The Democratic majority staff of the House Natural Resources Committee on Friday released a new report titled Repairing the Trump Administration’s Damage to U.S. Indigenous Communities & Charting a Better Way Forward, offering the incoming administration and the 117th Congress a broad overview of how federal policy in Indian Country can be improved. The report is not favorable to the current president of the United States and cites how his administration disregarded and disrespected tribal nations during the past four years.
Over the weekend, the President-elect and Vice President held a press conference where Rep. Deb Haaland accepted her nomination to become the first Native American Presidential cabinet member as the U.S. Secretary of the Interior in a speech to the American people.
The Trump Administration is rushing to approve a final wave of large-scale mining and energy projects on federal lands, encouraged by investors who want to try to ensure the projects move ahead even after President-elect Biden takes office. In Arizona, the U.S. Forest Service is preparing to sign off on the transfer of federal forest land — considered sacred by local tribes — to allow construction of one of the nation’s largest copper mines.
The Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA) has approved the Kiowa Indian Tribe’s land-into-trust application for a parcel of land in the city of Hobart, Oklahoma for gaming and other purposes. The gaming facility will include a restaurant, office space, back-of-house operations, and a parking lot to accommodate patrons and employees. The proposed project is expected to directly employ 156 people.
Senators David Perdue and Kelly Loeffler, both Republicans running for re-election in Georgia’s runoff, released a statement declaring their opposition to any potential renaming of Atlanta’s Baseball Team. The statement said:
“We adamantly oppose any effort to rename the Atlanta Braves, one of our state’s most storied and successful sports franchises,” they said Monday. “Not only are the Braves a Georgia institution – with a history spanning 54 years in Atlanta – they’re an American institution. The Braves’ name honors our nation’s Native American heritage, which should not be erased – and under no circumstances should one of the most celebrated teams in sports cave to the demands of the cancel culture and the radical left.”
Keep reading for a full news update.
Deb Haaland Faces Momentous Questions At Interior
Indian Country Today, Joaqlin Estus, December 20
Deb Haaland, Laguna and Jemez Pueblos, would wield a lot of power as Interior secretary. She’d also have a lot on her plate having to do with Indian Country. The Interior Department manages 500 million acres — more than Texas, California, Montana and New Mexico combined — or one-fifth of the land in the United States. It employs 70,000 people. The agency’s 2020 budget was $12.6 billion, with another $9.6 billion for specific activities outside the annual appropriation.
Biden Introduces Rep. Deb Haaland — His Interior Secretary Nominee — To The Nation
Native News Online, December 19
President-elect Joe Biden on Saturday afternoon introduced his administration’s environment team to the nation. Included on the environment team is Rep. Deb Haaland (D-NM), the first American Indian ever nominated to be in a presidential cabinet. In his opening remarks, Biden said he would introduce the first Native American to a cabinet post. “It is long overdue,” Biden said as he turned to recognize Haaland and said “welcome, welcome, welcome!”
Biden Introduces His Climate Team, Says ‘No Time To Waste’
AP News, Kevin Freking, December 19
Just as the United States has needed a unified, national response to COVID-19, it needs one for dealing with climate change, President-elect Joe Biden said Saturday as he rolled out key members of his environmental team. New Mexico Rep. Deb Haaland would be the first Native American to lead the Interior Department, which has wielded influence over the nation’s tribes for generations. She said her life has not been easy. She struggled with homelessness and relied on food stamps at one point.
Praise For Rep. Deb Haaland’s Nomination To Become Interior Secretary
Native News Online, December 18
Thursday’s announcement that President-elect Joe Biden has picked Rep. Deb Haaland (D-NM) to be the next secretary of the U.S. Department of the Interior was historic because as a tribal citizen of the Pueblo of Laguna, she will be the first American Indian to serve in a presidential cabinet. The announcement drew praise and celebration across Indian Country. Several national American Indian organizations, tribal leaders and members of Congress released statements on the historic nomination.
For Native Americans, Rep. Haaland’s Nomination As Interior Secretary Signals A New Start
NBC News, Erik Ortiz, December 18
President-elect Joe Biden’s selection of Rep. Deb Haaland, D-N.M., to lead the Department of the Interior — potentially the first Native American to do so and serve as a Cabinet secretary — is being celebrated across Native American groups and viewed as a fresh start for tribal relations with the federal government. The Interior Department is “a massive battleship. It’s not going to turn on a dime, but this is the signaling of a new chapter,” said Crystal Echo Hawk, executive director of IllumiNative, a Native American advocacy group.
Deb Haaland’s Cabinet Appointment Will Give Native Youth The Hope They Need
Native News Online, December 18
The selection of Rep. Deb Haaland, a tribal citizen of the Pueblo of Laguna, as secretary of the U.S. Department of the Interior is historic. It makes her the first American Indian to ever hold a cabinet-level position within a presidential administration in the history of the United States.
Lockdown In Effect On Navajo Nation As COVID-19 Cases Continue To Rise
Native News Online, December 20
The Navajo Department of Health reported 235 new COVID-19 positive cases for the Navajo Nation and three more deaths. The total number of deaths is now 745 as of Saturday. Reports indicate that 10,999 individuals have recovered from COVID-19, and 189,151 COVID-19 tests have been administered. The total number of positive COVID-19 cases is now 20,810 including six delayed reported cases.
Native Communities And COVID-19
Urban Institute, December 17
How are American Indian tribes and Native communities faring during the COVID-19 pandemic? Host Justin Milner speaks with Lukaya Williams of the White Mountain Apache Housing Authority, Joe Cushman and Justine Capra of the Nisqually Indian Tribe’s planning and economic development department, and Nancy Pindus, senior fellow at the Urban Institute.
Two GOP Senators Inject Atlanta Braves Possible Name Change into Their Campaign Messaging
Native News Online, Levi Rickert, December 19
The two Georgia runoff senate races that can decide which political party controls the U.S. Senate had the misappropriation of Native-themed images issue injected into the campaigns earlier this week. Sen. David Perdue (R-GA) and Sen. Kelly Loeffler (R-GA) released a statement on Monday declaring their opposition to any potential renaming of the Atlanta Braves.
Indians Manager Francona Says Team’s Name Change “Correct”
AP News, Tom Withers, December 18
Manager Terry Francona praised the Cleveland Baseball team for trying to “do the right thing” with a name change that was inevitable — and necessary. On Friday, Francona complimented the team’s decision to drop its name after 105 years, a switch that came after months of internal discussions, meetings with numerous groups and one that will signal a new beginning for the AL club.
For Opponents Of Native American Nicknames, 2020 Has Brought Hope
The New York Times, David Waldstein, December 18
Leaders in the movement to rid sports of such nicknames and the logos that accompany them saw a domino effect building in public schools after two major professional teams made changes. But there are staunch holdouts. About 1,900 public schools in the United States still use Native American nicknames or mascots for their sports teams, but the number has been dwindling, especially in the months since the N.F.L. team in Washington heeded pressure from sponsors and shelved a logo and nickname that had long been derided as offensive to Indigenous people.
Deadline Looms For Tribes’ Cares Act Spending
Indian Country Today, Dalton Walker, December 20
The deadline to spend CARES Act money is near, and a potential extension appears less likely each day as tribes work to meet it. Some tribal leaders have asked Congress to get involved, but any related legislation had little to no movement. Tribes, like city and state governments, are required to spend the relief dollars by the Dec. 30 deadline or be forced to return unspent pandemic aid to the Treasury Department.
Treaty Defender: Rally Was About Rights, Not Trump
Indian Country Today, Mary Annette Pember, December 18
Attorneys for Nick Tilsen, president and CEO of the Indigenous-led advocacy group NDN Collective, want to know why South Dakota deployed the National Guard against treaty defenders during a July 3 demonstration near Mount Rushmore. Brendan Johnson and Bruce Ellison, Tilsen’s attorneys, also argued that the gathering should not be described in court as an “anti-Trump rally.”
BIA Approves Kiowa Tribe’s Land-Into-Trust For Gaming Application For Site In Hobart, Oklahoma.
Native News Online, December 18
The Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA) released its approval of the Kiowa Indian Tribe’s land-into-trust application for an approximately 11.33-acre parcel in the city of Hobart, Okla., for gaming and other purposes. The site is located within the Tribe’s former reservation in Kiowa County. The Tribe is seeking to restore part of its land-base in its historical reservation and support its long-term goals of economic self-sufficiency, self-governance, and self-determination.
House Natural Resources Committee Democrats Release Report Detailing Trump Administration’s Damage To Indian Country
Native News Online, December 19
Chair Raúl M. Grijalva (D-Ariz.) and the Democratic majority staff of the House Natural Resources Committee on Friday released a new report titled Repairing the Trump Administration’s Damage to U.S. Indigenous Communities & Charting a Better Way Forward, offering the incoming administration and the 117th Congress a broad overview of how federal policy in Indian Country can be improved. The report is not favorable to the current president of the United States and cites how his administration disregarded and disrespected tribal nations during the past four years.
Resort Project Near Navajo Nation Stirs Culture Controversy
AP News, December 19
A large campground resort project proposed for a northern Arizona high desert site near the Navajo Nation is stalled amid objections centering on cultural sensitivity in general and teepees in particular. The planned inclusion of wagons and teepees — the conical tents that were widely used by tribes on the Great Plains but typically not by Indigenous people of the Southwest — drew scorn from one county official considering a rezoning request and development plan for the project.
Education Agency In SW Michigan Is Dropping Cass Name
AP News, December 19
A regional education agency named for former U.S. Sen. Lewis Cass is dropping the name.
Trustees last week voted unanimously to change the name of the Cass Intermediate School District in southwestern Michigan. Cass, who died in 1866, was a U.S. senator as well as governor of Michigan before it became a state. He also owned slaves and removed Native Americans from tribal lands while serving in President Andrew Jackson’s administration.
In Last Rush, Trump Grants Mining And Energy Firms Access To Public Lands
The New York Times, Eric Lipton, December 19
The Trump administration is rushing to approve a final wave of large-scale mining and energy projects on federal lands, encouraged by investors who want to try to ensure the projects move ahead even after President-elect Joseph R. Biden Jr. takes office. In Arizona, the Forest Service is preparing to sign off on the transfer of federal forest land — considered sacred by a neighboring Native American tribe — to allow construction of one of the nation’s largest copper mines.
Kyrie Irving Cleanses Court In Return To Boston
AP News, December 18
Brooklyn Nets guard Kyrie Irving, Standing Rock Sioux Tribe, smudged the TD Garden basketball court on Friday before playing the NBA’s Celtics and plans to cleanse future basketball courts during the season. “It just comes from a lot of Native tribes,” Irving said “Just cleanse the energy, want to make sure that we’re all balanced.”