Aliyah Chavez
Indian Country Today

The Senate Committee on Indian Affairs elected new leadership at its first meeting of the 117th Congress Thursday morning.

Democratic Sen. Brian Schatz of Hawaii will serve as chairman while Republican Sen. Lisa Murkowski of Alaska will serve as vice chairman.

The committee was previously led by Sen. John Hoeven of North Dakota and Sen. Tom Udall of New Mexico. Hoeven remains on the committee while Udall retired from the Senate earlier this year.

Schatz is a former lieutenant governor of Hawaii and now serves as the state’s senior senator.

Earlier this month, he met with President Joe Biden at the White House to discuss COVID-19 relief for Native communities.

“Through our languages, cultures and knowledge systems, Native communities across the country have contributed in so many ways to our shared American history,” Schatz said in his opening statement. “Today our federal trust responsibility to American Indians, Alaska Natives and Native Hawaiians remains true and should be our guiding light.” 

Sen. Lisa Murkowski of Alaska will serve at vice chair of the Senate committee on Indian Affairs (Screenshot from Indian Affairs meeting on Feb. 11)

Murkowski is Alaska’s senior senator and a senior member of the Indian Affairs committee. She previously served as vice-chair of the committee for one year in 2007.

“I’ve been on this committee every year since I came to the Senate,” Murkowski said. “For me, it’s a priority.”

The meeting also served as an opportunity to welcome the committee’s new members which include Democratic Sen. Ben Ray Lujan of New Mexico and Republican Sen. Mike Rounds of South Dakota.

The roughly 14-minute meeting also included a new adoption of committee rules and a funding resolution.

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Aliyah Chavez, Kewa Pueblo, is a reporter-producer at Indian Country Today. Follow her on Twitter: @aliyahjchavez or email her at achavez@indiancountrytoday.com.

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