The White House has announced that Karen Diver, chairwoman of the Fond du Lac Band of Lake Superior Chippewa, has accepted the position of special assistant to President Obama for Native American Affairs, and will assume her new duties November 16 in Washington DC. She becomes the first elected tribal leader to serve in a senior position at the White House.
As special assistant to the president, Diver will work with cabinet-level administration officials as well as domestic policy councils to develop and implement policy positions and initiatives for Indian Country.
Diver has led the Fond du Lac Band since 2007. During her tenure, she became one of the leading advocates in Indian country for policies to address climate change. In 2013, she was appointed to the President’s Task Force on Climate Preparedness and Resilience, where she earned recognition as a knowledgeable and effective advocate for Native American communities, which are especially vulnerable to the economic and environmental consequences of climate change.
In a letter to Fond du Lac tribal members announcing her resignation, Diver said, “I am excited by the opportunity to have a wider impact in Indian country under President Obama’s administration, which has shown unprecedented support for Indian country.”
Long-time Mille Lacs tribal advisor Tadd Johnson praised Diver’s selection in a November 2 Duluth News Tribune report. “She has never been afraid to speak truth to power. She’s got a tremendous amount of courage and tremendous amount of knowledge and savvy on all Native American issues,” Johnson said.
U.S. Representative Rick Nolan (Dem-MN8) called Diver “a bold, powerful and visionary leader for the Fond du Lac Band,” and congratulated her “as she prepares to take those same qualities to the White House as an assistant to the president and champion for native people across our nation.”
Diver plans to continue in the position throughout the remainder of the Obama administration, but has indicated she will not pursue appointment by the President’s successor, who will take office in 2017. It is expected that Fond du Lac Vice Chairman Wally Dupuis will be named interim chairperson until the Band’s regular election in June 2016.