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Bryan Newland
Bryan Newland. Photo: U.S. Department of the Interior
Assistant Secretary nominee Bryan Newland vows to ‘build back better’ after COVID-19
Bay Mills citizen comes directly from tribal government to Biden administration
Wednesday, June 9, 2021

• LIVE at 2:30PM Eastern: Nomination Hearing

WASHINGTON, D.C — It’s a big day for Bryan Newland, who has been nominated to serve as the Assistant Secretary for Indian Affairs in the Joe Biden administration.

Newland, a citizen of the Bay Mills Indian Community, goes before the Senate Committee on Indian Affairs for his nomination hearing on Wednesday afternoon. He prepared an opening statement as part of the confirmation process, highlighting his goals and priorities should he be confirmed by the U.S. Senate.

“If confirmed, I will bring that perspective with me to the Department of the Interior. We must help Indian Country build back better after the pandemic,” Newland says in his written testimony. “We must also respond with urgency to the violence against Indigenous women and children. And we must lay the foundation for the next generation of Native children to succeed.”

“I believe that tribal governments, rather than federal agencies, are best-suited to respond to the challenges their communities face,” continues Newland, who currently serves as Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary for Indian Affairs at the Department of the Interior. “Our job is to be a collaborative trustee and ensure that Indian Country drives our work.”

“With your consent, I will be a leader for these important efforts,” Newland tells the committee.


Newland, an attorney, previously served at Interior during the Barack Obama administration. In his prepared remarks, he cites his efforts to help strengthen tribal sovereignty over their own homelands through laws like the Helping Expedite and Advance Responsible Tribal Home Ownership Act, also known as the HEARTH Act.

“We reformed leasing on Indian lands, putting timelines in place so that other families wouldn’t have the same delays my parents faced,” Newland states in reference to his upbringing on his tribe’s reservation in Michigan, where he lived in tribal housing before his family became the first in the community with a home mortgage backed by the Bureau of Indian Affairs.

“Working with this committee, we saw the bipartisan enactment and implementation of the HEARTH Act, putting tribes back in control of leasing and home mortgages on tribal lands,” he says of his prior efforts at Interior.

HEARTH Act Signing President Barack Obama signs the Helping Expedite and Advance Responsible Tribal Home Ownership Act, also known as the HEARTH Act, into law at the White House on July 30, 2012. Bryan Newland, who was serving as a policy adviser at the Department of the Interior at the time, is seen on the far left.
Photo: Pete Souza / White House

After working in Washington, D.C, Newland returned to his tribal nation. He first served as chief judge of the Bay Mills Indian Community court system and then later as president, making him one of the few Assistant Secretary nominees to come directly from tribal government.

“I know first-hand the connection between public service and the lives of others,” Newland observes. “When you live with the people you serve, you cannot escape that connection – if you make a mistake, you see it (and, if you don’t see it, there’s sure to be an auntie or a friend to remind you).”

So far, Newland’s nomination, which was formally announced on April 22, has drawn nothing but praise from Indian Country. His successor at Bay Mills said he helped secure funding for a $15 million health care facility that will serve their region in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan.

“We are very proud of Bryan and his service to Indian Country,” said Whitney Gravelle, who is leading an an executive council of all women for the first time in Bay Mills history. “During his time as BMIC chairman, Bryan worked hard to represent and serve the interests of our community and our people. I believe he would be a valuable asset to the Department of Interior in this new role.”

“A great leader is not just someone who just makes decisions, but someone who believes in the potential of others, nurtures their ability, and helps them reach their own goals,” Gravelle added in her statement. “Great leaders nurture other leaders. Bryan nurtured all of Bay Mills, and I have no doubt now in his new role he will nurture all of Indian Country.”

Newland’s network of support extends throughout the Midwest region. The 35 tribal nations in Michigan, Iowa, Indiana, Minnesota and Wisconsin are confident he will help Secretary Deb Haaland, who is the first Native person to lead the Department of the Interior, fulfill the federal government’s trust and treaty obligations.

“During his career, he has demonstrated that he will be an effective advocate for Native Americans in the Midwest and across the United States,” the Midwest Alliance of Sovereign Tribes said in a statement on Aril 22.

Newland has well-wishers elsewhere in Indian Country. Leaders of the Navajo Nation, the largest tribe in the U.S., were able to meet with the nominee when First Lady Jill Biden visited their reservation during a historic two-day trip back in April.

“With his extensive experience and knowledge, we are optimistic that he will work together with all tribes and partner with the Navajo Nation to advance new policies and policy changes that benefit our people and communities,” said President Jonathan Nez.

jonathannezbryannewlandmyronlizer From left, Navajo Nation President Jonathan Nez, Assistant Secretary of Indian Affairs nominee Bryan Newland and Navajo Nation Vice President Myron Lizer pose in Window Rock, Arizona, the capital of the Navajo Nation, on April 22, 2021. Photo: Navajo Nation Office of President and Vice President

Newland is the only person on the witness list for his nomination hearing, which will be broadcast live on at 2:30pm Eastern on Wednesday. According to his opening statement, he is appearing before the Senate Committee on Indian Affairs in person. He is being joined by his parents, his wife and his two children.

“My parents had me at a young age, under difficult circumstances, and worked hard to raise my brother Robert, my sister Holly, and me,” Newland states. “They also both had long careers in public service and instilled those values in us. I thank them for that.”

Assistant Secretary for Indian Affairs
The Assistant Secretary for Indian Affairs post was established in 1977. It’s a political position at the Department of the Interior, meaning the person who is chosen is selected by the current president of the United States.

At Interior, the Assistant Secretary oversee the Bureau of Indian Affairs and the Bureau of Indian Education. The recently-created Bureau of Trust Funds Administration, which is taking over most of the duties of the Office of the Special Trustee for American Indians, also falls under the position.

If confirmed, Newland would be the 14th person to serve as the Assistant Secretary. All have hailed from federally-recognized tribal nations:

• 1977–1978: Forrest Gerard (Blackfeet Nation)
• 1979–1981: William E. Hallett (Ohkay Owingeh and Navajo Nation)
• 1981–1984: Kenneth L. Smith (Warm Springs Tribes)
• 1985–1989: Ross Swimmer (Cherokee Nation)
• 1989–1993: Eddie Frank Brown (Pascua Yaqui Tribe and Tohono O’odham Nation)
• 1993–1997: Ada E. Deer (Menominee Nation)
• 1997–2001: Kevin Gover (Pawnee Nation)
• 2001–2003: Neal A. McCaleb (Chickasaw Nation)
• 2004–2005: Dave Anderson (Lac Courte Oreilles Band of Lake Superior Ojibwe and Choctaw Nation)
• 2007–2008: Carl J. Artman (Oneida Nation)
• 2009–2012: Larry Echo Hawk (Pawnee Nation)
• 2012–2015: Kevin K. Washburn (Chickasaw Nation)
• 2018-2021: Tara “Katuk” Mac Lean Sweeney (Native Village of Barrow Traditional Iñupiat Government and Iñupiat Community of the Arctic Slope)

Senate Committee on Indian Affairs Notice
Nomination Hearing to consider Bryan Todd Newland to serve as Assistant Secretary for Indian Affairs, U.S. Department of the Interior (June 9, 2021)
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