National parks aim to boost tribal nations’ role in land management

ALBUQUERQUE, NM — National Park Service Director Chuck Sams said Tuesday he and other officials are committed to boosting the role Native American tribes can play in managing public lands around the US

He told members of a congressional committee during a virtual hearing that part of the effort includes integrating Indigenous knowledge into management plans and recognizing that federal lands once belonged to the tribes.

Sams was questioned about how the National Park Service could use existing authority and recent executive directives issued by top federal officials to make good on the latest round of promises to tribes regarding meaningful consultation and having a seat at the table.

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National Park Service Director Charles

Sams, who is Cayuse and Walla Walla and a citizen of the Confederated Tribes of the Umatilla Indian Reservation, is the first Native American to lead the Park Service. He said education will be a key part of seeing changes on the ground.

“Much of this has been missing from our history books, that understanding that tribes are sovereign,” he said, adding that the federal government has an obligation to ensure that tribal voices are heard.

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