Senate confirms Charles Sams III as first Native American to head National Parks

The Senate this week voted to unanimously confirm Charles Sams III as director of the National Park Service, making him the first Native American to head the agency.

Sams, who is Cayuse and Walla Walla, is a member of the Confederated Tribes of the Umatilla Indian Reservation. Sams told the Confederated Tribes’ newspaper, the Confederated Umatilla Journal, on Friday that he’s “deeply honored” to serve as the 19th director of NPS.

“I am also very deeply appreciative of the support, guidance and counsel of my Tribal elders and friends throughout my professional career,” Sams told the newspaper. “I look forward to carrying on the responsibility of being a good steward of our natural resources and in joining the dedicated and dynamic staff of the National Park Service.” 

Sams said he would prioritize incorporating Native American perspectives when handling national parks, the Indian Country Today notes.  He also stated that his nonprofit work, which included facilitating land transfers and donations to the park service and working with volunteers on conservation and invasive species management, have prepared him for this position.

Sams served as a council member to the Northwest Power and Conservation Council. He “has worked in state and tribal governments and the non- profit natural resource and conservation management fields for over 25 years,” according to the White House.

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