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D. Sean Rowley
Cherokee Phoenix

WASHINGTON – Another citizen of the Cherokee Nation is now seated in the U.S. House of Representatives.

Yvette Herrell, a Republican, was elected in November to represent New Mexico’s Second District and joins fellow Cherokee Nation citizen Rep. Markwayne Mullin, R-Oklahoma, in the chamber. They are among five Native Americans serving in the House, the most in U.S. history. The number could drop to four: Rep. Deb Haaland, D-New Mexico, was immersed in her Senate confirmation hearing as President Joe Biden’s nominee as Interior secretary as of publication.

Herrell will also join Mullin on the same side of the aisle with Rep. Tom Cole, R-Oklahoma. Herrell describes herself as “a Pro-God, Pro-Business, Pro-Life, Pro-Gun conservative,” and she holds a seat on the House committees on Natural Resources, and Oversight and Reform.

She said her Cherokee heritage has been an influence on her perspectives and decisions.

“It's always been a part of me, and has given me respect and appreciation for the vast diversity we have as Americans,” she said.

Herrell is the first female Native Republican to be elected to Congress, and the third Native woman in U.S. history.

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To win her seat, Herrell had to run twice. Her 2018 loss in the general election to Xochiti Torres Small was by less than 4,000 votes with nearly 200,000 cast, with absentee ballots proving decisive. Herrell had an 8 percent advantage in the 2020 balloting, 54 percent to 46 percent.

“It is the honor of my life to be elected to serve New Mexico’s Second Congressional District,” Herrell said after the election. “My commitment to each citizen of our district is that I will serve each of them with integrity as we work together to rebuild our economy and protect the values that make America great. I thank God, my family, our team, and each and every New Mexican who supported me in this race and I can't wait to get to work for our incredible district.”

Herrell also represented District 51 in the New Mexico House of Representatives from 2011-19.

Since taking office, Herrell has been critical of many policies implemented by the Biden administration, particularly executive orders affecting oil and gas recovery on federal lands and border security.

During a Jan. 30 interview on Fox News, she said a one-year moratorium on new oil and gas drilling on federal lands would affect the 50 percent of New Mexico’s budget which derives from the natural gas and petroleum industries.

Herrell has also voiced displeasure with the administration’s order to halt construction of the border wall, saying it is essential to the security of New Mexico residents.

She quickly authored two bills, the first called the PAUSE Act, or House Resolution 471. It would require the end of all federal lockdowns, curfews, quarantines and other COVID-19 mandates before removal of Title 42, which barred entry from Mexico or Canada anyone posing a health risk, to reduce the spread of COVID-19.

“Until the lockdowns and emergency declarations have ended, border health protections must remain in place to prevent the introduction of new cases and new strains of the virus at our borders,” Herrell said.

The measure was still awaiting assignment to a committee, and is likely to face heavy opposition from Democrats if it reaches the House floor.

Herrell also introduced the POWER Act, or HR 543, to upend the one-year moratorium on new gas and oil leases on federal lands, and a review of existing leases. It would also face heavy Democratic opposition.

Herrell, 56, was born in Ruidoso, New Mexico, and was a real estate agent in Alamogordo, New Mexico, before entering politics.

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This article was originally published in the Cherokee Phoenix