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Senate confirms Oregonian as first Native American to head National Park Service

The U.S. Senate unanimously approved the nomination of Chuck Sams on Nov. 18.
Credit: Gov. Kate Brown

PORTLAND, Ore. — An Oregon resident and tribal member has become the first Native American to direct the National Park Service. The U.S. Senate unanimously approved the nomination of Chuck Sams on Thursday.

Sams is Cayuse and Walla Walla, and a citizen of the Confederated Tribes of the Umatilla Indian Reservation. He has worked in state and tribal governments for more than 25 years, according to White House officials. He is a member of the Northwest Power and Conservation Council, a role appointed by Oregon Gov. Kate Brown. Sams previously held executive and deputy executive director positions with the Confederated Tribes of the Umatilla Indian Reservation. 

Oregon Democratic Senator Ron Wyden spoke on the Senate floor before Sams was confirmed by the Senate.

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"Chuck Sams is the right nominee to lead the National Park Service as it addresses these challenges. I know Chuck. He is hardworking. He is committed," Wyden said. "Chuck is a role model in the stewardship of American land and waters, wildlife and history. And now thanks to the Senate's unanimous decision to confirm his nomination, Congress and park-goers will have someone steady and experienced to rely on in the years ahead."

Sams earned a bachelor's degree in business administration from Concordia University-Portland and a master of legal studies in Indigenous Peoples Law from the University of Oklahoma. He has also been an adjunct professor at Georgetown University and Whitman College.

The National Park Service oversees more than 131,000 square miles (339,288 square kilometers) of parks, monuments, battlefields and other landmarks. It employs approximately 20,000 people in permanent, temporary and seasonal jobs, according to its website.