Note: Video feed from Senate Committee on Indian Affairs will start shortly before 2:30pm Eastern on July 14, 2021.
Senate committee set to advance Bryan Newland as Assistant Secretary for Indian Affairs
Wednesday, July 14, 2021
Indianz.Com

Note: The Senate Committee on Indian Affairs did not meet as scheduled due to “unforeseen circumstances,” according to the Capitol Hill staff. The committee, however, was still able to advance the nomination of Bryan Newland to be Assistant Secretary for Indian Affairs. The legislative hearing will take place July 21.

WASHINGTON, D.C. — The nomination of Bryan Newland to serve as the Assistant Secretary for Indian Affairs is slowly moving forward in the U.S. Senate.

The Senate Committee on Indian Affairs is meeting on Wednesday afternoon to advance Newland’s nomination. The action comes a little over a month after the former president of the Bay Mills Indian Community testified about his priorities in the Joe Biden administration.

“We must help Indian Country build back better after the pandemic,” Newland stated in his written testimony. “We must also respond with urgency to the violence against Indigenous women and children. And we must lay the foundation for the next generation of Native children to succeed.”

“I believe that tribal governments, rather than federal agencies, are best-suited to respond to the challenges their communities face,” said Newland, who currently serves as Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary for Indian Affairs at the Department of the Interior. “Our job is to be a collaborative trustee and ensure that Indian Country drives our work.”

“With your consent, I will be a leader for these important efforts,” Newland told the committee on June 9..

Indianz.Com Video: Opening Statement of Bryan Newland to serve as Assistant Secretary for Indian Affairs

At the nomination hearing, Newland was warmly embraced by Democrats and Republicans alike, even those who have had disagreements with President Joe Biden. Among those voicing support was Sen. Steve Daines (R-Montana), who has otherwise slammed the Democratic administration repeatedly on energy, public lands and other areas of interest at Interior.

“You have my support in your nomination,” Daines told Newland. “And I look forward to working with you to help out Indian Country, not only in Montana, but around the country.”

As the Assistant Secretary for Indian Affairs, Newland would oversee the Bureau of Indian Affairs and the Bureau of Indian Education, the two federal agencies with the widest reach in tribal communities. He’d also be in charge of the recently-created Bureau of Trust Funds Administration, which is taking over most of the duties of the Office of the Special Trustee for American Indians.

“Mr. Newland has made clear that he’s committed to serving as the chief federal advocate for not just tribal nations, but for Native Hawaiians as well,” said Sen. Brian Schatz (D-Hawaii), who has used his position as chairman of the Senate Committee on Indian Affairs to ensure that Hawaii’s first residents aren’t being left behind in terms of federal law and policy.

“That’s not just my assessment,” Schatz continued. “More than 30 tribes and tribal organizations, including the United South and Eastern Tribes, the National Congress of American Indians and the Alaska Federation of Natives submitted letters in support of Mr. Newland’s confirmation.”

Jonathan Nez, Bryan Newland, Myron Lizer
From left, Navajo Nation President Jonathan Nez, Assistant Secretary of Indian Affairs nominee Bryan Newland and Navajo Nation Vice President Myron Lizer pose in Window Rock, Arizona, the capital of the Navajo Nation, on April 22, 2021. Photo: Navajo Nation Office of President and Vice President

Despite the broad support, the Senate has been slow to confirm Biden’s nominees at the Department of the Interior. That has left Secretary Deb Haaland, who is the first Native person to lead the agency, largely without a leadership team over the last three months.

Only in the last couple of weeks has the situation begun to change. On June 23, Haaland was finally joined by her new Deputy Secretary Tommy Beaudreau, whose nomination arose after key Republicans objected to Biden’s first pick for the job.

“The Department of the Interior is focused on creating good-paying American jobs in the clean energy industry, tackling the climate crisis, protecting our public lands and waters, and honoring our Nation-to-Nation relationship with Indian Country,” Haaland said last month. “I look forward to working with Tommy on the many demands of our agency and in partnership with our dedicated career employees.”

Two days later, Tanya Trujillo was sworn in as Assistant Secretary for Water and Science by Haaland. The job includes the Bureau of Reclamation, where tribal water rights settlements and tribal water projects are often carried out.

Secretary Deb Haaland
Secretary Deb Haaland takes part in a restoration project at Pecos National Historical Park, the ancestral home of the Pueblo of Pecos in New Mexico, on July 2, 2021. Photo: U.S. Department of the Interior

And on Monday, Shannon Estenoz came on board as the Assistant Secretary for Fish and Wildlife and Parks. The position plays a key role in protecting public lands that fall within tribal territories, including the Pecos National Historical Park, where Haaland visited earlier this month on her return to her ancestral home in New Mexico.

“I look forward to working collaboratively with Secretary Haaland, the department’s talented public servants, and people from every corner of the country to ensure the conservation of America’s public lands, wildlife, and precious natural resources,” said Estenoz.

Lost in the mix is Robert Anderson, a citizen of the Bois Forte Band of Chippewa who has been nominated to serve as Solicitor at Interior. If confirmed, he would be the second Native person to oversee the legal team at the department.

But unlike other Interior nominees, Anderson has faced considerably more Republican opposition. He narrowly survived a business meeting vote of 11 to 9 before the Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources on May 27.

“Mr. Anderson has revoked many Solicitor opinions issued under the Trump administration and paved the way for Biden administration policies that are in conflict with the department’s multiple-use mandate,” asserted Sen. John Barrasso (R-Wyoming), the ranking Republican on the panel.

“Mr. Anderson’s actions have demonstrated that he may not be fully constrained by the laws as Congress has written them,” said Barrasso, who previously served as chair of the Senate Committee on Indian Affairs.

And unlike Trujillo and Estenoz, whose nominations were considered at the same business meeting in late May, Anderson has yet to see further action on the floor of the U.S. Senate.

Tanya Trujillo
Tanya Trujillo is sworn in as sworn in as Assistant Secretary for Water and Science by Secretary of the Interior Deb Haaland on June 25, 2021. Photo: U.S. Department of the Interior
Shannon Estenoz
As members of her family look on, Shannon Estenoz is sworn in as Assistant Secretary for Fish and Wildlife and Parks by Secretary of the Interior Deb Haaland on July 12, 2021. Photo: U.S. Department of the Interior

The business meeting to consider Bryan Newland’s nomination takes place at 2:30pm Eastern in Room 628 of the Dirksen Senate Office Building. It will be webcast at indian.senate.gov.

Immediately following the meeting, the committee will take testimony from tribal leaders and federal officials on three bills: S.1797, the Urban Indian Health Providers Facilities Improvement Act; S.1895, the Indian Health Service Sanitation Facilities Construction Enhancement Act; and H.R.1688, the Native American Child Protection Act.

Assistant Secretary for Indian Affairs
The Assistant Secretary for Indian Affairs post was established in 1977. It’s a political position at the Department of the Interior, meaning the person who is chosen is selected by the current president of the United States.

At Interior, the Assistant Secretary oversee the Bureau of Indian Affairs and the Bureau of Indian Education. The recently-created Bureau of Trust Funds Administration, which is taking over most of the duties of the Office of the Special Trustee for American Indians, also falls under the position.

If confirmed, Newland would be the 14th person to serve as the Assistant Secretary. All have hailed from federally-recognized tribal nations:

• 1977–1978: Forrest Gerard (Blackfeet Nation)
• 1979–1981: William E. Hallett (Ohkay Owingeh and Navajo Nation)
• 1981–1984: Kenneth L. Smith (Warm Springs Tribes)
• 1985–1989: Ross Swimmer (Cherokee Nation)
• 1989–1993: Eddie Frank Brown (Pascua Yaqui Tribe and Tohono O’odham Nation)
• 1993–1997: Ada E. Deer (Menominee Nation)
• 1997–2001: Kevin Gover (Pawnee Nation)
• 2001–2003: Neal A. McCaleb (Chickasaw Nation)
• 2004–2005: Dave Anderson (Lac Courte Oreilles Band of Lake Superior Ojibwe and Choctaw Nation)
• 2007–2008: Carl J. Artman (Oneida Nation)
• 2009–2012: Larry Echo Hawk (Pawnee Nation)
• 2012–2015: Kevin K. Washburn (Chickasaw Nation)
• 2018-2021: Tara “Katuk” Mac Lean Sweeney (Native Village of Barrow Traditional Iñupiat Government and Iñupiat Community of the Arctic Slope)

Senate Committee on Indian Affairs Notice
Business Meeting to consider Bryan Todd Newland to be Assistant Secretary & Legislative Hearing to receive testimony on S. 1797, S. 1895 & H.R. 1688 (July 14, 2021)

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Nomination hearing to consider Bryan Newland to serve as Assistant Secretary for Indian Affairs (June 9, 2021)
Opening Statement of Bryan Newland to serve as Assistant Secretary for Indian Affairs (June 9, 2021)
Assistant Secretary nominee Bryan Newland vows to ‘build back better’ after COVID-19 (June 9, 2021)
Secretary Haaland leads Interior to a more tribal friendly future (April 27, 2021)
United South and Eastern Tribes welcome Biden administration homelands policy (April 27, 2021)
Interior: Secretary Deb Haaland takes action for tribal homelands (April 27, 2021)
Bay Mills Indian Community ‘proud’ of Bryan Newland’s nomination in Biden administration (April 23, 2021)
United South and Eastern Tribes praise nomination of Bryan Newland (April 23, 2021)
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