WASHINGTON – Sen. Daniel Akaka, D-Hi., was elected Feb. 16 as the new chairman of the Senate Committee on Indian Affairs for the 112th Congress. According to the Senate, he is the first Native Hawaiian to chair the committee, and he was elected unanimously by members of the committee at its first organizational meeting of the year.
“Our native communities face problems that are serious, severe, and sometimes chronic,” Akaka said in a press release. “I intend to continue the long tradition of working together on this committee in a bipartisan manner to find solutions that will improve the lives and strengthen the futures of America’s native people.”
Sen. John Barrasso, R-Wyo., was re-elected to serve as vice-chairman.
“Both Akaka and Barrasso pledged to continue the committee’s tradition of bipartisanship in addressing issues important to American Indians, Alaska Natives and Native Hawaiians,” according to a press release from the committee.
“At the meeting, the committee also adopted its rules for the new Congress and its funding resolution for committee operations. The committee’s rules are essentially the same as in the 111th Congress, with some technical and clarifying changes made. The one exception extends the previous two-day requirement to a three-day requirement for notice and items on the agenda prior to any business meetings of the committee.”
Akaka also named Loretta Tuell as his new staff director. She is a citizen of the Nez Perce Tribe with vast experience in Indian law and who served on the committee before.
“Loretta brings to the committee a wealth of knowledge and experience in Indian law,” Akaka said in a press release. “She is very familiar with issues facing Native Americans, Native Hawaiians, and Alaska Natives. I am looking forward to working with her to find solutions that will improve the lives and strengthen the futures of America’s native people.”
Democrats on the committee are: Sen. Maria Cantwell of Washington; Sen. Kent Conrad of North Dakota; Sen. Al Franken of Minnesota; Sen. Daniel Inouye of Hawaii; Sen. Tim Johnson of South Dakota; Sen. Jon Tester of Montana; and Sen. Tom Udall of New Mexico.