In today’s paper I read that President Biden reversed Trump yet again, effectively returning to a 2014 policy that forbade the use of antipersonnel landmines in all but the defense of South Korea. It seems that a lot of what Biden does reverses previous government policy. And nowhere as much—or as effectively—as with Indian affairs, where the reversals overturn decades and even centuries of American government policies.
Yesterday’s news was a reversal of Trump on Bears Ears National Monument. National monuments are executive order landmarks, so, unlike National Parks, are subject to the policy leanings of the current occupant of the White House. Trump had significantly shrunk the size of the Bears Ears Monument. Biden, “on the counsel of Deb Haaland, the Secretary of the Interior,” as the New York Times declared, reversed Trump. President Barack Obama had established Bears Ears in 2016, the culmination of more than a century of efforts to protect the ancestral homeland of Tribal Nations that all refer to the area by the same name — Hoon’Naqvut (Hopi), Shash Jaa’ (Navajo), Kwiyagatu Nukavachi (Ute), and Ansh An Lashokdiwe (Zuni): “Bears Ears.”
Biden and Haaland did something more, something that might help institutionalize this executive order and carry the Bears Ears into the future. They signed a cooperative management agreement with the tribes.
Biden’s appointment of Deb Haaland might turn out to be his strongest appointment, and the one with the greatest long-term impacts on the country. Her appointment at Interior is not the only Native in the new cabinet and agency mix. We have Chuck Sams rom the Umatilla Reservation managing the National Park system, Jaime Pinkham, enrolled Nez Perce from Lapwai, as an Assistant Secretary of Defense looking after the Army Corps of Engineers, and now Shelly C. Lowe as Chair of the National Endowment for the Humanities.
Shelly Lowe is a citizen of the Navajo Nation and grew up on the Navajo Reservation in Ganado, Arizona. Lowe’s career in higher education has included roles as Executive Director of the Harvard University Native American Program, Assistant Dean in the Yale College Dean’s Office, and Director of the Native American Cultural Center at Yale University.
This highly skilled and academically trained “tribe” of Native Americans has emerged rapidly over the past few decades. Skills and cultural knowledge have been there—and been largely ignored—for hundreds of years. It is Indian time again in America!
(And a time with fewer of those nasty land mines.)
Thanks to Joe Biden, to Deb Haaland, and to the patient Tribal peoples who have survived to help us all into a dangerous future.
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