Nov 20, 2021 - Politics & Policy

Senate confirms Charles Sams III as first Native American to head National Park Service

Picture of Charles Sams III
Photo: Tom Williams/CQ-Roll Call via Getty Images

The Senate this week voted to unanimously confirm Charles Sams III as director of the National Park Service, making him the first Native American to head the agency.

State of play: Sams is the first director to be confirmed by the Senate in five years, AP reports. Jonathan Jarvis, who was confirmed under the Obama administration, left the position in 2017 and, since then, the agency has been led by acting directors.

  • The National Park Service is part of the Interior Department. Sams will report to Secretary Deb Haaland, the first Native American to hold this position.

What he's saying: "I am deeply honored," Sams told the Confederated Umatilla Journal, a newspaper from the Confederated Tribes of the Umatilla Indian Reservation.

  • "I am also very deeply appreciative of the support, guidance and counsel of my Tribal elders and friends throughout my professional career. I look forward to carrying on the responsibility of being a good steward of our natural resources and in joining the dedicated and dynamic staff of the National Park Service."

During the confirmation process, Sams said he would prioritize incorporating Native American perspectives when handling national parks, the Indian Country Today notes.

  • While some senators questioned his lack of experience with the park service, Sams said his nonprofit work, which included facilitating land transfers and donations to the park service and working with volunteers on conservation and invasive species management, has prepared him for the job.
  • Sams served as a council member to the Northwest Power and Conservation Council. He “has worked in state and tribal governments and the non- profit natural resource and conservation management fields for over 25 years,” according to the White House.
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