Oregon joins Washington in having a full time tribal affairs director on governor’s staff
Oregon Gov. Tina Kotek recently announced she hired a tribal affairs director for the first time. Shana McConville Radford is stepping into the role.
McConville Radford recently served as the deputy executive director of the Confederated Tribes of the Umatilla Indian Reservation in northeast Oregon. Communication and transparency are the cornerstone to the state’s relationship with Oregon tribes, said Gov. Kotek.
McConville Radford is now in charge of consultation with tribes and directing state policies. She said she hopes her new position will help the nine sovereign tribes in Oregon be heard in the state’s policymaking and government.
“I think me stepping into this role is really me playing my part,” McConville Radford said. “…Keep our culture alive and keep our traditions alive. Restore our resources and make sure our people are healthy and thriving again.”
McConville Radford said this role has been a long time coming. Washington has had a position like this since 1983. Before that, there was a tribal advisor role that was created in 1969. Although Idaho has people assigned to tribal affairs, there is no director position in the governor’s office there.
Craig Bill – Washington’s tribal director under Governor Jay Inslee – said he thinks it shows a deliberate step by Oregon to elevate tribal engagement at the highest level of state government. He said Oregon’s tribes deserve government-to-government relations.
Since 1999, all agencies within Washington must have a tribal liaison position that reports to senior levels, according to the office of Gov. Inslee.
When asked if Washington’s Indian Affairs director had any advice for McConville Radford – Craig Bill has been in the role since the mid-2000s – he said, “Within this role, when we [Indigenous people] take these positions, we’re caught in a middle position — that’s kind of good. We raise and make sure tribal people are heard and facilitate that at the state level and make sure everyone has the same information.”
According to a state of Oregon press release, McConville Radford brings over 15 years of tribal relations, policy, tribal facilitation, negotiation and intergovernmental relations experience to the role. Beyond her role with the Confederated Tribes of the Umatilla Indian Reservation, McConville Radford also served as the superintendent of the Flathead Agency working with the Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes in Montana for the Bureau of Indian Affairs. She has also worked with the Confederated Tribes of Warm Springs, serving as the health and human services liaison. Before that, she served as a tribal consultant on energy, education and health. During the 2020 Decennial Census, McConville Radford was the U.S. Census Bureau’s tribal and congressional partnership lead in ensuring that Oregon and Idaho’s tribal nations were accurately counted.
“You have to be able to work and understand the systems that impact us essentially,” McConville Radford said. “Back to the very beginning. I have felt those impacts. I know what that feels like. I can see my neighbor or my cousin or my son or whomever, and everyone in Oregon, we all feel the impacts of policy and that’s just my forte, that’s what I’m interested in. That’s where I think I can make a difference, and that’s why I’m here.”