Floor Speech

Date: March 7, 2023
Location: Washington, DC


Ms. SMITH. Mr. President, I rise today in support of the nomination of Patrice Kunesh to be the Commissioner of the Administration for Native Americans at the Department of Health and Human Services.

Ms. Kunesh is a descendant of the Standing Rock Lakota and a distinguished lawyer, advocate, and thought leader. She currently works at the Native American Rights Fund, but her career spans from being counsel for the Mashantucket Pequot Tribe to being the director of the Center for Indian Country Development at the Minneapolis Federal Reserve--all in the service of Native communities. Ms. Kunesh also served as the Deputy Solicitor at the Department of the Interior and as Deputy Under Secretary for Rural Development at the USDA.

The Administration for Native Americans at HHS helps Native communities, including Indian Tribes, Native Hawaiians, and Alaska Natives, with financial support and technical assistance for Native language preservation, economic development, and self-sufficiency.

I know that Patrice is up to the task. She is knowledgeable, experienced, and deeply connected to Tribal leaders and Native communities. She knows how the Federal Government works and how we can best fulfill our trust and treaty responsibilities in Indian Country.

Patrice's nomination is supported by the National Congress of American Indians and numerous Tribal nations. Most importantly, filling this role at HHS is essential to meeting our responsibilities to Tribal nations and Native communities.

I urge my colleagues to vote yes on Patrice Kunesh's nomination.