Levi Rickert, editor-in-chief in Native Briefs. Discussion »
WASHINGTON US Senator Maria Cantwell, Democrat from Washington State, has been selected to be the chair of the US Committee on Indian Affairs. Senator Cantwell is the first woman to chair the Indian Affairs committee. The announcement was made by Senator Harry Reid on Wednesday.
US Senator Maria Cantwell at an Indian Affairs Field Hearing in Fife, Washington
She assumes the position from Senator Daniel Akaka, Hawaii, who is retiring from the Senate at the end of this session.
“I am honored to be selected to chair the Senate Indian Affairs Committee, following the tremendous leadership of Senator Akaka.”
Cantwell said early Wednesday evening.
“I am proud of my work with Washington state Tribes, on issues such as self-determination, education, health care and environmental issues including salmon restoration. I would be proud to serve as the first female chair of the Senate Indian Affairs Committee,”
Senator Cantwell was reelected on November 6 for a third term. She was first elected to the US Senate in 2000 when she defeated Senator Slade Gorton, who was running for reelection. Gorton was strongly opposed by the Washington based American Indian tribes.
US Senator Maria Cantwell D-Washington State
American Indians who reside in the state of Washington are pleased with her selection to serve as chair of the Indian Affairs Committee.
“Twelve years ago when Senator Cantwell defeated Senator Gorton Washington tribes knew they were going to have a strong advocate for all Indian country,”
commented Chairman Brian Cladoosby of the Swinomish Indian Tribal Community to the Native News Network late Wednesday afternoon.
“Being named chair of the US Senate Committee on Indian Affairs is truly an honor for the Senator and the Washington tribes she represents. We look forward to a continued positive relationship with our Senator.”
“Maria Cantwell would be a great Chairwoman of the Committee. She has never forgotten that her slim victory over Slade Gorton in 2000 was due to the Indian vote and she has always stood in the corner with the tribes,”
commented Chris Stearns, chair of the Seattle Human Rights Commission and a Navajo attorney practicing Indian law with Hobbs Straus Dean & Walker, to the Native News Network.
“With 29 tribes in Washington, she has had her hands full dealing with Native issues but she has always risen to the challenge in her leadership and support of the Tribal Law and Order Act and the enhanced Violence Against Women Act.”
Senator Cantwell has been on the US Senate Committee on Indian Affairs since July 2001 her first year in the Senate. She was named to the committee six months into her term, after the Democrats took control of the Senate upon Jim Jeffords ' party switch.
As a member of the Indian Affairs Committee, Senator has worked to promote economic growth in Indian Country and promote the sovereignty of Tribal Nations. She has twice brought the Indian Affairs Committee to Washington to learn more about economic development in tribal communities.
Consisting of 29 federally recognized tribes and nearly 165,000 people, the American Indian tribes in Washington contribute greatly to the state's cultural diversity, heritage, and economy.
Senator Cantwell has led Senate efforts to give tribal governments greater flexibility to lease land, create new business opportunities on reservations, and grow the regional economy. She has consistently fought to restore vital salmon habitats that support thousands of tribal and nontribal jobs on and off reservations.
Senator Cantwell worked to pass landmark legislation that strengthens the Indian Health System in Washington. She also passed legislation that enabled coastal tribes to move out of tsunami and flood zones to the safety of higher ground.
posted December 13, 2012 10:30 am est