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What Deb Haaland's Confirmation Means for Local Tribal Agencies


Last week the Senate confirmed Representative Deb Haaland as President Joe Biden’s secretary of the Department of the Interior.

Haaland is the first indigenous person to hold that position.

The U.S. Department of the Interior manages millions of acres of public land and natural resources.

It’s in charge of protecting endangered species and conserving the environment.

And it houses the Bureau of Indian Affairs, so it’s responsible for maintaining relationships with tribal nations.

Up until now, the department has never been managed by an indigenous person.

“I think it’s a really big win for Indian country in general,” said Dylan Jennings, the public information office director for the Great Lakes Indian Fish and Wildlife Commission.

That’s an agency that represents 11 Ojibwe tribes and helps to manage natural resources on tribal lands.

“A lot of people know that the department of interior oversees very large entities such as the Bureau of Indian affairs,” Jennings said. “I think it’s very important that a tribal person is leading that.”

Jennings said Haaland’s confirmation means their agency and the tribes it represents will be able to work with someone who’s already familiar with the Bureau of Indian Affair’s systems and who advocates for treaty rights.

“As an organization, we’re delighted to have someone in there that’s an advocate for treaty rights and acknowledging those treaties that the federal government entered into with our tribal nations to perpetuate our way of life and to preserve our harvesting rights,” Jennings said.

Haaland has promised to start repairing a history of broken treaties committed by the federal government.

Erin Gottsacker worked at WXPR as a Morning Edition host and reporter from December 2020 to January 2023. During her time at the station, Erin reported on the issues that matter most in the Northwoods.
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