ANCHORAGE, Alaska (AP) — A former attorney at the Native American Rights Fund in Alaska and member of the Chickasaw Nation in Oklahoma will become a top official in the U.S. Department of the Interior, the agency said in a statement on Wednesday.
Natalie Landreth will become deputy solicitor for land with the Interior Department after spending 17 years with the Native American Rights Fund, which represents tribes in treaty rights, public lands, aboriginal rights and environmental laws, the federal agency said in a statement.
Rep. Debra Haaland, a member of the Laguna Pueblo tribe in New Mexico, was nominated by President Joe Biden to lead the Interior Department in December. If confirmed, Haaland would become the first Native American person to lead the agency.
“We look forward to working with the dedicated civil servants at the department to fulfill Interior’s missions, advance President Biden’s vision to honor our nation-to-nation relationship with Tribes and uphold the trust and treaty responsibilities to them,” said Jennifer Van der Heide, incoming chief of staff at the Interior Department, in a statement.
Landreth, who could not be reached for comment by the Anchorage Daily News on Wednesday, helped sue to reverse a policy that required a second person to sign all absentee ballots submitted in Alaska. The Alaska Supreme Court confirmed the policy reversal in October. Landreth had cited the hardships many Native Americans already faced by voting through the mail, including the fact that many that live on tribal lands that are remote and do not have specific addresses, but rather explanatory ones like “last house on the left.”
Landreth was also involved in lawsuits aimed at halting construction of the Keystone XL Pipeline in Canada and the U.S. Biden signed an executive order in January that revoked the permit granted by President Donald Trump to build the pipeline, which Native Americans groups have said could cause substantial water pollution on tribes and destroy sacred cultural sites.
“She has been intimately involved in trying to establish these unique designations for public lands that have great significance to Native Americans,” said Heather Kendall-Miller, a retired senior staff attorney with the Native American Rights Fund. “I think she will be a very strong leader and director in that capacity.”