Interior Department appoints first Native American chief of staff
The Interior Department announced Friday that Lawrence Roberts will serve as its first ever Indigenous chief of staff.
Roberts, a citizen of the Oneida Nation, previously served as former President Obama’s acting assistant secretary for Indian Affairs and principal deputy secretary for Indian Affairs. Roberts has also worked for the Environmental Protection Agency and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.
The department announced Roberts’s new role along with several other new appointments, including Heidi Todacheene, a citizen of the Navajo Nation who previously served as Secretary Deb Haaland’s legislative council in Congress.
Other new appointments include Obama-era Interior veteran Steve Feldgus as deputy assistant secretary for land and minerals management and Native American law expert Sarah Krakoff as deputy solicitor for parks and wildlife.
“As the Interior Department continues its work to address some of the most pressing challenges of our time, these talented and accomplished leaders will play a key role in helping advance the Department’s mission,” Haaland said in a statement Friday. “I am thrilled to have these new team members join us at the Interior Department and look forward to working together to pursue a clean energy future.”
Haaland, the first Indigenous Senate-confirmed Cabinet secretary, has vowed to spotlight issues of importance to the Native American community during her tenure.
Earlier in April, she announced the formation of a unit within the department to address the issue of missing and murdered Native Americans. The department also announced earlier this week that it will alter the process of placing land into trust, under which the department holds ownership of land for either a tribe or individual tribe members.
The former Trump Interior Department placed such decisions under the jurisdiction of the department’s headquarters, while Haaland’s order places them under individual regional Bureau of Indian Affairs offices.
“Our actions today will help us meet that obligation and will help empower Tribes to determine how their lands are used – from conservation to economic development projects,” Haaland said in a statement Wednesday.