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Senate confirms Oregon’s Chuck F. Sams III as first Native American to lead National Park Service

Charles "Chuck" F. Sams III is President Biden's pick to lead the National Park Service.
Oregon Governor's Office
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Charles "Chuck" F. Sams III is President Biden's pick to lead the National Park Service.

The U.S. Senate unanimously confirmed Chuck F. Sams III Thursday as the first Native American to serve as director of the National Park Service in its 105-year history.

Sams, a member of the Cayuse and Walla Walla tribes, which are part of the Confederated Tribes of the Umatilla Indian Reservation, will be the first confirmed director of the NPS since 2017 as the agency has been led by acting directors since then.

Sams, who has years of experience in land management, most recently served on the Northwest Power and Conservation Council.

Democratic Sen. Ron Wyden took the floor Thursday to ask the Senate to confirm Sams, a U.S. Navy veteran.

“Chuck Sams is the right nominee to lead the National Park Service as it addresses these challenges. I know Chuck. He is hardworking. He is committed,” Wyden said after the confirmation. “Chuck is a role model in the stewardship of American land and waters, wildlife and history. And now thanks to the Senate’s unanimous decision to confirm his nomination, Congress and park-goers will have someone steady and experienced to rely on in the years ahead.”

The park service is a bureau of the Department of Interior, led by Secretary Deb Haaland, a member of the Pueblo of Laguna who made history earlier this year as the first Native American to serve in a presidential cabinet.

When Sams was the communications director of the Confederated Tribes of the Umatilla Indian Reservation, he was interviewed for the Oregon Experience documentary, “Broken Treaties.”

Copyright 2021 Oregon Public Broadcasting. To see more, visit Oregon Public Broadcasting.

John Hill