For first time in 233 years, Native American, Native Alaskan, Native Hawaiian all in U.S. House

Last month, Mary Peltola made history when she became first Native Alaskan and woman elected to the U.S. House of Representatives for the Last Frontier State.

When Peltola was sworn in last month, Congress reached a milestone: for the first time in more than two centuries, the House has full U.S. Indigenous representation, according to Rep. Kaiali'i Kahele of Hawaii.

"It has taken 233 years for the U.S. Congress to be fully represented by this country’s indigenous peoples," Kahele, the second Native Hawaiian to represent his home state, posted on Twitter alongside a photograph of him, Peltola, and Rep. Sharice Davids of Kansas, a member of the Ho-Chunk Nation. "Tonight, a Native American, a Native Alaskan & a Native Hawaiian are sitting members of the people’s House."

In August, Peltola, a member of the Yup'ik people, won Alaska's special congressional election and will finish the remaining term of the late Rep. Don Young, who died in March.

Peltola, former Gov. Sarah Palin and Nick Begich ran both in a special election to fill out the rest of Young's term and will run in the general election for a new term.

After her Sept. 13, swearing in, there are now six Indigenous Americans who are representatives in the House.

From left to right: Reps. Kaialiʻi Kahele, Mary Peltola and Sharice Davids.
From left to right: Reps. Kaialiʻi Kahele, Mary Peltola and Sharice Davids.

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Who is Peltola?

Peltola is 49 and was born in Anchorage, Alaska.

She attended the University of Northern Colorado and the University of Alaska. She also established the lobbying firm Sattler Strategies.

She served as the executive director of the Kuskokwim River Inter-Tribal Fish Commission, and a councilwoman in Bethel, a small city in Alaska, from 2011-2013.

U.S. House candidate Democrat Mary Peltola answers questions from a reporter prior to a forum for U.S. House candidates at the Alaska Oil and Gas Association annual conference at the Dena'ina Convention Center in Anchorage, Alaska, on Wednesday, Aug. 31, 2022. Peltola won the special election for Alaska’s only U.S. House seat on Wednesday, besting a field that included Republican Sarah Palin, who was seeking a political comeback in the state where she was once governor. (Marc Lester/Anchorage Daily News via AP) ORG XMIT: AKAND601
U.S. House candidate Democrat Mary Peltola answers questions from a reporter prior to a forum for U.S. House candidates at the Alaska Oil and Gas Association annual conference at the Dena'ina Convention Center in Anchorage, Alaska, on Wednesday, Aug. 31, 2022. Peltola won the special election for Alaska’s only U.S. House seat on Wednesday, besting a field that included Republican Sarah Palin, who was seeking a political comeback in the state where she was once governor. (Marc Lester/Anchorage Daily News via AP) ORG XMIT: AKAND601

'A historic moment'

"It's a historic moment," Lani Teves, an associate professor at the University of Hawai'i at Mānoa told NPR.

The representation, she told the outlet, can have a big impact on the political power of Indigenous communities across the U.S.

"People need representation and young people need to see people that look like themselves, that come from their communities," Teves said.

U.S. House candidate Democrat Mary Peltola celebrates after results are announced for the special election in which she won the race for Alaska's lone seat in the U.S. House of Representatives on Wednesday, Aug. 31, 2022, in Anchorage, Alaska.
U.S. House candidate Democrat Mary Peltola celebrates after results are announced for the special election in which she won the race for Alaska's lone seat in the U.S. House of Representatives on Wednesday, Aug. 31, 2022, in Anchorage, Alaska.

She also told the outlet that having members who come from Indigenous communities can mean issues important to those communities, including climate change and violence against Native women may get more attention in Congress.

Contributing: Merdie Nzanga

Natalie Neysa Alund covers trending news for USA TODAY. Reach her at nalund@usatoday.com and follow her on Twitter @nataliealund.

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: In adding Peltola, Congress has full U.S. Indigenous representation