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Sen. Tester presses for confirmation of three Indian nominees

Filed Under: Law | National | Politics | Trust | World
More on: 113th, diane humetewa, jon tester, judiciary, keith harper, ost, scia, senate, un, vince logan, women

Vincent G. Logan. Photo courtesy U.S. Department of the Interior

Sen. Jon Tester (D-Montana) is calling on the Senate to confirm three tribal members to important posts.

Tester, the chairman of the Senate Indian Affairs Committee, said his colleagues have waited too long to take action on the nominations of Vincent Logan, Keith Harper and Diane Humetewa. In Logan's case, he has been waiting for 20 months to find out whether he will serve as the Special Trustee for American Indians.

"These individuals have been nominated to positions that are crucial to Indian Country, and to the nation," Tester said on the Senate floor today. "It’s our responsibility to make sure they can begin this challenging work.

Harper, a member of the Cherokee Nation, has been nominated to serve as the U.S. Representative to the United Nations Human Rights Council. If confirmed, he will be the first member of a federally recognized tribe to serve in an ambassador-rank post.

Diane Humetewa
Diane Humetewa

Diane Humetewa is a member of the Hopi Tribe who has been nominated to serve as a federal judge in Arizona. If confirmed by the full Senate, she will be the first Native American woman in the federal judiciary.

"Confirming these nominees during a time of such partisanship will send a strong signal to Indian Country," Tester said.

Tester's full remarks follow:
Madam President, as Chairman of the Committee on Indian Affairs, I rise in support of the nominations of three distinguished Native American leaders: Vincent Logan, Keith Harper and Diane Humetewa.

These individuals have been nominated to positions that are crucial to Indian country, and to the Nation. It’s our responsibility to make sure they can begin this challenging work.

I think it is fair to say that no one in this chamber is happy about how nominations have been handled in the last few years. There are reasons and frustrations on both sides about the process, and I understand that.

But in the case of these nominees, it is long-past time to act.

And by acting on these nominees, this Congress, which has been criticized for not doing very much… can make a little bit of history.

Vince Logan’s nomination was first sent to the Senate in September 2012.

He is a member of the Osage Nation of Oklahoma and was nominated to be Special Trustee for American Indians at the Department of the Interior. This vote is long overdue. This position has been vacant for five years.

The Special Trustee is charged with overseeing the Department’s fulfillment of its trust responsibilities to tribes and individual Indians. It’s a difficult job, and I’m confident Mr. Logan is the right man to do it.

He is a litigator with vast experience in both public and private sectors. He has also shown great passion for working with tribes and individual Indians to manage their trust assets. Mr. Logan was unanimously approved by the Indian Affairs Committee in January, and I urge my colleagues in the Senate to do the same.

I would also like to speak in support of Keith Harper, a member of the Cherokee Nation of Oklahoma. Mr. Harper is the President’s nominee for United States Representative to the United Nations Human Rights Council. His nomination has been pending since early February.

This is a history-making nomination. If confirmed, Mr. Harper would be the first member of a federally recognized tribe to hold the rank of United States Ambassador. Keith has outstanding academic and professional credentials, having spent many years representing Indian tribes across the country.

Keith’s nomination was first sent up here in June 2013. What message do we send to Indian Country – and to the world – when we allow endless delay on the nomination of the man who will be the first Native American to hold the title of Ambassador?

Mr. Harper’s nomination has the strong support of the National Congress of American Indians, and numerous tribes and tribal leaders throughout Indian country. He has also been active in human and civil rights organizations, and served as a delegate to the 2001 World Conference Against Racism in Durban, South Africa.

All of these experiences have prepared him to tackle injustice at the global level. It is also important to confirm this position to ensure that the United States has a representative at the U.N.’s World Conference on Indigenous Peoples in September.

Finally, Diane Humetewa was nominated to serve as District Court Judge for the District of Arizona, with the strong support of her home state Senators, Senator McCain and Senator Flake.

Her nomination was reported favorably three months ago by the Judiciary Committee, though her nomination has been pending since September 2013.

She is a member of the Hopi Tribe of Arizona. That means that if confirmed, she would be the only Native American currently serving as a federal judge. And she would be the first Native American woman to ever serve on the federal bench.

Confirming these nominees during a time of such partisanship will send a strong signal to Indian Country.

And, whether it is overseeing our trust responsibilities, representing our Nation to the world, or delivering justice, these nominees will help our government to function just a little bit better and more efficiently.

I ask my colleagues to join me in swiftly confirming these three outstanding nominees.

I yield the floor.

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