This page includes a selection of current and former Native Americans working for or honored by the U.S. Government.
Rep. Mary Sattler Peltola was born in Alaska and raised on the Kuskokwim River in Kwethluk, Tuntutuliak, Platinum, and Bethel. She was just six years old when she began fishing commercially with her father.
At age 24 years old she won her first state election and represented the Bethel region in the Alaska State Legislature.
During her ten years in office she built consensus around budgets that improved lives in rural Alaska. Since then she has worked as Manager of Community Development and Sustainability for the Donlin gold mine project. More recently, she was Executive Director of the Kuskokwim River Inter-Tribal Fish Commission. She helped mobilize 118 Tribes and rural Alaskans to advocate for the protection of salmon runs in Western Alaska.
Rep. Peltola also served on the Orutsararmiut Native Council Tribal Court and the Bethel City Council, and on the boards of the Nature Conservancy, the Alaska Humanities Forum, the Alaska Children’s Trust, and the Russian Orthodox Sacred Sites in Alaska.
Why We Serve honors the generations of Native Americans who have served in the armed forces of the United States—often in extraordinary numbers—since the American Revolution.
For some, the Indigenous commitment to the U.S. military doesn’t make sense. Why would Indians serve a country that overran their homelands, suppressed their cultures, and confined them to reservations?
Native people have served for the same reasons as anyone else: to demonstrate patriotism or pursue employment, education, or adventure. Many were drafted. Yet tribal warrior traditions, treaty commitments with the United States, and responsibility for defending Native homelands have also inspired the enduring legacy of Indigenous military service.
Why We Serve commemorates the National Native American Veterans Memorial, dedicated at the National Museum of the American Indian in Washington, DC.
Matt Dannenberg is the Tribal Liaison for the Office of Congressional and Intergovernmental Affairs. He previously served as Deputy Chief of Staff for the Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy at the Department of Energy. Before that, he most recently served as Senior Associate Director at the White House Office of Presidential Personnel, and previously he was the Wisconsin Coalitions Director for the Biden-Harris presidential campaign. Dannenberg grew up with a passion for meteorology which led to a career in civic engagement and lobbying to impact climate change. Dannenberg started his career at Wisconsin League of Conservation Voters as an organizer, Field Director, and Program Director. He also served as Communications and Legislative Director at the Public Service Commission of Wisconsin. Dannenberg is a proud member of the Bad River Band of Lake Superior Chippewa and a graduate of the University of Wisconsin-Madison.
Librarian of Congress Carla Hayden appointed Joy Harjo as the 23rd Poet Laureate Consultant in Poetry to the Library of Congress on June 19, 2019. Harjo was reappointed to a second term on April 30, 2020, and a third term on Nov. 19, 2020.
Joy Harjo is the first Native American poet to serve in the position—she is an enrolled member of the Muscogee Creek Nation. She was born in Tulsa, Oklahoma, on May 9, 1951, and is the author of nine books of poetry—including “An American Sunrise” (2019); “Conflict Resolution for Holy Beings” (2015); “The Woman Who Fell From the Sky” (1994), which received the Oklahoma Book Arts Award; and “In Mad Love and War” (1990), which received an American Book Award and the Delmore Schwartz Memorial Award. Harjo has also written two memoirs, “Crazy Brave” (2012) and “Poet Warrior” (2021), as well as a children’s book, “The Good Luck Cat” (2000), and a young adult book, “For a Girl Becoming” (2009).
Heidi Todacheene is a citizen of Navajo Nation who previously served as Senior Advisor in the Office of the Assistant Secretary for Indian Affairs. Heidi served as Legislative Counsel for Congresswoman Deb Haaland and Democratic Director of the Congressional Native American Caucus in the United States Congress. Previously, Heidi worked on intergovernmental affairs, economic development, and public safety issues on behalf of her Nation, served at the New Mexico Indian Affairs Department, and as a civil litigation attorney. Heidi is the first in her family to attend law school and graduated from the University of New Mexico School of Law. She is licensed in New Mexico, Washington D.C., and the U.S. District Court for New Mexico.
Nicole Aunapu Mann was selected by NASA in June 2013. She launched to the International Space Station as commander of NASA’s SpaceX Crew-5 mission aboard the SpaceX Crew Dragon spacecraft on October 5, 2022. She is the first indigenous woman from NASA to go to space. She is registered with the Wailacki of the Round Valley Indian Tribes.
Joaquin R. Gallegos (Jicarilla Apache Nation/Pueblo of Santa Ana) recently served as a law clerk to Judge Allison H. Eid on the 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. Previously, Joaquin served as a legislative staff attorney to the Mille Lacs Band of Ojibwe. He has also served as a legal fellow to former Senator Tom Udall on the Senate Committee on Indian Affairs and as a policy fellow to former Senator Byron Dorgan at the Aspen Institute. Joaquin graduated from the University of Denver Sturm College of Law and the University of Colorado Denver.
Danna Jackson has spent her entire legal career in the area of Natural Resources and Indian Law. Most recently, Danna has been chief legal counsel to the State of Montana’s Department of Natural Resources and Conservation – the agency that manages Montana’s trust lands, waters, state forests, and conservation initiatives. She has spent the majority of her career in the public sector including as a federal prosecutor and a Hill staffer. Danna grew up on a cattle ranch on the Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes of the Flathead Indian Reservation in beautiful Western Montana.