Confirmed US citizen as chief of the National Park Service

Confirmed US citizen as chief of the National Park Service

Salem, Rekaz. The US Senate has unanimously approved the nomination of Charles “Chuck” Sams III as director of the National Park Service, making him the first US citizen to lead the agency.

Some conservationists hailed Sams’ assertion Thursday night as a commitment to a just partnership with the tribes, the land’s original rulers.

“I feel very honored,” Sams told the Umatilla Journal on Friday. “I also greatly appreciate the support, guidance and advice from the tribal elders and my friends throughout my career.”

The National Park Service oversees more than 131,000 square miles (339,000 square kilometers) of parks, monuments, battlefields, and other attractions. It employs about 20,000 people in permanent, temporary and seasonal jobs, according to its website.

Sams is the first agency park manager confirmed by the Senate in nearly five years. And it was led by acting presidents for years under the Trump administration, and during the first 10 months of Biden’s presidency. Jonathan Jarvis, whose appointment was confirmed as Director of Park Services in 2009, left the agency in January 2017.


During confirmation hearings, Sam recalled his experience with nonprofit work that included facilitating land transfers and working with volunteers on conservation and management of invasive species, according to Indian Country Today.

He also said he would work to ensure that Aboriginal histories of National Park Service lands were widely reflected, as well as Indigenous views and knowledge being incorporated into decision-making. He said it was important to work with Native Americans on traditional environmental knowledge “based on the more than 10,000 years of management of these spaces to ensure that they are here to be enjoyed by future generations.”

US Secretary of the Interior Deb Haaland, the first Native American cabinet minister, said in August, when President Joe Biden nominated Sams, that he has diverse experience. The National Park Service is part of the Department of the Interior.


Sams are Cayuse and Walla Walla and live in the Confederate tribes of the Umatilla Indian Reservation in Oregon. There, he earned a reputation for being unobtrusive. He has worked in state and tribal governments and in the fields of natural resource management and nonprofit conservation for more than 25 years.

“He’s known for being consistent in leadership and enduring great challenges,” said Bobby Conner, director of the Tamastselect Cultural Institute on a 270-square-mile (700-square-kilometre) reserve.

Cat Brigham, Chairman of the Board of Trustees of the Confederate Tribes, remembers Sams fishing for salmon in the Columbia River as a young man standing on a scaffold and using a net, according to tradition.

Brigham said, “I am very proud, and I think it is very exciting to have a tribal member who is the first person in history in charge of the National Park Service. He knows how important our land is. He knows we need to protect our land, not just for today, but for our children.” “.


Oregon Senator Ron Wyden, who asked the Senate to pass the nomination unanimously, called Sams “a role model in stewardship of land, water, wildlife, and American history.”

The Democrat said Sams’ confirmation means that Congress and park goers will have a consistent, expert leader to rely on in the coming years.

Joel Dunn, president and CEO of the Maryland-based Chesapeake Conservancy, celebrated the news. His organization works to conserve the natural and cultural resources of North America’s largest estuary, the Chesapeake Bay, where the National Park Service operates some of the sites.

“This has been a historic year for the US Department of the Interior, with Secretary Deb Haaland confirmed as the first Native American Cabinet Secretary in the United States, and now Chuck Sams confirmed as the first Native American to serve as a director on Friday formally declaring ‘Squaw’ a pejorative term,” Dunn said. It said it was taking steps to remove it from the federal government’s use and replace it with other derogatory place names.


Dunn referred to the forced migration of indigenous peoples that led to the creation of public lands in America, including national parks.

“As our country works to address those past tragedies, it is fitting that the leadership of the National Park Service and the Department of the Interior reflect new direction and commitment to a just partnership with the indigenous peoples of the United States,” Dunn said. .

Sams is a member of the Northwest Energy and Conservation Council, appointed by Oregon Governor Kate Brown. Previously, he held several positions with the Confederate tribes in the Umatilla Indian Reservation, including Executive Director and Deputy Executive Director. He also led the Indian Country Conservancy, among others.

He holds a Bachelor’s degree in Business Administration from Concordia University – Portland and an MA in Legal Studies in Indigenous Law from the University of Oklahoma. Sams is a US Navy veteran.


He was also an assistant professor at Georgetown University and Whitman College.


Author Matthew Daly of the Associated Press in Washington contributed to this report.

Copyright 2021 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed without permission.

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