Interior secretary hires Native American as legal counsel
SANTA FE, N.M. (AP) — A Native American attorney who oversaw New Mexico's Indian Affairs Department has been tapped to serve as a top legal adviser to U.S. Department of the Interior Secretary Deb Haaland.
The department announced the appointment of Lynn Trujillo as senior counsel to the secretary Friday.
Trujillo is a tribal member of Sandia Pueblo on the outskirts of Albuquerque and has ties to Acoma and Taos pueblos. Haaland is the first Native American to serve as a U.S. Cabinet secretary.
Trujillo worked as a state Cabinet secretary for nearly four years under Democratic New Mexico Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham as a crucial liaison with Native American communities during the upheaval of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Initiatives during Trujillo's tenure provided increased funding for local school districts on Native American lands held in trust by the federal government — where property taxes cannot be levied.
She also promoted the pursuit of justice for missing and murdered Indigenous people across New Mexico and agreements authorizing tribal cannabis programs to spur economic development in Native American communities. New Mexico legalized recreational cannabis sales last year amid concerns about conflicts with federal prohibition.
Trujillo previously worked as a national Native American coordinator at the U.S. Department of Agriculture on its rural development programs and as general counsel to Sandia Pueblo.
Haaland and Trujillo are both graduates of the University of New Mexico School of Law.
New Mexico overlaps with 23 federally recognized Native American communities including large portions of the Navajo Nation.