Minnesota Native News is a weekly radio segment covering ideas and events relevant to Minnesota’s Native American communities. Made possible by the Minnesota Art's and Cultural Heritage fund
Marie: This is Minnesota Native News, I’m Marie Rock. Coming up...
The confirmation of Deb Haaland as U.S. Secretary of Interior is a historic moment. Deb Haaland… Now Secretary Haaland… is the first Native person to hold a cabinet position in U.S. History.
Reporter Leah Lemm has reactions to this historic event, from folks in Minnesota.
But first, here’s Deb Haaland speaking at her confirmation hearing… back in February.
STORY #1: Indian Country in MN Reacts to Deb Haaland’s Confirmation as U.S. Secretary of the Interior
US Sect of INT DEB HAALAND: I spent summers in Mesita, our small village on Laguna Pueblo, the location of my grandparents' traditional home. It was there that I learned about my culture from my grandmother by watching her cook and by participating in traditional feast days and ceremonies. It was in the cornfields with my grandfather, where I learned the importance of water and protecting our resources, where I gained a deep respect for the earth.
Reporter: That was NOW U.S. Secretary of Interior Deb Haaland giving her opening statement at her confirmation hearing in February. And on March 15th, the U.S. Senate voted to confirm Representative Deb Haaland’s historic nomination by a 51 to 40 vote. On social media I noticed many comments and sharing of the news, including a friend who went and danced out in the snow. There’s an overwhelming sense that the voices from tribal nations will be heard even more so now that a tribal citizen is at the helm of the US Dept of Interior.
Red Lake Nation citizen Cherilyn Spears shares her thoughts…
Cherilyn Spears: I am just really, really excited. I am just so, so excited. I just see so much positive changes coming along with the new administration, that we're finally going to have our voices heard and it's been a long, long time coming. I know one other thing I want to add too, is like, trust responsibility - is making the government uphold their trust responsibility towards data of tribes nations.
Then again, like I say, you know, there's Zach Ducheneaux moving up into the Farm Service Agency and then Janie Hipp, she's moving into a different position as General Counsel and any other members that Biden recognizes and as do our own senators here in Minnesota. They have been on our side with a lot of projects and they understand they get us, you know, they understand what our needs are and have been for years.
And so with that coming on, I'm just really, really excited to see what she's going to be accomplishing in these next four years. And I'll be right there, cheering her on!
During her time in Congress… Then… Representative Haaland focused on policies to benefit New Mexico families, climate change, and the missing and murdered indigenous women crisis, and environmental and economic justice.
Michael Van Horn, also from Red Lake notes the significance of Haaland understanding the needs of Indian Country….
Michael Van Horn: What it does is it allows, you know, with everybody moving and transitioning into these positions, it allows for our voices as Native Americans, to be able to be heard. Everybody that's been promoted and moving onto these positions are fully aware of what Native American needs are - that we haven't had a seat at the table.
So this just allows for more of our voices to be, and our needs being shared with other people in order for Funding, for everything involved really in conservation efforts. You know what I mean? That's definitely... you know, natural resources…. That's definitely plays a role in us managing our own lands. Um, you know, and, and having that voice, you know, I mean, too, as well as, you know, allowing us to be able to manage our own lands versus being told how to manage our own lands.
Sec Deb Haaland is also an inspiration. Kayla Aubid is from Citizen of the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe…
Kayla Aubid: Overall, as an individual at that level of government, for her to be able to negotiate and continue to conversate with people who may or may not be like in her same like political spectrum, just for me as a woman and wanting to do something that shadows Deb Haaland - that ability to be a flow and mediator and have the tough conversations, but stand true to yourself. That's kind of like, it was just remarkable to watch and to hear, I guess - breathe this crazy sigh of relief.
Furthermore, there’s the excitement for what this means for Indian Country and the rest of the country.
Kayla Aubid: I've been following this for a while. It's remarkable. She recognizes that this is a historic moment for Indian Country and that, she's also recognizing that in general, the skills and expertise that she's bringing to this position are great for all of us.
For MN Native News, I’m Leah Lemm.
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