Good morning, NUNAverse:
During her confirmation hearing yesterday, Congresswoman Deb Haaland said she was determined to “strike the right balance” between conserving public lands and energy development. Congresswoman Haaland fielded questions from Republican Senators about her positions that include opposition to fracking and the Keystone XL oil pipeline – which some called “radical” ideas. The hearing before the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee was adjourned after 2.5 hours yesterday, and resumed this morning. Here is the live broadcast video.
Meanwhile, Politico published an article detailing the fight over Congresswoman Haaland’s nomination to lead the Department of the Interior, focusing on Senator Lisa Murkowski of Alaska in particular. Senator Murkowski is in a politically difficult situation, writes Politico, as she raised nearly three-quarters of a million dollars from the fossil fuel industry in 2020 – more than from any other sector – and she also has close ties to Native communities, including being formally adopted by one of the Tlingit clans in her home state in 2011.
In Oklahoma, the state is pushing ahead with its COVID-19 vaccination drive despite severe winter storms that left thousands of people stranded in their homes and some without electricity and running water. All 39 tribal nations in Oklahoma opted to receive the vaccine through the federal Indian Health Service (IHS), as opposed to receiving doses from the state of Oklahoma. The Oklahoma City health service office reported, “Tribal nations have been a key part of our planning for the vaccine rollout so that American Indians and Alaska Natives will have equitable access to safe and effective COVID-19 vaccines. As of February 12, the Oklahoma City Area Indian Health Service, which serves tribes in the state of Oklahoma, has distributed 209,225 COVID-19 vaccines to the tribal health programs.”
Yesterday, the Washington State House of Representatives officially passed a bill that would ban the use of Native names, symbols, and images from being used as school mascots, logos, and team names at most public schools. The measure passed with bipartisan support by a vote of 92-5, and now heads to the Senate for consideration. Under the measure, school districts would have some time to phase out the mascot, team name or logo, but they would be required to select a new mascot by December 31, 2021 to take effect by the end of the 2021-22 school year.
Keep reading for a full news update.
Deb Haaland Confirmation Hearing:
Fight Over Deb Haaland, First Native American Cabinet Pick, Reflects Partisan Divide
The New York Times, Coral Davenport, February 23
When Representative Deb Haaland was tapped in December to be President Biden’s interior secretary, the decision was hailed as historic. On Tuesday, when she faces her confirmation hearing, another label will be applied to her nomination: embattled. No other Biden nominee to head a cabinet department has divided the political parties as sharply. To her considerable number of supporters, she embodies the hope of the Biden era, an activist second-term representative from New Mexico who would break ground like no other member of the cabinet, ethnically and politically. Her detractors have zeroed in on her activism, especially her forthright denunciations of any and all oil and gas exploration on public land and her fierce opposition to the natural gas extraction method known as hydraulic fracturing, or fracking.
Indian Country Gripped By Haaland Hearing For Top US Post
AP News, Felicia Fonseca, February 23
For Native Americans, Deb Haaland is more than an elected official on track to become the first Indigenous secretary of the Interior Department. She is a sister, an auntie and a fierce pueblo woman whose political stances have been molded by her upbringing. News of her historic nomination electrified Indian Country. Tribal leaders and organizations for weeks have urged people to write and call U.S. senators who will decide if she’ll lead the agency that has broad oversight over Native American affairs and energy development.
Day One: Deb Haaland Questioned On Drilling, Pipelines
AP News, Ashraf Khalil, February 23
Rep. Deb Haaland, Biden’s nominee to lead the Interior Department, fielded sharp questions from Republicans over what some called her “radical” ideas that include opposition to fracking and to the Keystone XL oil pipeline. The New Mexico congresswoman said she was determined to “strike the right balance” between conserving public lands and energy development. If confirmed, Haaland, 60, would be the first Native American to lead a Cabinet agency. Haaland’s hearing centered on her and Biden’s intentions regarding the future of fossil fuels. Her hearing before the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee was adjourned after nearly 2 1/2 hours and will resume Wednesday.
Deb Haaland Faces Fierce Questioning On Day One Of Confirmation Hearing
Native News Online, February 23
Democratic Rep. Deb Haaland (Laguna Pueblo), President Joe Biden’s nominee for Interior secretary, sat before a bipartisan group of 20 senators on the Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources — both remotely and in person — for two and a half hours of questioning in her confirmation hearing Tuesday morning. The committee recessed, and will resume 10 a.m. Wednesday. If confirmed by the majority of committee members, Haaland will make history as the first Native American to serve in a cabinet position. Haaland grew up in a military family, attending 13 different public schools as a child. Before being elected to Congress, she owned her own salsa business and put herself through college and then law school on food stamps and student loans.
A Historic Run, Support For ‘Auntie Deb’
Indian Country Today, February 23
Indian Country is with Deb. Rep. Deb Haaland, Laguna and Jemez Pueblos, was named Joe Biden’s Interior secretary nominee in December. Weeks later, and roughly 20 days after Biden was sworn in as president, Haaland’s historic Senate confirmation hearing took place on Tuesday. Haaland, 60, would be the first Native to lead a Cabinet agency if confirmed by the entire Senate. Many of her supporters took to social media as part of “Deb For Interior” week and to show the two-time Congress member they are behind her. Support also went well beyond Indian Country and #DebForInterior was trending at number seven.
Critics Grill Haaland; Backers Point To Historic Nature Of Nomination
Cronkite News, Sarah Oven, February 23
Republican senators tried to pin down Rep. Deb Haaland at a hearing Tuesday on her nomination to be the next Interior secretary, pushing her on fossil fuels and the job losses they said would come from President Joe Biden’s proposed energy policies. But Democrats at the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee hearing focused mostly on the historic nature of Haaland’s nomination – if approved, she would become the first Native American to head a Cabinet agency.
Native Americans Finally Have A Cabinet Nominee. Will An Adopted Tlingit Take Her Down?
Politico, Julian Brave Noisecat, February 23
In lining up against Haaland, Republicans are promising to take down a nominee seen as pathbreaking for her people. Some senators from the GOP aren’t thinking twice about it. But for a few, the risk is more immediate. One of those is Alaska State Senator Lisa Murkowski. Particularly if coal-friendly Senator Joe Manchin of West Virginia goes against Biden on Haaland’s nomination—he’s still publicly undecided—the moderate Murkowski could be a deciding vote. Politically, she’s in a squeeze: Her state depends on drilling, and she raised nearly three-quarters of a million dollars from the fossil fuel industry in 2020—more than from any other sector. But she also has close ties to Native communities; Alaska has the most voting-age Natives per capita in the country. And to add one more twist, Murkowski is one of only a few members of Congress with familial ties to a tribe
Hashtag #BearsForDeb Emerges From Deb Haaland’s Interior Nomination Senate Hearing
Native News Online, Jenna Kunze, February 23
When Montana Republican Sen. Steve Daines , questioned Rep. Deb Haaland (Laguna Pueblo) on why she co-sponsored a 2019 bill to protect a healthy population of Montana grizzly bears in perpetuity, Haaland responded: “I imagine, at the time, I was caring about the bears.” The comment came from Tuesday morning’s confirmation hearing, when Rep. Haaland sat for more than two hours of questions from a bipartisan group of 20 senators who will determine whether or not to confirm her to lead the Interior Department as the first Native American cabinet member.
South Dakota State Senate Resolution Passed Unanimously To Rescind Wounded Knee Medals
Native News Online, Darren Thompson, February 23
On Wednesday, February 17, 2021, a South Dakota state senator introduced a resolution to the Senate Military and Veterans Affairs Committee seeking to rescind the Medals of Honor given to United States soldiers for the involvement and participation in the Wounded Knee Massacre of 1890. Senate Resolution 701 was introduced by fourth-term state senator Troy Heinert, a Sicangu Lakota of the Rosebud Sioux Tribe representing District 26, which includes Blule, Buffalo, Jones, Lyman, Mellette, and Todd County on the Rosebud Indian Reservation. It passed the Senate Military and Veterans Affairs Committee unanimously on Wednesday, February 17 and moved for a full vote in the South Dakota Senate, also passing unanimously—35-0.
Bill Advanced To Ban Native American Mascots At Schools
AP News, Rachel La Corte, February 23
The use of Native American names, symbols and images would be banned from being used as school mascots, logos and team names at most public schools in Washington under a bill passed Tuesday by the state House of Representatives. The measure passed with a bipartisan 92-5 vote and now heads to the Senate for consideration. If approved by the full Legislature and signed by Gov. Jay Inslee, the ban would take effect January 1. Under the measure, school districts would have some time to phase out the mascot, team name or logo, but they would be required to select a new mascot by December 31 to take effect by the end of the 2021-22 school year.
Cherokee Nation Attorney General Asks Supreme Court To Strike Constitution’s ‘By Blood’ Reference
Cherokee Phoenix, Chad Hunter, February 23
The Cherokee Nation’s attorney general has resurrected a years-old Supreme Court case in hopes of having removed a “by blood” reference in the Constitution, a move she says would bring closure to “the long and difficult history of Freedmen citizens” within the tribe. Sara Hill on Feb. 8 filed an “amended motion for hearing and final disposition” asking the tribe’s Supreme Court to “issue an order or opinion finally disposing of” the case Effect of Cherokee Nation v. Nash, and “bring this issue to a close.”
Oklahoma Works With Tribes, Indian Health Service To Distribute Vaccines Despite Storms
Cronkite News, Jessie Christopher Smith, February 21
Oklahoma is pushing ahead with its COVID-19 vaccination drive despite severe winter storms that left thousands of people stranded in their homes and some without electricity and running water. And the state continues to lead most surrounding states in getting the first dose into residents’ arms, in spite of early opposition to the vaccine. All 39 tribal nations in Oklahoma opted to receive the vaccine through the federal Indian Health Service (IHS), as opposed to receiving doses from the state of Oklahoma. The Oklahoma City health service office reported, “Tribal nations have been a key part of our planning for the vaccine rollout so that American Indians and Alaska Natives will have equitable access to safe and effective COVID-19 vaccines. As of Feb. 12, the Oklahoma City Area Indian Health Service, which serves tribes in the state of Oklahoma, has distributed 209,225 COVID-19 vaccines to the tribal health programs.”
Maine Tribal Rep Seeks Permanent Voice On Wildlife Panel
AP News, February 23
A representative for a Native American tribe in Maine wants to ensure the state’s wildlife council always includes a tribal voice. Maine’s Native American groups have been stewards of wildlife for thousands of years. Tribal Rep. Rena Newell of the Passamaquoddy Tribe at Pleasant Point said Tuesday she has introduced a proposal for a permanent Wabanaki appointment to the Maine Inland Fisheries & Wildlife Advisory Council. Newell said the permanent appointment would make sure there is always tribal representation on issues involving Maine wildlife.
‘Suspicious Packages’ Escalate Pipeline Tensions
Indian Country Today, Mary Annette Pember, February 23
Suspicious packages thrown from a vehicle toward Enbridge Line 3 workers forced police to evacuate about 40 residents from their homes for several hours on the Fond du Lac reservation in Minnesota. According to Carlton County sheriff Kelly Lake, two packages were thrown Friday as water protectors opposing the pipeline project were dispersing from the Enbridge construction site. A bomb squad was called to the area but no explosives were found, according to Lake. State and federal authorities are investigating the incident. According to a statement issued by Enbridge, the packages were thrown into a pipe at the construction site.
Beaver Believers: Native Americans Promote Resurgence Of ‘Nature’s Engineers’
The Guardian, Lucy Sheriff, February 23
Molly Alves steps down hard on the edge of a heavy wire trap, forcing its sides open with her hands. With care she lays the poised trap, baited with twigs and branches, in a bracingly cold stream. Her target? A beaver. Beavers are often considered “nuisance” animals on the US west coast and, if captured, are destroyed by animal control companies. But the beaver picked up by Alves is to be transported to Alves’ employers, the Tulalip Tribes, a nation in Washington’s western corner. This Native American community, and others, are at the vanguard of the “beaver believer” movement, which holds that the rodents can play an essential role in maintaining healthy landscapes.