New National Park Service Director Makes History as First Native American to Hold Position

Charles “Chuck” F. Sams is now the first Senate-approved National Park Service director since the Obama administration

Charles F. Sams III, nominee to be Director of the National Park Service
Charles F. Sams III. Photo: Bill Clark/CQ-Roll Call, Inc via Getty Images

Charles "Chuck" F. Sams III has been confirmed to lead the U.S. National Park Service.

The Senate unanimously confirmed Sams' nomination for NPS director on Thursday, making him the first Senate-confirmed director since the Obama administration, as well as the first Native American to ever hold the position.

Sams, an enrolled member of the Cayuse and Walla Walla tribes — part of the Confederated Tribes of the Umatilla Indian Reservation — marked the first Senate confirmation of an NPS director since 2009, according to The Hill.

The Navy veteran lives on the Umatilla Indian Reservation with his wife and four children, per NPR.

"Congratulations Chuck Sams," Umatilla Confederated Tribes wrote in a statement on social media.

"Tonight the U.S. Senate approved the nomination of Chuck Sams to be Director of the National Park Service via unanimous consent," they added. "In the coming weeks he will be sworn in and officially begin his service as the first Native American Director of the NPS."

Charles Sams III, nominee to be Director of the National Park Service
Charles Sams III. Michael Brochstein/SOPA Images/Shutterstock

Speaking on Sams' behalf on Thursday, Oregon Sen. Ron Wyden called him the "right nominee" for the job.

"I know Chuck. He is hardworking. He is committed," Wyden said, according to The Hill. "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," Wyden continued.

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The National Park Service is a 105-year-old government bureau that was created in 1916 thanks to President Woodrow Wilson, according to the NPS.

"The system includes 423 areas covering more than 85 million acres in every state, the District of Columbia, American Samoa, Guam, Puerto Rico, and the Virgin Islands," the service's website states. "These areas include national parks, monuments, battlefields, military parks, historical parks, historic sites, lakeshores, seashores, recreation areas, scenic rivers and trails, and the White House."

NPS is a bureau of the Department of the Interior, which is led by Secretary Deb Haaland, who made history earlier this year when she became the first Native American cabinet secretary, according to her official bio.

Prior to Sams, Jonathan Jarvis was the last Senate-confirmed director, according to The Hill. Jarvis held the position from 2009 until 2017.

Throughout the Trump administration, there were four different acting NPS directors, per the outlet.

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