Biden gets it right (With help from Deb Haaland)!

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 Read The Article

Deb Haaland and Mount Howard

With all of the “stuff” going on in the world—war in Ukraine, famine in Somalia, floods, heat waves, climate change and inflation everywhere—it’s easy to overlook the work at the US Department of the Interior. And to overlook its director, Secretary of Interior Deb Haaland.

I’ve written before about her appointment of Chuck Sams as the Director of the National Park System, and her vigorous examination of the death of children at Indian boarding schools. Today’s New York Times brings the story of name changes:

“A mountain in Yellowstone National Park, named for an Army officer who led a massacre in which at least 173 Native Americans were slaughtered, has been renamed in honor of America’s Indigenous people, the National Park Service said…. the U.S. Board on Geographic Names… voted unanimously to rename Mount Doane, a 10,551-foot peak in the southeastern part of Yellowstone… First Peoples Mountain.”

Fitting of course, as Yellowstone was used by many tribes prior to its Read The Article

Boarding Schools and Religion

What do we make of it, the long and sickening stories of abuse of Indian children in boarding schools in Canada and our own country? How can men—mostly men, but some women too—have done these things to children?

My friends raised in California Catholic schools laugh now about a nun who liked to rap knuckles with a yardstick, but even that, the hitting of small children by a grown woman pledged to teach them, seems to reflect more on her perverse personality or the crazy institution that had aligned with it than it does on the children.

Sure, there were and are trouble-making children, kids who bring sad stories from sad homes to school with them every day, and work out their home problems by being nasty to other students or contentious with teacher nuns—or any teachers. And there are kids with “just mean” in them that we struggle to understand. But—as we often say—who and where is the adult? Read The Article

Help from the Natives

It’s a heavy job to give to Indians—and I use “Indians” here in deference to older tribal people who still use that term comfortably—but I don’t know who else we turn to. Young white men are killing African-Americans and Asian-Americans. Young Blacks are killing each other on the streets, and I don’t know about today but know that in the past Latino and Asian gangs also killed their own. Read The Article

It’s the Land!

This weekend “media tycoon” Byron Allen told a TV audience that he now owned the Weather Channel and intended to bid on the Denver Broncos. While the NFL is in a dispute over the lack of Black coaches in the league, Allen intends to be the first African-American owner of an NFL team. NFL rosters have, of course, long been filled with African-American players. The league is more than 60 % Black, but coaches are few, and owners none.

In another, quieter announcement this week, President Joe Biden nominated Harvard University Native American Program Executive Director Shelly C. Lowe to serve as the 12th chair of the National Endowment for the Humanities. Lowe is a citizen of the Navajo Nation and grew up on an Arizona reservation. The National Endowment for the Humanities is our national institution that celebrates “culture.” Read The Article

Indian Wars

In my last post, at the urging of a Nez Perce friend, I compared our nation’s current “longest war” with the wars our government has fought with Indian tribes. The nineteenth century and Indian wars seem a long way away to us now, and the Indians, with many tribes somewhat intact, have been largely missing from the American consciousness for at least that long. The recent revival of Indian histories, based on long hidden, lost, or neglected documents, the Boarding School scandal in Canada, and the recent appointment of Deb Haaland as Secretary of the Interior have tilted the table in favor of acknowledgments, “land-back” programs, have brought us the voices of Indian scholars. Read The Article

More Good News—and old news about President Nixon!

Chuck Sams, Jaime Pinkham, and Deb Haaland Federal Government appointments were my good news last week. It turns out I stopped short in my research into what is going on in the Biden Administration, and made an error regarding government agencies at the same time. Thanks first to my friend Geoff, who advises that:

“The Army Corps of Engineers is within the Department of Defense, not Interior. Mike Connor, who will be the Asst. Secretary of the Army for Civil Works after confirmation… is Native too, Taos Pueblo. Jaime [Pinkham] Acting in his position, will be one rung below him, so both Native. Bob Anderson, also Native, is the Solicitor to Secretary of Interior, a critically important position, was Senate confirmed.”

And friend Elnora caught another of my misses—Brian Newland. Read The Article

Good News!

With fires and covid raging, and the messy retreat in Afghanistan, it’s a murky time. So good news in the Department of the Interior is welcome!

Chuck Sams, enrolled on the Umatilla Reservation, where he has served in several tribal government positions and as a recent Governor Brown appointee to the Northwest Power and Conservation Council, will, if confirmed, direct a National Park Service system made up of 423 national park sites throughout the United States. Among the national park sites are 63 national parks, 85 national monuments and other sites such as national battle sites and national shorelines. Read The Article

Boarding Schools

A few years ago, I taught a class for Oregon State University at Eastern called Northwest Tribes and Ecosystems. It was a three-year teaching—and learning—experience for me. We covered the times and the territory, from the earliest introduction of European diseases through horses, explorers, fur traders, missionaries, and treaty-makers to dam builders and Indian assimilation programs. Read The Article

Indians are everywhere–again!

Deb Haaland, President-elect Biden’s nominee for Secretary of the Department of the Interior, is a 35th generation New Mexican who is an enrolled member of the Pueblo of Laguna. She will be the first enrolled member of an American Indian Nation to serve as a Cabinet secretary, and the fact that it is Interior—the federal agency designated to deal with Indian reservations and tribal issues—is, frankly, mind-blowing. In her first remarks, Haaland reminded people that one of her predecessors at Interior had called for the complete assimilation or extermination of all Indians.   Read The Article