Sen. Heidi Heitkamp (D-North Dakota), in red, at a Senate Committee on Indian Affairs meeting in February 2017. Photo by Indianz.Com (CC BY-NC-SA 4.0)
National | Politics

Senate Committee on Indian Affairs is the most diverse on Capitol Hill

The Democratic staff on the Senate Committee on Indian Affairs are the most diverse on Capitol Hill, according to a first-ever report.

Every Democratic staffer on the panel identified as "non-Caucasian" on a survey conducted by their party's leadership. No other committee came close in terms of racial and ethnic diversity.

Of the Indian Affairs employees, sixty percent said they Native American, Alaska Native or Native Hawaiian, which again was the highest percentage of any Democratic committee staff. And 60 percent are women, one of the highest in terms of gender representation.

"This survey is a snapshot of the racial, ethnic and gender diversity among U.S. Senate Democratic staff on June 30th, 2017," the Senate Democratic Diversity Initiative announced on Friday.

The top Democratic staffer on the committee is both Native and a woman. Jennifer Romero is a descendant of Santa Clara Pueblo in New Mexico although she is not enrolled in the tribe at this time.

Among individual members of the Senate, Sen. Brian Schatz (D-Hawaii), who sits on the committee and is serving his first term in office, has the largest percentage of staffers -- 19 percent -- who identify as Native. Two newcomers -- Sen. Mazie Hirono (D-Hawaii) and Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto (D-Nevada), another committee member -- tied for second, with 15 percent of Native staffers

Coming in third, at 14 percent, was yet another newcomer -- Sen. Kamala Harris (D-California). And with 11 percent of Native staffers, Sen. Tom Udall (D-Hawaii), the vice chairman of the committee, was ranked fourth.

Ironically, two other prominent members of the committee -- Sen. Jon Tester (D-Montana), a former chairman and vice chairman, and Sen. Heidi Heitkamp (D-North Dakota) -- ranked among the three lowest in terms of racial and ethnic diversity among Democrats in the Senate. Both represents states with overwhelmingly White populations.

Republicans in the Senate have not offered data on staff diversity.