What does the nomination of Rep. Deb Haaland (D-NM) for interior secretary mean for Native communities?
If confirmed, Haaland, an enrolled member of the Laguna Pueblo, will become the nation’s first Native American Cabinet secretary. First Nations’ Vice President of Grantmaking, Development and Communications Raymond Foxworth and colleagues Cheryl Ellenwood, Laura Evans, Carmela Roybal, and Gabriel R. Sanchez analyzed how the historic nomination will affect politics and policies in the US.
The following are highlights of their Washington Post article, including four things to know about the role of the Interior Department and the potential future of Native American land and assets.
Interior is a critical agency for tribal governments
The Interior Department oversees about 500 million acres of public land and federal policies affecting the 574 federally recognized tribal governments, including three offices for tribal affairs: the Bureau of Indian Affairs, the Bureau of Indian Education and the Bureau for Trust Funds Administration.
Native American political involvement rose during the past two election cycles
Political scientists’ research has found that the more a representative looks like you — which political scientists call “descriptive representation” — the more likely people like you will get involved in civic life and trust the government.
Perceived attacks on a community can also push its members to mobilize politically. In 2018 and 2020, policies of the Trump administration energized Native American candidates and voters at an unprecedented level.
What Native American communities will be watching for
After centuries of mistreatment, Native Americans generally have low levels of trust in the federal government and U.S. elections. Haaland’s nomination could help change that, although the task is large. Native Americans will be paying close attention to whether Haaland can reverse federal policies they’ve opposed.
Keep an eye on how energy policy intersects with land management
Despite making up only 2 percent of the U.S. population, Native American tribes control about 20 percent of the nation’s oil, gas and coal reserves. And yet pursuing that development is highly controversial within Native American communities.
The article concludes:
Because of this troubled history with the federal government and the Interior Department in particular, Haaland’s nomination is a significant and historic moment for Native Americans. Having a Native American leader overseeing these policy discussions will probably result in increased collaboration among the federal government and the sovereign Indigenous nations, which will for the first time have one of their own at the table to lead those efforts.
Read the full article in the Washington Post here.