Arlando Teller sworn in as first Assistant Secretary for Tribal Affairs for the U.S. Dept. of Transportation
WASHINGTON, D.C. — Arlando Teller was officially sworn in as the first Assistant Secretary for Tribal Affairs for the U.S. Department of Transportation May 8.
Navjao Nation President Buu Nygren attended the swearing-in ceremony for Assistant Secretary Teller, who took the position in April.
Prior to administering the oath of office, Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg shared a few words about Teller’s accomplishments in his role as Deputy Assistant Secretary and emphasized the need to have tribal representation to address many of the unique needs of Indian Country.
This position was made possible by continuous advocacy from tribal governments and organizations which was then enacted through the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, focusing on improving programs to address many of the critical infrastructure impacting tribal communities within Indian Country.
The bill further allowed for the creation of an Office of Tribal Government Affairs intended to be led by an Assistant Secretary of Tribal Government Affairs to elevate tribal voices, concerns and recommendations.
Teller graduated from Chinle High School. His clans are Naashtézhi Táchii’ni (Zuni People Adopted into Red Streaked-Forehead), born for Tóaheedlíini (Waters Flow Together). His maternal grandfather is Tódichií’nii (Bitterwater) and his paternal grandfather is Ashihi (Salt People).
“I think that was the best choice for someone that has compassion, heart, and commitment and knows what they’re doing,” said President Nygren. “I think that’s critical. I know that it’s good for all of Indian country that they selected somebody who has a passion for roads.”
Since taking the position, Teller has been working on different provisions to streamline the Right-of-Way clearance process, specifically working with other federal agencies to improve the federal clearance process to benefit tribal communities so they may begin moving forward with several road transportation infrastructure projects.
Teller dedicated his success and commitment to his late mother who passed in 2020 after he was offered a position within the Biden Administration.
“I appreciate her guidance for this opportunity. Our elders like her, and without the advocacy from tribal leaders across Indian country, this position, this opportunity wouldn’t have happened,” he said.
Assistant Secretary Teller has also been working closely with Executive Director Justin Ahasteen of the Navajo Nation Washington Office, who represents and advocates for the priorities of the Navajo people in Washington, D.C.
Navajo Nation Council Delegates Shawna Ann Claw and Resources and Development Committee Chairwoman Brenda Jesus were also in attendance and offered their congratulations to Assistant Secretary Teller.
Jesus said Teller’s experience that started at the Navajo Division Transportation gives him “the backbone to be a strong voice for rural tribal communities.”
“We wish Assistant Secretary well in his new role and look forward to our continued collaboration with the U.S. Department of Transportation,” Nygren said.
Information provided by the Office of the Navajo Natio President.