Two NM tribal leaders appointed to new Interior advisory panel

Navajo Nation President Jonathan Nez (center), his Chief of Staff Paulson Chaco (left) and First Lady Perphelia Nez (right) take notes during discussions following the State of the Nation address at the Navajo Nation Council on Oct. 21, 2019. (Photo courtesy Navajo Nation Council Office of the Speaker.)

Tribal leaders from Arizona and across the country will have direct access to advising the U.S. Department of the Interior for the first time in history with the creation of a tribal advisory panel.

Secretary of the Interior Deb Haaland this week launched the first-ever Secretary’s Tribal Advisory Committee.

“Tribes deserve a seat at the decision-making table before policies are made that impact their communities,” Haaland said as she announced the committee during her remarks at the National Congress of American Indians 2022 Mid-Year Conference.

Three Arizona tribal leaders were appointed to the committee, including Navajo Nation President Jonathan Nez, who said he was glad that the Department of the Interior will join other federal agencies with similar advisory panels.

“It will give tribal leaders an opportunity to set the budget, request funding, reevaluate tribal consultation policies and be a part of recommending how the Department of Interior, especially with the Bureau of Indian Affairs, could work better with tribes throughout the country,” Nez told the Arizona Mirror.

“It’s an opportunity to represent at the national level,” he added. “I appreciate President Biden and Secretary Haaland for appointing us to this inaugural tribal advisory committee.”

The other Arizona appointees are Daniel Tso, a Navajo Nation council delegate, and Terry Rambler, chairman of the San Carlos Apache Tribe.

The Secretary’s Tribal Advisory Committee will provide tribal leaders with direct, consistent contact and communication with Department officials, according to the Interior Department. The committee allows tribal leaders the opportunity to facilitate vital discussions on intergovernmental responsibilities.

They’ll also get the chance to exchange views, share information and provide advice and recommendations regarding Departmental programs and funding that impacts Tribal Nations, the department stated in a press release.

“Tribal members who are joining the first-ever Secretary’s Tribal Advisory Committee will be integral to ensuring Tribal leaders can engage at the highest levels of the Department on the issues that matter most to their people,” Haaland said in a press release. “I look forward to continued engagement and ensuring that the Department honors and strengthens our nation-to-nation relationships with Tribes.”

The Secretary’s Tribal Advisory Committee will consist of two tribal representatives from each of the 12 Bureau of Indian Affairs Regions across the United States.

Committee members are appointed on a staggered term for up to two years, according to the department, and the chairperson will be designated by Haaland.

Members of the Secretary’s Tribal Advisory Committee are listed by BIA region below:

Alaska Region 

  • Primary member: Robert Keith; President, Native Village of Elim
  • Alternate member: Gayla Hoseth; Second Tribal Chief for the Curyung Tribal Council

Eastern Region 

  • Primary member: Kelly Dennis; Councilwoman, Shinnecock Indian Nation
  • Alternate member: Stephanie Bryan; Tribal Chair, Poarch Creek Indians

Eastern Oklahoma Region 

  • Primary member: Gary Batton; Chief, Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma
  • Alternate member: Del Beaver; Second Chief, Muscogee (Creek) Nation

Great Plains Region 

  • Primary member: Dionne Crawford; Councilwoman, Sisseton-Wahpeton Oyate for the Lake Traverse District
  • Alternate member: Cora White Horse; Councilwoman, Oglala Sioux Tribe

Midwest Region 

  • Primary member: Whitney Gravelle; President, Bay Mills Indian Community
  • Alternate member: Michelle Beaudin; Councilwoman, Lac Courte Oreilles Band of Lake Superior Chippewa Indians of Wisconsin

Navajo Region  

  • Primary member: Jonathan Nez; President, Navajo Nation
  • Alternate member: Daniel Tso; Council Delegate, Navajo Nation

Northwest Region 

  • Primary member: Kat Brigham; Chair of the Board of Trustees, Confederated Tribes of Umatilla Indian Reservation
  • Alternate member: Timothy Greene; Chairman, Makah Tribe

Pacific Region 

  • Primary member: Erica Pinto; Chairwoman, Jamul Indian Village of California
  • Alternate member: Reid Milanovich; Chairman, Agua Caliente Band of Cahuilla Indians

Rocky Mountain Region 

  • Primary member: Jody LaMere; Councilwoman, Chippewa Cree Tribe of the Rocky Boy’s Reservation
  • Alternate member: Jordan Dresser; Chairman, Northern Arapaho Business Council

Southern Plains Region 

  • Primary member: Walter Echo-Hawk; Chairman, Pawnee Nation of Oklahoma
  • Alternate member: Reggie Wassana; Governor, Cheyenne and Arapaho Tribes of Oklahoma

Southwest Region 

  • Primary member: Mark Mitchell; APCG Chairman, Pueblo of Tesuque
  • Alternate member: Christopher Moquino; Governor, Pueblo de San Ildefonso

Western Region 

  • Primary member: Amber Torres; Chairman, Walker River Paiute Tribe
  • Alternate member: Terry Rambler; Chairman, San Carlos Apache Tribe

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Shondiin Silversmith, AZ Mirror
Shondiin Silversmith, AZ Mirror

Shondiin Silversmith is an award-winning Native journalist based on the Navajo Nation. Silversmith has covered Indigenous communities for more than 10 years, and covers Arizona's 22 federally recognized sovereign tribal nations, as well as national and international Indigenous issues. Her digital, print and audio stories have been published by USA TODAY, The Arizona Republic, Navajo Times, The GroundTruth Project and PRX's "The World." Silversmith earned her master's degree in journalism and mass communication in Boston before moving back to Arizona to continue reporting stories on Indigenous communities. She is a member of the Native American Journalist Association and has made it a priority in her career to advocate, pitch and develop stories surrounding Indigenous communities in the newsrooms she works in.