Biden’s candidate could be the first Native American to head the National Parks Service



Biden has just named an Oregon resident and tribal citizen, who would be the first Native American director of the NPS.

On Wednesday, Biden announced the appointment of Charles F. “Chuck” Sams III, an Oregon resident and tribal citizen, to lead the NPS. If confirmed by the Senate, Sams would be the department’s first Native American director.

Sams is Cayuse and Walla Walla, and has 25 years of varied experience spanning nonprofit education, government and natural resource conservation. He has worked extensively in the tribal, state, and nonprofit fields.

Interior secretary Deb Haaland, the First Secretary to the Native American Cabinet and his so-called superior, said in a statement,

“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 to all. The outdoors are for everyone, and we have an obligation to protect them for generations to come. “

Sams would be the 19th official leader of the NPS, and his first since 2017. Until the Trump presidency, the NPS almost continuously had a permanent director. Then Trump’s Home Secretary David Bernhardt makes the role a revolving door of “interim directors,” none of whom have ever been confirmed by the Senate.

Meet Charles F. “Chuck” Sams III

(Photo / Northwestern Energy and Conservation Council.)

A Navy veteran, Sams holds a Bachelor of Business Administration from Concordia-Portland University and a Masters of Legal Studies in Indigenous Peoples Law from the University of Oklahoma. He has also taught at Georgetown University and Whitman College as an assistant professor.

Currently, Sams serves on Oregon Northwest Power and Conservation Council, in a post appointed by the governor. Previously, he played several roles within various land trusts and conservation organizations. He also served as the executive director of the Confederate Tribes of the Umatilla Indian Reserve.

In a report, Oregon Governor Kate Brown said Sams is a “passionate student and teacher of the history and culture of our lands and our people”. She went on to praise his “unprecedented devotion and service to her tribe, our state and our nation.”

NPS director position: challenges

As director of the NPSSams would lead the agency’s 20,000 employees on a mission to manage approximately 52 million acres of protected land, monuments and historic sites. The work is arguably more complex than ever, because visitors are showing up in various parks in record numbers and budgets are insufficient despite efforts funded by the federal government.

Sams lives in the Confederate tribes of the Umatilla Indian Reservation with his wife, Lori Sams, and their four children.

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