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The Department of the Interior houses the Bureaus of Indian Affairs and Indian Education, but it has never been led by a Native American. Over the course of its 170-year history, the relationship between the government and the 578 federally recognized Indian tribes it manages has been fraught. “We have been living with the consequences of federal climate and environmental policy for decades,” wrote Shannon Holsey, President of the Stockbridge-Munsee Tribe,and Leonard Forsman, Chairman of the Suquamish Tribe, in a Reuters op-ed. “Yet, we have rarely been represented at the table when federal officials have decided our fate.” They’re among the Indigenous and environmental activistspushing a possible Biden administration to name the first Indigenous Secretary of the Interior.
Why This Matters: The Department of the Interior manages nearly 20% of all land in the US, including National Parks and wildlife refuges — which, until they were designated as such, were Native land. The actions and decisions of the department are inextricably linked to solving the climate crisis. Indigenous communities are often the first to feel climate impacts, and tribal management of forests, fisheries, and agriculture is a path to a sustainable future. “From melting permafrost in Alaska and rising sea levels in coastal tribal communities in Maine and the Pacific Northwest to droughts and deadly wildfires across the West, Indian tribes have been the first Americans to feel the effects of climate change,” Holsey and Forsman write. “Indian country has so much to offer the entire Nation when it comes to collaborative resource management, climate policy, and environmental policy.”
A recent survey by Data for Progress found that 78 percent of respondents would support a Native American nominee for Secretary of the Interior. Specifically, the op-ed authors call out New Mexico Representative Deb Haaland, a citizen of the Laguna Pueblo as a strong pick for the job. She already made history two years ago when she became one of the first two Native women elected to Congress. She’s already been a strong advocate for public lands and recently discussed the importance of tribal consultation in land management decision-making during an interview with New Mexico Political Report.
by Ashira Morris, ODP Staff Writer The earliest iteration of the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society was founded in 1977 to “defend, conserve and protect our ocean.” Meet three women, featured by Vogue, who are carrying out the organization’s mission: Eva Hidalgo: 31-year-old Spanish scientist who was part of the team that possibly identified a new […]
by Ashira Morris, ODP Staff Writer A bill sitting on Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis’s desk could take away local government’s decision-making about their energy choices, including where to build large-scale solar arrays. The outcome will impact the historically Black town of Archer, where Origis Energy and Gainesville Regional Utilities want to build a 50-megawatt solar […]
The American Jobs Plan is an unmissable moment for communities across the country to address the legacy of urban freeways and set a new course for a more equitable future. It’s absolutely critical that as we begin to reimagine and build the transportation infrastructure of the 21st century that we do not repeat the mistakes […]
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