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Posts Tagged ‘secretary of the interior’

Photo: US Department of the Interior.
Deb Haaland, Secretary of the Interior, is the first Native American to become a cabinet secretary. She served as a representative for New Mexico’s 1st congressional district from 2019 to 2021.

Deb Haaland, a member of the Laguna Pueblo tribe in New Mexico, recently moved from Congress to her pathbreaking role as US Secretary of the Interior. Indigenous people around the country hope she will be able right some wrongs of the past.

In March, National Public Radio (NPR) and the show Living on Earth had stories about this beautiful gift to America from the Laguna Pueblo tribe.

At NPR, Kirk Siegler said, “With so much land under federal control in the West, it’s long been said the secretary of the Interior has much more of a direct affect on most people’s lives than the president. This experience could arguably be multiplied tenfold on reservations.

“In her confirmation hearing earlier this year, Deb Haaland of the Laguna Pueblo in New Mexico nodded to the fact that the department she now leads was historically used as a tool of oppression toward tribes.

‘This moment is profound when we consider the fact that a former secretary of the Interior once proclaimed his goal to, quote, civilize or exterminate us,’ Haaland said quoting an Interior report from 1851. … ‘I’m a living testament to the failure of that horrific ideology.’

“[Haaland made history] by becoming the first indigenous Interior secretary. She’s promising to begin repairing a legacy of broken treaties and abuses committed by the federal government toward tribes. It’s one pillar of a long and ambitious to-do list of reforms the administration is planning at the sprawling agency that is the federal government’s most direct contact with the nation’s 574 federally recognized — and sovereign — tribes. …

” ‘It feels like we are moving and we are claiming what we could have done a long time ago,’ said Mary Jane Miles, 81, a member of the Nez Perce Tribal Executive Committee in Idaho.

“Miles said a traditional song was sung and there was an impromptu celebration at her tribe’s headquarters the moment Haaland was formally confirmed by the Senate.

“The Nez Perce, or Nimiipuu in their native language, consider much of the Northwest their ancestral land. But through a series of treaties they’re now confined to a small slice of remote Idaho river country. Like most tribes, their land is held in trust by the federal government and leaders here say the U.S. has long shirked its obligation to protect the land, its wildlife and other issues of cultural importance to the tribe.

“Today, the salmon and steelhead trout that were once abundant on the Snake and Clearwater rivers are nearing extinction. Miles also pointed to a legacy of toxic messes from mining that occurred on ancestral Nez Perce land often with little or no consultation by the tribe.

” ‘Sometimes when we look at some of the things that the past has done for our tribe, we’ve noticed that maybe we’ve been taken,’ she said.

“Nationwide, tribal leaders believe the injustices of the past might start to be reversed under Haaland. …

” ‘Protection of this government-to-government relationship is all important to the tribes,’ said Jon Echohawk, executive director and attorney with the Native American Rights Fund in Colorado.

“Echohawk said that relationship is fraught because Interior agencies like the Bureau of Indian Affairs have been chronically underfunded. He says the previous administration also spurned tribal input on major lands decisions like the opening up the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge to drilling, the Keystone Pipeline and the 85% reduction of the Bears Ears National Monument.

“There is already pressure on the new administration to reinstate Bears Ears in Utah or possibly even expand it beyond its original boundaries. The land is rich with artifacts and other cultural resources considered sacred to many tribes. Haaland has said only she’s planning to travel there next month for a listening tour.

“Traci Morris, executive director of the American Indian Policy Institute at Arizona State University, said she expects Haaland to take a measured approach on a lot of controversial issues at Interior given the historic nature of her appointment.

” ‘If she goes in and is radical, you know, who comes behind her, what native comes behind her, all of us will get judged by what she does,’ Morris said.”

Bobby Bascomb, speaking with Haaland at Living on Earth, brought up the subject of fossil fuels because the resistance to the new secretary’s appointment came from supporters of that sector in Congress.

Haaland said, “There’s no question that fossil energy does and will continue to play a major role in America for years to come. I know how important oil and gas revenues are to critical services. But we must also recognize that the energy industry is innovating, and our climate challenge must be addressed. Together we can work to position our nation and all of its people for success in the future.”

More at NPR, here, and at Living on Earth, here.

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