House Committee on Natural Resource: Organizing Meeting – February 18, 2021
House Subcommittee for Indigenous Peoples of the United States gains new leader
Wednesday, February 17, 2021
Indianz.Com

The House Subcommittee for Indigenous Peoples of the United States has a new leader for the 117th Congress and it’s a fresh face for Indian Country.

Rep. Teresa Leger Fernández (D-New Mexico) was announced as chair of the subcommittee on Wednesday. She will be working with Rep. Raúl Grijalva (D-Arizona), the leader of the larger House Committee on Natural Resources.

“I am honored that Chairman Grijalva and my colleagues entrusted me to serve as Chair of the Subcommittee for Indigenous Peoples of the United States,” Fernández said in a statement. “I thank them for their support and look forward to working closely with them.”

“In the last year, the pandemic’s disastrous impact on Native American communities made our country aware of something that my district has known for too long — the United States has failed to meet its trust responsibilities to Native Americans, and the consequences are deadly and heartbreaking,” Fernández added. “We can and must do better.”

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Rep. Teresa Leger Fernández (D-New Mexico). Courtesy photo

Fernández is a new member of the U.S. House of Representatives, having won election in November 2020. Her 3rd Congressional District in New Mexico includes the Navajo Nation, the Jicarilla Apache Tribe and several Pueblo tribes.

“In New Mexico, we have a deep respect for our history and our 23 federally recognized tribes who have shared with me their wisdom, challenges and vision during my three decades of work with them,” said Fernández, who worked for tribes when she was an attorney in private practice.

“I look forward to putting this experience to work for all of the Indigenous peoples of the United States,” Fernández continued.

Democrats created the House Subcommittee for Indigenous Peoples of the United States during the 116th Congress to focus on issues affecting American Indians, Alaska Natives, Native Hawaiians and Indigenous peoples from various U.S. territories. The first chair was Rep. Ruben Gallego (D-Arizona).

“We must build on Chairman Grijalva and former Subcommittee Chair Congressman Gallego’s work to promote economic development and improve access to quality health care, broadband, education, child care and much more,” Fernández said on Wednesday.

On the staffing front, two citizens of the Tohono O’odham Nation are serving in prominent roles. Naomi Miguel has been named staff director for the subcommittee and Ariana Romeo was promoted to professional staffer.

In other developments, Rep. Jesús “Chuy” García (D-Illinois) is the new vice chair of the House Committee on Natural Resources. He succeeds Rep. Deb Haaland (D-New Mexico), who is awaiting confirmation as Secretary of the Interior in President Joe Biden’s administration, in that leadership role.

“I am honored to be appointed Vice Chair of the House Committee on Natural Resources,” García said in a news release on Wednesday. “Under the leadership of Chairman Grijalva, the committee has worked hard to reverse the anti-science, anti-environment agenda of the Trump administration and ensure we end environmental racism, right the wrongs committed against indigenous peoples, and are better stewards of our environment and our planet.”

“I look forward to the committee advancing an ambitious agenda to protect the rights of the people of Puerto Rico and the U.S. territories, defend our public lands and waters, and ensure our children have a healthier, cleaner and safer future,” García added.

The full list of Democratic leadership for the committee follows:

On the other side of the aisle, the new Republican ranking member of the committee is Rep. Bruce Westerman (R-Arkansas). He announced the GOP leadership lineup on Wednesday.

“I’m so pleased to welcome this incredible lineup of leaders to the Natural Resources Committee. I’ve been able to work with many of them on this committee in the past, and I know they have an array of expertise that will equip them to be strong voices on these issues,” said Westerman, whose 4th Congressional District in Kansas does not include any tribes. “As we begin this new Congress, I believe we have the best possible team ready to take on any challenge and show Americans that conservation is inherently conservative.”

Rep. Don Young (R-Alaska) is the new ranking Republican on the Subcommittee for Indigenous Peoples of the United States. He previously served as chair of what was known as the Subcommittee Indian, Insular and Alaska Native Affairs.

“I am very grateful to Republican Leader Bruce Westerman and my colleagues for selecting me to be Republican Leader of the Subcommittee for Indigenous Peoples of the United States,” Young said on Wednesday. “The rich history of Alaska Natives is central to my state’s history, culture, and way of life.”

“My late wife, children, and grandchildren are Alaska Native, so supporting and empowering our Indigenous communities is not just good policy; it is a cause I hold very close to my heart,” Young added. “Last Congress, our Subcommittee made significant bipartisan progress on various fronts, including combating the epidemic of Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls, bolstering tribal sovereignty, and expanding economic opportunity and health care access in Native American communities across the country.”

“But there is still much work ahead of us this Congress, and I look forward to working with both Republicans and Democrats on the Subcommittee to ensure that our First Peoples can grow and thrive for generations to come,” Young concluded.

The Republican leadership follows:

Ranking Member
Rep. Bruce Westerman (R-Arkansas)

Vice Ranking Member
Rep. Louie Gohmert (R-Texas)

Insular Affairs
Rep. Jenniffer González-Colón (R-Puerto Rico), Ranking Member
“I’m honored to continue serving as Ranking Member for Insular Affairs in the House Natural Resources Committee. Besides overseeing Puerto Rico’s recovery and path to equality, I will work to support initiatives that promote the U.S. territories’ priorities, knowing firsthand the issues that impact us all. I want to thank Ranking Member Bruce Westerman for his confidence and for allowing me to once again lead these efforts in our Committee.”

Subcommittee on Energy and Mineral Resources
Rep. Pete Stauber (R-Minnesota), Ranking Member
“I have tirelessly defended the right to responsibly develop our God-given natural resources, a key pillar of my district’s local economy that has been constantly under attack. The opportunity to lead the Republican efforts for the Energy and Mineral Resources Subcommittee at this pivotal time in America will allow me a critical platform on which to fight for our way of life in northern Minnesota and defend against the constant attacks on high-wage American mining and energy jobs. I am incredibly grateful for this opportunity, and I look forward to using this new position to champion policies that will maintain American energy independence and end reliance on foreign minerals.”

Subcommittee on Indigenous Peoples of the United States
Rep. Don Young (R-Alaska), Ranking Member
“I am very grateful to Republican Leader Bruce Westerman and my colleagues for selecting me to be Republican Leader of the Subcommittee for Indigenous Peoples of the United States. The rich history of Alaska Natives is central to my state’s history, culture, and way of life. My late wife, children, and grandchildren are Alaska Native, so supporting and empowering our Indigenous communities is not just good policy; it is a cause I hold very close to my heart. Last Congress, our Subcommittee made significant bipartisan progress on various fronts, including combating the epidemic of Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls, bolstering tribal sovereignty, and expanding economic opportunity and health care access in Native American communities across the country. But there is still much work ahead of us this Congress, and I look forward to working with both Republicans and Democrats on the Subcommittee to ensure that our First Peoples can grow and thrive for generations to come.”

Subcommittee on National Parks, Forests, and Public Lands
Rep. Russ Fulcher (R-Idaho), Ranking Member
“It is an honor to serve as Ranking Member of the National Parks, Forests, and Public Lands Subcommittee, particularly with the strong impact of this committee on my home state of Idaho. The federal government controls 63% of Idaho’s natural resources and I am looking forward to having a greater influence in ensuring western states are properly represented in Washington, D.C.”

Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations
Rep. Paul Gosar (R-Arizona), Ranking Member
“I am honored to serve as ranking member of the Natural Resources Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations and look forward to our important work in the 117th Congress, including holding the Biden Administration accountable.”

Subcommittee on Water, Oceans, and Wildlife
Rep. Cliff Bentz (R-Oregon), Ranking Member
“I am honored to serve as the leading Republican voice on the House Subcommittee on Water, Oceans, and Wildlife, and I thank the Committee’s Ranking Member, Bruce Westerman, for this opportunity. For more than half of my professional and political career, I have stood up and fought for agriculture and communities that rely on our water resources and are feeling the effects of a real and regulatory drought. I will take an active role in the consideration of all water issues coming before the panel. Whether it is dealing with regulations under the Clean Water Act; advocating against dam removal and addressing fish passage; encouraging responsible water storage policies; promoting low-cost, renewable electric power from federal water projects; or providing a thoughtful check and balance to the Biden Administration and the Democrat majority in Congress – I will work to ensure our water resources are managed wisely and to the benefit of communities across our nation.”

The committee will hold its first organizational meeting on Thursday.

Related Stories
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Native women land prominent roles on key Congressional committee (February 1, 2021)
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