.612 during its ever-busy schedule these past two years. Some also saw action in the House. But putting all of them into one must-pass package ensures success now that lawmakers have gone home for the year. S.612, also known as the WIIN Act, is awaiting signature from President Barack Obama. "These measures will help protect Native and surrounding communities from flooding, improve aging irrigation systems, clarify water rights, take land into trust for tribes, and protect and improve lives across Indian Country. I urge the president to sign this bill into law," Barrasso said.

Two of Barrasso's more ambitious infrastructure initiatives are among those included in S.612. Dams and irrigation systems in Indian Country will finally see long-overdue attention if the bill becomes law. S.2717, the Dam Repairs and Improvements for Tribes Act (DRIFT ACT), authorizes at least $229.25 million over six fiscal years to fix aging dams on and near reservations. The amount is not enough to fully clear the $500 million backlog that has amassed at the Bureau of Indian Affairs but it brings significant resources to a problem that affects more than 800 dams across tribal lands.

The second Indian infrastructure bill is S.438, the Irrigation Rehabilitation and Renovation for Indian Tribal Governments and Their Economies Act, or IRRIGATE Act. It authorizes at least $175 million over five fiscal years to fix and maintain irrigation systems in Indian Country. Again the amount isn't enough to fully address what the Government Accountability Office in 2006 said was a backlog of $850 million. But it's the first time Congress has taken a comprehensive approach to the issue. Also included in S.612 are three land-into-trust bills. Tribes have been increasingly approaching Congress to help them with acquisitions and transfers that might otherwise take years through other means. H.R.387, the Economic Development Through Tribal Land Exchange Act, resolves a long-running land dispute in southern California. It authorizes a land swap between the Morongo Band of Mission Indians and a private citizen and places 41 acres in trust for the tribe. "It actually makes all the parties happy," Rep. Paul Cook (R-California), one of the co-sponsors of the bill, said in June 2015. S.1822 benefits the Tuolumne Band of Me-Wuk Indians, also in California. It places about 80 acres of U.S. Forest Service property in trust for the tribe. "The parcels are located in an area of great cultural and historical significance to the tribe and are contiguous to lands the tribe currently owns in fee simple, known simply as the Murphy Ranch," Rep. Jim Costa (D-California), one of the co-sponsors of H.R.3079, an identical version of the bill, said in July.

Finally, H.R.4685, the Tule River Indian Reservation Land Trust, Health, and Economic Development Act, places about 34 acres of Bureau of Land Management property in trust for the Tule River Tribe in California. The land will help the tribe consolidate its holdings. "Although this may not seem like a lot of land, every acre of land is important to our tribe," Vice Chairman Kenneth McDarment told the House Subcommittee on Indian, Insular and Alaska Native Affairs in June.

In addition to the infrastructure and land-into-trust components, S.612 ratifies water settlements for the Blackfeet Nation in Montana, the Pechanga Band of Luiseno Indians in California and the Chickasaw Nation and the Choctaw Nation in Oklahoma. It also updates a previously approved settlement for five tribes in southern California.

The other significant Indian provision in the WIIN Act is S.1979, the Bring the Ancient One Home Act. The bill returns the remains of the Kennewick Man to five Pacific Northwest tribes. Government Accountability Office Report -- Indian Irrigation Projects: Numerous Issues Need to Be Addressed to Improve Project Management and Financial Sustainability.

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Water Resources Development Act Includes Several Key Provisions for Indian Country

Dec 10, 2016

WASHINGTON, D.C. — U.S. Sen. John Barrasso (R-WY), chairman of the Senate Committee on Indian Affairs, praised Congress’s passage of S. 612, the Water Infrastructure Improvements for the Nation Act (WINN Act), the legislative vehicle for the Water Resources Development Act, which included several key provisions for Indian Country.

“Congress has taken major action on behalf of tribal communities,” said Barrasso. “The Water Resources Development Act included Indian bills that were passed by the committee throughout this Congress. These measures will help protect Native and surrounding communities from flooding, improve aging irrigation systems, clarify water rights, take land into trust for tribes, and protect and improve lives across Indian Country. I urge the president to sign this bill into law.”

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The Congress-passed S. 612 included the following:

·         S. 2717, the Dam Repairs and Improvements for Tribes Act of 2016 (DRIFT Act);

·         S. 438, the Irrigation Rehabilitation and Renovation for Indian Tribal Governments and Their Economies Act (IRRIGATE Act);

·         S. 1983, the Pechanga Band of Luiseno Mission Indians Water Rights Settlement Act;

·         S. 1125, the Blackfeet Water Rights Settlement Act of 2015;

·         H.R. 387, a bill to provide for certain land to be taken into trust for the benefit of the Morongo Band of Mission Indians;

·        S. 1822, a bill to take certain federal land located in Tuolumne County, Calif., into trust for the benefit of the Tuolumne Band of Me-Wuk Indians;

·        H.R. 4685, an act to take certain federal lands located in Tulare County, Calif., into trust for the benefit of the Tule River Indian Tribe; and

·        H.R. 1296, a bill to amend the San Luis Rey Indian Water Rights Settlement Act to clarify certain settlement terms.


S. 2848, the Water Resources Development Act of 2016 passed the Senate on Sept. 15, 2016, and has been under the conference (reconciliation) process between the Senate and the House of Representatives.