An Early Look at the First Year of the Trump Administration

The forty-fifth president of the United States hung a portrait of Andrew Jackson in the Oval Office, placed prominently behind the president’s desk. The President has named Jackson as a model executive he hopes to emulate.

The 45th President has been absolutely clear about several policy goals that, if fully implemented, will lead Indian tribes to a Jacksonian-style existential crisis for tribal interests. The President’s first relevant policy goal is to support the oil and gas, coal, and mineral extraction industries completely, and to remove any and all laws and regulations restricting those industries in any way. The President’s second relevant policy goal, certainly related to the first, is to shrink national government by drastically cutting federal budgets and federal duties, which most definitely means limiting or perhaps eliminating the federal-tribal trust relationship. The President’s third relevant policy goal is to eliminate and drastically reduce programs and policies supporting minority and low-income Americans.

The 45th President’s actions and methods in the first year of his presidency also have the potential to create existential threats to Indian tribes. While most high profile initiatives of the Administration have been failures, lower profile efforts have been more successful.

The following working list is inspired by Amy Suskind’s “Experts in authoritarianism advise to keep a list of things subtly changing around you, so you’ll remember.

Substantive Policy and Legal Moves and Statements

Fee to Trust

“Off-Ramping” the Trust Responsibility

Muscogee Reservation Boundaries Litigation

The 45th President states that Native American block housing grants are unconstitutional under the Fifth Amendment. Here and here.

Bears Ears


The 45th President revokes Obama Executive Order creating Bering Sea Climate Resilience Area. More here.

Budget Cuts

Energy Tribes vs. All Other Tribes

Scope of IRA

Pebble Mine

Keystone XL

The 45th Presidential Administration reverses the federal government’s position on the Keystone XL pipeline. The Atlantic profile.

Dakota Access Pipeline

The 45th President reverses the federal government’s position on Dakota Access Pipeline. ACLU. Dept. of Army noticeThe Atlantic profile.

Obamacare repeal effort.

Border wall.

Office of Indian Energy appointee.

Deputy Assistant Secretary for Indian Affairs appointee.

The 45th President’s appointee for Deputy Assistant Secretary for Indian Affairs was investigated by Office of Inspector General and Human Rights Watch for improprieties at Lower Brule Sioux. OIG report. HRW report. WaPo.

Chomorro Land Trust


Cultural and Political Statements

The 45th President publicly states he believes two United States Supreme Court Justices — Ginsburg and Sotomayor — will die soon, allowing him to replace them.

The 45th President’s comments and idolization of Andrew Jackson is dog whistle for white supremacists.


Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke rode to work on his first day in office on a horse named “Tonto.”

Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke claimed that one-third of Interior Department employees are not loyal to the flag.

Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke mocks tribal concerns about sacred sites at Bears Ears as mere complaints about “arrowheads.”

Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke moves senior Interior Department staff around in shake up based on ideology.

Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke instructs journalist to “be nice” during tour of Bears Ears monument. More here.

Interior Department official who spoke out against the administration’s actions on climate change resigns.

The Bureau of Indian Affairs deletes report on the trust relationship and the federal tribal consultation obligation from the internet.


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