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Native American Caucus Leadership Established for 116th Congress

January 30, 2019
Press Release

Washington, D.C. – This week, the bipartisan Congressional Native American Caucus established its leadership for the 116th Congress. Congressman Tom Cole (R-OK) and Congresswoman Deb Haaland (D-NM) will serve as Co-Chairs of the caucus. Following six years of distinguished service as Co-Chair, Congresswoman Betty McCollum (D-MN) will remain on the caucus as Co-Chair Emeritus.

The caucus seeks to educate members of Congress and encourage an open dialogue about issues affecting Native Americans. As part of this mission, the caucus regularly convenes briefings, considers the impact of legislation on tribal nations and provides a forum for members of Congress to exchange information, ideas and research.

“As a citizen of the Chickasaw Nation of Oklahoma, I have always considered it a great privilege to represent the interests and constitutionally-given rights of tribes in Congress,” said Co-Chair Tom Cole. “Long before the United States came to be, tribes greatly influenced the land in which we live. While the federal government has at times had a strained relationship with Indian Country, I am encouraged that efforts have been made to repair and improve it over the years. To ensure that work continues, the Congressional Native American Caucus remains a vital body in the House for educating members on tribal sovereignty and improving the lives of Native Americans. I very much look forward to leading alongside new Co-Chair Deb Haaland, continuing to serve with Co-Chair Emeritus Betty McCollum and working with a great roster of Vice Chairs and members.”

“Through my role as Native American Caucus Co-chair, I’ll work with Co-Chair Tom Cole to raise awareness about tribal sovereignty and the federal government’s trust responsibility to Tribes. I also want to thank my dear friend and colleague Rep. Betty McCollum who has been a tireless champion for Indian Country and I look forward to working with her as Co-Chair Emeritus of the caucus,” said Co-Chair Deb Haaland. “I will be a strong advocate for Native communities in New Mexico and across the country to improve education opportunities, protect and increase access to quality healthcare, expand broadband services, address the silent crisis of missing and murdered indigenous people, and ensure that tribal sovereignty is respected.”

In addition to establishing Co-Chairs, the caucus also named the following Vice Chairs:

  • Congresswoman Sharice Davids (D-KS)
  • Congressman Raúl Grijalva (D-AZ)
  • Congressman Doug LaMalfa (R-CA)
  • Congressman David Joyce (R-OH)
  • Congressman Ben Ray Luján (D-NM)
  • Congressman Markwayne Mullin (R-OK)
  • Congressman Frank Pallone, Jr. (D-NJ)
  • Congressman Don Young (R-AK)

About the Co-Chairs

Elected in 2002 and Co-Chair of the Native American Caucus since 2009, Congressman Tom Cole is considered the foremost expert in the House on issues related to Native Americans and tribal governments. An enrolled member of the Chickasaw Nation of Oklahoma, Cole is one of only four Native Americans currently serving in Congress. The National Congress of American Indians has recognized Cole’s distinguished service with the Congressional Leadership award on three different occasions, more than any other Member of Congress in the history of the organization. He was inducted into the Chickasaw Hall of Fame in 2004.

Congresswoman Deb Haaland is a 35th generation New Mexican and an enrolled member of the Pueblo of Laguna who also has Jemez Pueblo heritage. Before being elected to Congress, Haaland was a former tribal administrator who administered a local service provider for adults with developmental disabilities and worked to increase access to voting in rural and tribal communities. In 2016, she traveled to Standing Rock to stand side-by-side with the community to protect tribal sovereignty and advocate vital natural resources.