Senate Confirms Bryan Todd Newland to be Assistant Secretary for Indian Affairs

Aug 13, 2021Federal Regulation, News, Tribal Sovereignty

Last week, the U.S. Senate confirmed Bryan Todd Newland of Michigan as the Assistant Secretary-Indian Affairs at the Department of the Interior. Newland will advise Interior Secretary Deb Haaland, a former congresswoman representing New Mexico and, notably, the first Native American to serve in a cabinet secretary position.

“I believe that tribal governments, rather than federal agencies, are best-suited to respond to the challenges their communities face,” Newland said at his confirmation hearing in June, according to The Detroit News. “Our job is to be a collaborative trustee and ensure that Indian country drives our work.”

According to the Bureau of Indian Affairs website, the Assistant Secretary-Indian Affairs “assists the Secretary of the Interior in fulfilling the Department’s trust responsibilities to American Indian and Alaska Native (AI/AN) tribes and individuals.” It also notes that the Assistant Secretary has the authority and direct responsibility to “strengthen the government-to-government/nation-to-nation relationship with American Indian and Alaska Native tribes; advocate policies that support AI/AN self-determination and tribal sovereignty; protect and preserve AI/AN trust assets held by the Federal Government for their benefit; and administer a wide array of laws, regulations, and functions relating to AI/AN tribes, individual AI/AN trust beneficiaries, tribal members, and Indian Affairs bureaus, offices, and programs that are vested in the Secretary by the President and the Congress of the United States.” The assistant secretary is Interior’s highest-ranking Senate-confirmed position in Indian Affairs.

Senator Brian Schatz (D-Hawai’i), chairman of the Senate Committee on Indian Affairs, said that Newland “has invaluable experience as a Tribal leader, personal and in-depth knowledge of the issues facing Tribes, expertise in complex areas of Federal Indian law, an understanding of Interior’s unique role in fulfilling and enforcing the federal trust responsibility to Native peoples, and a diplomatic and respectful approach to honoring Tribal sovereignty,” in a statement following his confirmation.

Schatz also held a business meeting to advance Newland’s nomination. At Newland’s hearing, the committee reviewed letters of support of his nomination from more than 40 Tribes and Tribal organizations.

Newland previously served as tribal president of the Bay Mills Indian Community and policy advisor for Indian Affairs at the Interior under the Obama administration. He was nominated for the assistant secretary position by President Biden in April.

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