Courtesy U.S. Department of the Interior
Weldon “Bruce” Loudermilk, an enrolled member of the Fort Peck Assiniboine and Sioux Tribes of the Fort Peck Indian Reservation, is the new director of the Bureau of Indian Affairs.

New BIA Director Says Land Issues, Law Enforcement Top List

Tanya H. Lee
11/25/16

Weldon “Bruce” Loudermilk was appointed 46th head of the Bureau of Indian Affairs, a federal agency under the Interior Department, on November 2. Established in 1824, the bureau is responsible for working with the sovereign governments of the nation’s 567 federally-recognized tribes in the administration of law enforcement and justice, agricultural and economic development, tribal governance, and natural resources management. Loudermilk talked with ICTMN about his background and his priorities for the agency.

Could you tell us about the experience you bring to this position?

I am a member of the Fort Peck Assiniboine and Sioux Tribe. I’ve been with the BIA since May of 1990, so going on just over 26 years of service. I’ve had two regional director positions, one in the Great Plains Region and one in the Alaska Region. I’m vacating that position now to be the Bureau director. Previous to that I worked with the Office of the Special Trustee for American Indians.

What are your priorities as you assume office?

We’ve got a number of priorities that we’re working on. A lot of it is to continue the work of this administration and keep the momentum going in areas such as land into trust, law enforcement and the land buy-back program, to name a few.

Currently with land into trust we’ve brought in over 500,000 acres and the previous director, Michael S. Black, has done a fabulous job. We want to go out there and see what we can do to help continue the efforts in restoring tribal homelands.

And we continue to work on law enforcement issues throughout Indian country, to address jurisdictional issues and to work with tribes to help better understand the efforts that are being put forth.

How is the Carcieri decision affecting your efforts to bring land into trust for the tribes?

At this point in time that’s something I’m going to have to get caught up on a little bit more. Coming from Alaska, land into trust is something that we’re just now starting to do. We’ve put in our first applications and they are being looked at right now, so it is a work in progress.

What do you see as the areas where you face the greatest challenges?

Some of the greatest challenges that we have are building our nation-to-nation relationships, working on our trust and treaty obligations with our Native American tribes, working on self-determination and economic development. Those are all items that are very critical to Indian country.

What else would you like people to know at this point?

Just that I am excited to be the next Bureau director and I’m looking forward to the challenges and doing what I can, the best I can, for Indian country.

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