SANTA FE — James R. Mountain of the Pueblo de San Ildefonso was appointed Friday to lead the Indian Affairs Department under Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham.
The appointment came as state leaders celebrated American Indian Day at the Capitol with speeches and music.
Mountain joins the Lujan Grisham administration as the governor endures a spate of Cabinet turnover. Three Cabinet secretaries announced their departure last week.
Mountain, a former governor of the Pueblo de San Ildefonso, will lead the state department dedicating to working with New Mexico’s pueblos, tribes and nations.
“His expertise in state and tribal relations will be a valuable asset in continuing our work to foster productive and respectful relationships and support Indigenous communities throughout New Mexico,” Lujan Grisham, a Democrat, said in a written statement.
The appointment is subject to confirmation by the state Senate, but Mountain can begin work right away.
“I commit to uphold the traditional values of the first inhabitants of New Mexico as we work together to improve the quality of life for everyone who calls this land home,” he said.
New Mexico lawmakers dedicated part of Friday to hearing from Native American leaders.
Both chambers of the Legislature met in a joint session for speeches from Navajo Nation President Buu Nygren and Mark Mitchell, chairman of the All Pueblo Council of Governors.
Among the bills before lawmakers this year is a proposal, House Bill 140, to establish a tribal education trust fund — backed by $50 million in state funding — which would distribute money each year to tribes, pueblos, and nations.