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Biden appoints Tohono O'dham & Pascua Yaqui chairmen to first tribal Homeland Security council

Biden appoints Tohono O'dham & Pascua Yaqui chairmen to first tribal Homeland Security council

  • Department of Homeland Security Alejandro Mayorkas
    Miller Center/FlickrDepartment of Homeland Security Alejandro Mayorkas

The chairmen of the Tohono O’odham Nation and the Pascua Yaqui Tribe will sit on the first Department of Homeland Security advisory council focused on protecting tribal lands and citizens, DHS Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas announced Thursday.

President Joe Biden appointed Tohono O’odham Chairman Ned Norris Jr and Pascua Yaqui Chairman Peter Yucupicio among the inaugural members of the Tribal Homeland Security Advisory Council, meant to give the agency input from tribes across the country.

DHS includes agencies such as Border Patrol, Customs and Border Protection and Immigration and Customs Enforcement. The Tohono O’odham Nation reservation includes 62 miles of border with Mexico. Former Tucson Police Chief Chris Magnus headed CBP until he was ousted in early November.

U.S. Rep. Raúl Grijalva said in a press release that “the need for tribal input” for DHS policies is “significant” and considered the appointment of Norris and Yucupicio “the first of many steps to ensure tribal sovereignty and tribal consultation are at the forefront of border management.”

“Tribal border issues are one of the many issues these tribal leaders have expertise in and can address,” he said. “I congratulate Chairs Yucupicio and Norris on their appointments and look forward to continuing our partnership as we work to safeguard sacred cultural sites, protect our nation’s southern border’s environmental habitats and end the increasing militarization of border communities.”

The council will advise DHS Secretary on issues “that affect Indian Country and indigenous communities, including emergency management, law enforcement, cybersecurity, domestic terrorism and targeted violence, and border security,” according to a DHS press release.

Altogether, 15 tribal leaders from across the U.S. will serve on the first council. Yucupicio will serve as the chair of the council, with Kimberly Hampton, a member of the Board of Directors of the Sault Tribe of Chippewa Indians in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula as his vice chair. Yucupicio and Norris Jr. are the only members of the council from Arizona tribes.

The members on the council represent more than 564,000 registered tribal members, 178 villages and “collectively embody an extensive knowledge base of homeland security subject matter expertise,” according to a DHS news release.

The first meeting will take place next year and be convened by DHS Secretary Mayorkas. Mayorkas said in the press release that he’s “deeply proud” of the inaugural council.

“I applaud their commitment to help build and strengthen the integral partnership between Indigenous communities and our Department of Homeland Security,” he said. “Their counsel will better enable our department to uphold its responsibilities to tribal nations as we work hand-in-hand to address key areas of the homeland security mission relating to Indian Country.”

Mayorkas created the council in early September. The council was made to “uphold treaty and trust responsibilities to Indian Country.”

Bennito L. Kelty is’s IDEA reporter, focusing on Inclusion, Diversity, Equity and Access stories, and a Report for America corps member supported by readers like you.

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