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The NZUS Council recently welcomed back the 2023/24 Congressional Internship Programme participants following their experience at Capitol Hill.

Rā Neilsford-Jones, a student of science, physics, and law, was chosen from the University of Canterbury to join the programme.

With a keen interest in understanding Native American legal rights and socio-political history to compare with Māori legal rights and socio-political history, the Office for Congressman Tom Cole was a natural fit.

“I really wanted to get an understanding of how American politics works, and also how American people work; I believe that you can’t understand a political system without seeing the values that your everyday person has and the culture that fundamentally influences that system,” Rā explained.

He went on to say he “really enjoyed the duality of my work in Congress”, which was “split between Native American work analysing some of their issues, helping out on budgeting and appropriation bills” across the 50 states, as well the administrative duties he participated in.

His experience showcases the ongoing importance in retaining a strong bilateral relationship with the United States, and the comparisons that can be drawn between the US and New Zealand, despite the vast size difference between the two nations.

Rā is pictured with a gift from Congressman Cole; his Great Aunt Te Ata’s biography by Richard Green, a celebrated Native American folklore orator of the Chickasaw Nation.

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