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First Native American Appointed as Head of National Park Service

This week the Senate appointed the first Native American, Chuck Sams, to lead the National Park Service. He was confirmed by the Senate late Thursday through a unanimous voice vote.

© Greg Nash

Chuck Sams is a tribal member of the confederated Umatilla Indian Reservation. He is Cayuse and Walla Walla and is also blood-related to Cocopah Peoples and the Yankton Sioux. Prior to working in the field of natural resources, Chuck built a career as an intelligence specialist in the Navy.

The Biden Administration previously stressed the need to protect and restore Native lands, proposing a 20-year ban on oil and gas drilling within a 10-mile radius of the national park. The move came as environmentalists objected to the destruction of the native lands which hold historical significance.

Chuck Sams said during his Senate confirmation,

My personal history is deeply interwoven with the fabric of our shared American history.”

The agency oversees multiple sites spanning over 85 million acres and has been allocated a budget of $3 billion so far. The National Park system was established back in 1916 and is responsible for the overall management of the 423 sites. Chuck Sams hopes to bring more Native American voices into the decision-making processes.

The National Park Service is a very special agency with a timeless mission, to preserve resources and to inspire current and future generations. I am excited to lead that mission,” Chuck said.


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