First Native American Nominee to Head National Parks

Jon Jonckers

Washington, D.C.

President Biden has nominated Chuck Sams, a former administrator of the Confederated Tribes of the Umatilla Indian Reservation, to be the first official head of the National Park Service since 2017.

If confirmed, Sams would be the first Native American to lead the National Park Service. His boss would be Deb Haaland, the first Native American to be Secretary of the Interior. Needless to say, having two Native Americans heading the Interior and the National Park Service (NPS) is a substantial and meaningful event with abundant significance.

There hasn’t been a permanent head at the National Parks Service since 2017, when Jonathan Jarvis, appointed by President Obama, retired. President Trump never appointed a NPS boss on a permanent basis, as his nominees were not confirmed by the Senate. Thus the job was filed by a rotating cast of people.

Chuck Sams is a U.S. Navy veteran who has taught at Georgetown University and Whitman College and has recently been working with the Northwest Power and Conservation Council in Oregon. He is Cayuse and Walla Walla, and a member of the Confederated Tribes of the Umatilla Indian Reservation.

“The diverse experience that Chuck brings to the National Park Service will be an incredible asset as we work to conserve and protect our national parks to make them more accessible for everyone,” U.S. Interior Secretary Deb Haaland said in a news release. “The outdoors are for everyone, and we have an obligation to protect them for generations to come.”

National Park Service patch, brown with green pine tree and snowy mountain peak, on the sleeve of a park ranger.
National Park Service ranger patch. // Photo: Shutterstock

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