Rep. Ruben Gallego (D-Arizona), chairman of the House Subcommittee for Indigenous Peoples of the United States, and Naomi Miguel, a citizen of the Tohono O’odham Nation who is serving as staff director for the subcommittee in the 117th Congress. Photo courtesy House Committee on Natural Resources, Democrats
Native women land prominent roles on key Congressional committee
Monday, February 1, 2021

With the 117th Congress underway, two citizens of the Tohono O’odham Nation are taking prominent roles on a legislative committee that handles Indian Country issues.

Naomi Miguel has been named staff director for the House Subcommittee for Indigenous Peoples of the United States while Ariana Romeo has been promoted from policy aide to professional staffer. Both women hail from the Tohono O’odham Nation, whose homelands are located in southern Arizona and share an international border with Mexico.

“Naomi and Ariana are two of the best policy minds in Congress on Native American issues, and I’m proud to have them both on my staff,” Rep. Raúl Grijalva (D-Arizona), the chairman of the House Committee on Natural Resources, said in a press release on Friday.

“Whether the committee is considering how to support tribes economically, protect sacred lands from exploitation, aid tribes in improving their health care quality, or restoring their rightful government-to-government relationship as sovereign nations with federal agencies, the entire committee trusts both Indigenous women’s analysis and leadership without hesitation,” said Grijalva.

“Tribes know they can trust them, their colleagues know they can rely on them, and we’re all looking forward to the continued benefits of their expertise in the new Congress,” Grijalva concluded.

The House Subcommittee for Indigenous Peoples of the United States is part of the larger House Committee on Natural Resources. Almost every piece of Indian Country legislation goes through the panel.

Rep. Ruben Gallego (D-Arizona) serves as chair of the subcommittee, a role he took on during the 116th Congress, when Democrats gained control of the U.S. House of Representatives. Republicans have not publicly said who will lead their party on the panel, with the former ranking member, Paul Cook, having retired at the end of the last session.

As for staffing on the GOP side, Ken Degenfelder is serving as the minority staff director for the subcommittee. He previously worked for the Senate Committee on Indian Affairs.

The subcommittee has not yet announced its first meeting of the 117th Congress, which began on January 3.