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Interior Secretary chooses Shinnecock member for first-ever federal tribal advisory committee

If selected and confirmed as President-elect Joe Biden's interior secretary, New Mexico Rep. Deb Haaland, seen here on Capitol Hill in September, would be the first Native American Cabinet secretary in U.S. history.
Jemal Countess
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Getty Images for Green New Deal Network
If selected and confirmed as President-elect Joe Biden's interior secretary, New Mexico Rep. Deb Haaland, seen here on Capitol Hill in September, would be the first Native American Cabinet secretary in U.S. history.

Shinnecock Councilwoman Kelly Dennis has been chosen to be part of the first-ever Tribal Advisory Committee for the U.S. Department of the Interior. Dennis, an attorney who provides legal services to tribal citizens and nations, will represent the Eastern Region on the committee.

The committee will be responsible for sharing information and to provide recommendations regarding federal programs and funding that impact tribal nations.

“Tribes deserve a seat at the decision-making table before policies are made that impact their communities,” said U.S. Interior Secretary Deb Haaland. “I look forward to continued engagement and ensuring that the Department honors and strengthens our nation-to-nation relationships with tribes.”

Dennis said her appointment to the newly created committee is an important development for the Shinnecock Indian Nation.

“We haven’t been able to get a lot of the technical assistance to really move our tribe forward," Dennis said. "A lot of our self determination and sovereignty goals — it was tried, but you know without kind of knowing how to operate in that federal system, it’s been kind of been, sometimes, two steps forward and one step back."

The committee consists of a primary tribal representative and one alternate member from each region of the 12 Bureau of Indian Affairs Regions. Members are appointed on a staggered term for up to two years.

“I was definitely surprised and just very honored and really kind of taken aback because I had just been doing so many things for the tribe that day, I just did not see it coming,” Dennis said.