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WASHINGTON — Each week, Native News Online brings you the latest Indian Country news and moves from Washington, D.C. This past week three of President Joe Biden’s nominations moved forward that are significant to Indian Country. Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary of Indian Affairs at the Department of the Interior Bryan Newland’s nomination to be the Assistant Secretary of the Interior – Indian Affairs was sent to the full Senate for consideration.

Also, the nominations of Lauren King, a tribal citizen of the Muscogee Nation, to become a federal district judge for the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Washington and Jane Nishida to become the EPA’s assistant administrator for International and Tribal Affairs were advanced out of Senate committees to the full Senate for consideration.

Bryan Newland’s Nomination Moves to Full Senate

The Senate Committee on Indian Affairs voted to advance the nomination of Bryan Newland, currently serving as principal deputy assistant secretary of Indian Affairs at the Department of the Interior, to the full Senate for consideration.

Newland is the former chairman of the Bay Mills Indian Community, based in Brimely, Mich.

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“It is clear from the record that Mr. Newland is uniquely qualified to succeed in this role, and to serve this country with honor as the chief federal advocate at the Department of the Interior for American Indians, Native Hawaiians, and Alaska Natives,” Sen. Bryan Schatz (D-HA), chairman of the Senate Committee on Indian Affairs said in a statement. 

“Mr. Newland’s combination of issue area expertise, previous public service, and genuine sincerity make him an ideal nominee to serve as Assistant Secretary for Indian Affairs. 

On June 9, 2021, Newland faced questioning by Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-AK), who serves as the vice chair of the Senate Committee on Indian Affairs about his knowledge of Alaska Native Corporations.

“When Mr. Newland appeared before this Committee for his nomination hearing last month, we started a good dialogue with him about the importance of this job, the impact an Assistant Secretary has on the lives of all Native peoples, and the unique laws that must be navigated particularly in Alaska,” Vice Chairman Murkowski commented prior to casting her vote to advance his nomination.

“He made clear to me that he is committed to his ongoing education of Alaska and the unique structure of Indian law we have through ANCSA, with Tribes and Alaska Native Corporations working together to serve all Alaska Natives. And importantly he committed to conducting meaningful consultation, early and in a robust way, with all Tribes and Native Organizations including Alaska Native Corporations,” Sen. Murkowski said.  

Read more in Tribal Business News article.

Muscogee Tribal Citizen Lauren King a Step Closer to Become a Federal Judge

The Senate Judiciary Committee voted to advance the nomination of Lauren King, a tribal citizen of the Muscogee Nation, to the full Senate for confirmation. She was nominated in May by President Biden to become a federal district judge for the United States District Court for the Western District of Washington.

If confirmed, King would be the third active Native American federal district court judge in the country, the fifth in the history of the federal judiciary, and the first Native American federal judge in the Western District of Washington.

After King was nominated by the President, John Echohawk, executive director of the Native American Rights Fund said, “Ms. King is a highly respected Native American attorney whose background and experience has prepared her well for the federal bench.”  

Senate Committee Sends President’s Pick to Lead Tribal Affairs at EPA to Full Senate

The Senate Environment and Public Works Committee voted on Wednesday to advance Jane Nishida’s nomination to the full Senate for confirmation. Nishida is President Joe Biden’s pick to be the EPA’s assistant administrator for International and Tribal Affairs.

The job includes working with foreign governments, international organizations, and other domestic agencies on environmental challenges and the nation’s foreign policy goals.

During a confirmation in June, senators asked her to clarify how she would handle issues in their home states, such as radiation exposure to the Navajo Nation in Arizona and poverty among Alaskan Villages.

Minority Business Development Agency Announces Grant Competition for Minority Colleges & Universities

The Minority Business Development Agency (MBDA) on Friday released information for a new competitive grant minority colleges and universities.

The new grant competition will award $4.5 million in grants that include programs at any tribal colleges and universities

To learn more about the grant competition, register for the pre-application conference on August 3, 2021, and to access additional resources, please visit MBDA Grants page.

Legislation Introduced to Address Land & Geographic Features with Racist and Bigoted Names

Text of Bill (PDF)

U.S. Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) and Rep. Al Green (D-Texas) introduced the Reconciliation in Place Names Act. Originally introduced last year with then-Congresswoman Deb Haaland (D-N.M.), this bill would address land units and geographic features with racist and bigoted names.

Thousands of geographic features, national forests, wilderness areas, and other public lands have offensive names that celebrate people who have upheld slavery, committed unspeakable acts against Native Americans, or led Confederate war efforts.

Many of these landmarks include offensive slurs that degrade people based on their race or background, making many feel unwelcome.

In 2015, 1,441 federally recognized places were identified as having questionable names. These places range from national forests, streams, and wilderness areas to features within the built environment such as bridges and monuments.

The Reconciliation in Place Names Act would specifically:

  • Create an advisory board composed of individuals with backgrounds in civil rights and race relations, tribal citizens, and organizations to bring a depth of knowledge and experience to the process.
  • Solicit proposals from tribal nations, state and local governments, and members of the public, and would provide an opportunity for the public to comment on name change proposals.
  • Require the advisory board to make recommendations to the Board on Geographic Names on geographic features to be renamed and to Congress on renaming Federal land units with offensive names.

Two Solar Energy Projects Slated for Tribal Land Approved by the Interior Dept.

The Department of the Interior on Friday announced that the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) has given final approval to the Southern Bighorn Solar Project on Tribal lands in Nevada. The Department also announced that construction for the Arrow Canyon Solar Project has begun.

These two projects will support over 800 jobs and generate enough electricity to power up to 192,000 homes.

“The time for a clean energy future is now — and Tribal communities have a significant role to play in the Administration’s ambitious goals. These solar projects will support local Tribal economies while adding to the nation’s clean energy supply,” said Secretary Deb Haaland. “The Department is committed to making bold investments that will address the climate crisis, create good-paying jobs, and advance environmental justice.”

The Southern Bighorn Solar Project is located in the southcentral portion of the Reservation in Clark County, Nevada. This project will provide 300 jobs during construction and five permanent jobs when the two facilities included in the project are operational. Once complete, the Southern Bighorn Solar Project will generate enough electricity to power up to 128,000 homes.

The Arrow Canyon Solar Project is located in the southeast corner of the Reservation and will generate enough electricity to power up to 64,000 homes. Project construction will provide 500 temporary jobs and then 12 permanent jobs when the facility is operational. The record of decision for the project was signed Jan. 19, 2021. The project is expected to be up and running in December 2022.

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