National Native American Heritage Month: Arlando Teller, U.S. Department of Transportation

Arlando Teller, a member of the Navajo Nation and a lifelong Arizona resident, became deputy director for tribal affairs at the U.S. Department of Transportation (USDOT) on February 1, 2021.  “I am really grateful for this opportunity, but know that I’m not doing this alone,” Teller said at that time in an interview with Indian Country Today (now known as ICT News). “There are mothers across many tribal nations that are hoping I listen to them and heed their concerns about school bus routes, bridges, and the airports that fly community members in and out of rural communities throughout America.”

In 1995, Teller became the first Native American to graduate from Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University. (This university is focused on aviation and aerospace programs.) Teller served as an intern at Falcon Field, a public airport owned by the Arizona city of Mesa.

Teller went on to work as an airport planner for the Aviation Department of Arizona’s capital city of Phoenix. He also served as an aviation management intern for Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport. Teller subsequently moved to California, where he worked on various multimodal projects as a transportation planner and tribal liaison for the California Department of Transportation.

In 2009, Teller became senior transportation planner for the Navajo Nation’s Division of Transportation. (The Navajo Nation encompasses sections of northeastern Arizona, northwestern New Mexico, and southeastern Utah; this is the largest area of land held by any Native American tribe in the United States.)  Teller eventually made his way further up the career ladder. He was named program manager for the Department of Airports Management for the Navajo Nation and then promoted to deputy director of the Division of Transportation.

In 2018, Teller was elected a Democratic member of the Arizona House of Representatives. As a state lawmaker, he served on the both the Transportation Committee and the Land & Agriculture Committee. In addition, he was vice chair of the Indigenous Peoples Caucus and a member of both the Aviation/Aerospace Caucus and LGBTQ Caucus. Teller resigned from the legislature to assume his current role at USDOT.

Photo Credit: U.S. Department of Transportation

For more information on Arlando Teller, please check out

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