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Deb Haaland Would Bring Fresh Ideas, Unlike Any Other, To Interior

In this commentary, Shane Doyle (Apsáalooke) says first Native American nominated for cabinet post will consider present, future needs of all Westerners

Congresswoman Deb Haaland of New Mexico, President Biden's pick to be the next Secretary of the Interior. She has faced threats from some western lawmakers to block her confirmation. Photo courtesy US Rep. Deb Haaland/Facebook
Congresswoman Deb Haaland of New Mexico, President Biden's pick to be the next Secretary of the Interior. She has faced threats from some western lawmakers to block her confirmation. Photo courtesy US Rep. Deb Haaland/Facebook

by Shane Doyle

As a native Native Montanan with ancestral ties on the continent stretching back hundreds of generations, I recognize the proud connection my fellow Montanans have with the landscape, as it provides all of us with a beautiful and unparalleled way of life. This deep appreciation for the soil, water, air and wildlife is a transcendent sentiment shared by our nominee for Secretary of the Interior, Rep. Deb Haaland. 

Rep. Haaland, D-NM, comes from a traditional home on the Laguna Pueblo (Kawaika), steeped in self-discipline, environmental respect and spiritual beauty. As an inheritor of an ancient heritage based in sustainability, she understands our future is dependent on a vibrant ecosystem with clean water and abundant wildlife. She championed those values in Congress, serving as vice chair of the House Natural Resources Committee and chair of the National Parks, Forests, and Public Lands subcommittee. 

She is the first Native American nominated for a cabinet post. 

Rep. Haaland is able and qualified. Her appointment would begin to heal decades of mistrust tribal communities have with Interior. Her nomination is a cause for celebration in Native communities throughout the nation, and a beacon of hope for Indigenous people around the world. 

I urge Montana’s senators to confirm her for the job. The Department of the Interior is at a historic reckoning point. 

Although it’s been 50 years since the Era of Self-Determination*  began, and a decade following the Cobell Indian Trust Settlement, the Bureau of Indian Affairs still struggles to meet the standards and requirements that these landmark Indian laws were meant to ensure. 

[EDITOR'S NOTE: "Self-determination does not only apply to the desire of individuals to control their own life; it is a term used to describe the rights of states and governments to chart their own course under the law; self-determination is a main precept in Indian Country where tribes, per historic treaties with the US government, never gave up their sovereignty and rights to exist as distinct nations within the boundaries of the US.]

Deb Haaland understands, as well as anyone, the need to strengthen a good faith relationship between Native nations and the federal bureaucracy to which they are so intricately linked. Haaland fully supports a science-based, and economically sensible, approach to the greatest existential threat of our time — climate change. 

Ms. Haaland recognizes the importance of seeing the impacts our actions have, seven generations into the future. Research shows conclusively, year after year, decade after decade, that we need to move away from fossil fuels. From shrinking glaciers in our namesake national park to increased heatwaves and fires, Montanans experience the effects all around us. 

According to the EPA, Montana’s overall temperature has increased by two degrees over the last century, producing earlier snowmelt, threatening water supplies and agriculture, and increasing wildfire. Beyond the environmental necessity of working to create a cleaner, more sustainable way of life, the coal and oil industries are proving to be unwise business investments. The dropping price of oil has rippled across jobs markets around the globe, sinking the value of the recently booming fracking industry and causing layoffs in places like the Bakken oilfields. 

Most of those jobs are not coming back, and the message is clear: renewable energies are the future. Haaland supports a national policy to wean us off fossil fuels, re-train workers and create more jobs. She will help us tap into our nation’s potent combination of renewable resources and energy infrastructure. 

We can and must do better with what we have, and that includes diversifying our economies rooted in the land. A recent U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis found the outdoor industry provides $458.9 billion in gross domestic product and $788 billion in consumer spending for our country. Montana generates $7.1 billion from its own outdoor economy and supports 71,000 jobs. 

Haaland will continue and expand this opportunity. Finally, the great outdoors remain our last bastion; not just for Indigenous people, but for all Americans who seek the healing and inspiration of bright sunlight, fresh air and water, and birdsong. 

Our nation must continue to set our sights on a healthy landscape, rich with biodiversity and responsibly managed to the benefit of all. That would be another essential achievement that Deb Haaland is well-positioned to take on as our next Interior Secretary. For the sake of history, and for the promise of our future, she is the right person for this moment.

EDITOR'S NOTE: By signing up for Mountain Journal's free newsletter, you'll never miss a story. Simply click here and you can get our dispatch every week. MoJo welcomes comments in response to all of the stories we publish, including rebuttals from those who disagree. If you disagree with Shane Doyle's support for the nomination of US Rep. Deb Haaland to be the next Interior Secretary, tell us why. MoJo will consider publishing your views, and post them beneath this op-ed, so long as they are based on facts.
Shane Doyle
About Shane Doyle

Dr. Shane Doyle, Ed.D is a Crow  (Apsáalooke) tribal member and educational and cultural consultant who grew up in Crow Agency, Montana and currently resides in Bozeman. He is helping Mountain Time Arts and tribes in the region implement the Yellowstone Revealed Project along with other partners, including the National Park Service. You can learn more by clicking here.
Doyle is involved in many educational interests, causes and organizations. He is a board member of Mountain Journal.  A singer of Northern Plains tribal style of music for 30 years, Shane holds a Doctorate in Curriculum and Instruction from Montana State University-Bozeman, and completed a post-doctoral appointment in genetics with the University of Copenhagen, Denmark in 2016.  With 20 years of teaching experience, he designs American Indian curriculum for many entities, including Montana public schools, the National Park Service, and the Museum of the Rockies.  He is also currently serving on the Board of Directors for the Bozeman-based Extreme History Project, Hopa Mountain, and the Archaeological Conservancy, as well as serving on the Montana Arts Council culture and aesthetics committee, the advisor team with the Montana Wilderness School, and the Governors Parks in Focus Committee. He and his wife Megkian are blessed with five children.
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