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With only five Native American members in the 118th Congress, the congressional committee assignments they attain are important to Indian Country.

Seniority is another important factor. Republican Rep. Tom Cole (Chickasaw) is the longest serving Native American serving in Congress. With almost 20 years of experience on Capitol Hill, Cole, who is serving in his tenth term in the House of Representatives, was named on January 10, 2023 the chair of the powerful House Rules Committee by Speaker Kevin McCarthy. Cole is the first Native American to ever head the committee. 

He served as Vice Chairman of the committee beginning in 2017 and as Ranking Member of the committee during the past two congresses. 

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Cole also serves on the House Appropriations Committee that allocates funding all across the federal government. 

Rep. Sharice Davids, a tribal citizen of the Ho-Chunk Nation, is serving in her third term In Congress. Davids, a Democrat who serves the 3rd congressional district in Kansas was named vice chair of the Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure. Given the poor road conditions on most Indian reservations, Davids’ serving on the Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure may be beneficial to Indian Country. 

“Too often, we only think about infrastructure when it fails—but when we make smart policy choices, infrastructure has the power to connect us and to build the foundation for future economic growth,” Davids said.

Davids was also reappointed to the House Agriculture Committee, which has jurisdiction over federal agriculture policy, including forestry, nutrition, conservation, and other agriculture-related fields. It also oversees rural development broadly.

As the first Alaska Native ever to serve in Congress, Rep. Mary  Sattler Peltola (Yup'ik) was also appointed to the Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure committee. Membership on the Transportation & Infrastructure committee is highly sought-after, as this committee has jurisdiction over major infrastructure projects nationwide. It oversees important federal agencies, including the Department of Transportation, the US Coast Guard, the Federal Emergency Management Association, and the Federal Aviation Administration.

“I’m thrilled to receive the appointment to the Transportation & Infrastructure Committee,” said Representative Peltola. This Committee’s work is critical to our state’s economic development. As Alaska depends on federal infrastructure dollars to support projects statewide, this position will enable my office to exercise more influence over funding that is crucial to growth in Alaska. I look forward to bringing home real results.”

Rep. Josh Bresheen, who is a tribal citizen of the Choctaw Nation, is serving his first term in Congress. A Republican, he was elected to serve Oklahoma’s 2nd congressional district, for the open congressional seat held by Sen. Markwayne Mullin, who was elected to the U.S. Senate. 

“It is an honor to serve on both the House Committee on Homeland Security and the Budget Committee,” Brecheen said.

The Native Americans serving in Congress are listed by seniority: 

Rep. Tom Cole (R-OK-4th District)

  • Rules Committee - Chairman
  • Appropriations Committee - Vice Chairman

Rep. Sharice Davids (D-KS-3rd District)

  • Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure - Vice-Chair
  • Committee on Small Business
  • Committee on Agriculture
  • Joint Economic Committee

Rep. Mary Sattler Peltola (D-AK-At-Large)

  • Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure
  • House Natural Resources Committee

Rep. Josh Brecheen ((R-OK-2nd District)

  • Committee on the Budget
  • Committee on Homeland Security

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Levi Rickert
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Levi "Calm Before the Storm" Rickert (Prairie Band Potawatomi Nation) is the founder, publisher and editor of Native News Online. Rickert was awarded Best Column 2021 Native Media Award for the print/online category by the Native American Journalists Association. He serves on the advisory board of the Multicultural Media Correspondents Association. He can be reached at [email protected].