Cantwell to chair Senate Indian Affairs committee

TULALIP — Sen. Maria Cantwell, D-Wash., is poised to take on the chairmanship of the U.S. Senate Committee on Indian Affairs.

Cantwell has been a member of the committee since her first year in the Senate in 2001. The chairmanship, as well as all Senate committee assignments, must get the official stamp of the full Senate when the new Congress convenes in January.

For Tulalip Tribes Chairman Mel Sheldon, the news of Cantwell’s proposed assignment is welcome.

“We are so proud of the senator,” Sheldon said. “Maria has been a supporter of ours since her legislative service in Olympia. She has continued that at the federal level.”

Stillaguamish Tribal Chairman Shawn Yanity in Arlington agreed.

“Maria has a long history of knowing the issues, what the tribes face and who the tribes are,” Yanity said. “She has the familiarity with issues such as natural resources, violence against women and many more. We will be leaning a bit more on her to stand stronger on tribal issues. It’s really good to have her in that position.”

Cantwell said she will be honored to lead the committee as its first female chairman.

“I am proud of my work with our state tribes on issues such as education, health care and the environment, including salmon restoration,” Cantwell said. “In our state, the way we work together with the tribes is very relational, but I think that can translate to work with all of the tribal nations in our country.”

Cantwell also mentioned her work to promote the sovereignty of tribal nations as well as economic growth among tribes. She has led Senate efforts to give tribal governments more flexibility to lease land and create businesses on reservations.

“The 29 federally recognized tribes in our state contribute greatly to the state’s cultural diversity, heritage and economy,” Cantwell said. “The tribes in our country are important to our states and our country. I look forward to the opportunities that being the chair of this committee provides.”

Sheldon said he shares what he believes is Cantwell’s mission as an elected official to give back to the county, the state and the country.

“I’ve served five years as chairman of the Tulalip Tribes. I couldn’t have a better job. Like Maria, I look at this as a once-in-lifetime shot to make life better in Indian Country,” Sheldon said. “We look forward to working with her on issues we will face together. She is going to be an active chair for Indian Country.”

Cantwell also serves on the Senate committees on Commerce, Science and Transportation, Energy and Natural Resources, Finance and Small Business and Entrepreneurship.

Gale Fiege: 425-339-3427; gfiege@heraldnet.com.

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