Washington, DC—Today, President Biden announced his intent to nominate Patrice Kunesh to be the next Commissioner of the Administration for Native Americans (ANA) within the Administration on Children and Families at the Department of Health and Human Services. The mission of ANA is to promote the goal of self-sufficiency and cultural preservation by providing social and economic development opportunities through financial assistance, training, and technical assistance to Tribal Nations. Importantly, the ANA is currently working to support Native language preservation and revitalization in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic under the American Rescue Plan Act.
A descendant of the Standing Rock Sioux, Ms. Kunesh has dedicated her career to the development of Tribal economies and advancement of sovereignty. Previously, she established and led the Center for Indian Country Development at the Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis, an economic policy research center dedicated to Indian Country issues. She also has held appointments as the Deputy Under Secretary for Rural Development at the US Department of Agriculture and as the Deputy Solicitor for Indian Affairs at the US Department of the Interior. In addition, she served as in-house counsel to USET SPF member, the Mashantucket Pequot Tribal Nation, and on the faculty at the University of South Dakota School of Law. This depth of experience makes Ms. Kunesh exceptionally prepared to serve as the next ANA Commissioner and to do so in a way that puts Tribal Nations in the drivers’ seat. USET SPF celebrates this nomination as another indication of this Administration’s commitment to better delivering upon trust and treaty obligations, and enhancing our diplomatic, nation-to-nation relationship.
“Patrice is a well-known advocate for the rebuilding of Tribal Nations and our economies,” said USET SPF President, Chief Kirk Francis. “From her establishment of the Center for Indian Country Development to her service as Deputy Solicitor, to her extensive legal career, she has worked tirelessly to advance Tribal self-governance and economic development in Indian Country. As we work to recover from the economic, social, and cultural impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic, the role of ANA will be critical to ‘building back better’ for Indian Country. As ANA Commissioner, we know that Patrice’s focus will be on the promotion and restoration of healthy, resilient Tribal Nation communities that provide opportunities to our citizens for generations to come. On behalf of the USET/USET SPF family, I extend our congratulations and full support for her nomination.”
If confirmed, Ms. Kunesh’s strong background in federal and Tribal service will allow her to immediately begin making substantive contributions to the ANA’s mission. Her well-established commitment to self-determination will ensure that ANA is honoring Tribal guidance and promoting Tribal sovereignty as it delivers upon its obligations to Indian Country. USET SPF strongly supports Ms. Kunesh’s nomination for ANA Commissioner . We call upon the United States Senate to act swiftly on her confirmation in accordance with its responsibility to honor its obligations to Tribal Nations.