Through Deb Haaland
As we head into the final days of another unforgettable year, it is important to learn from where we have been and consider the road ahead. For Indigenous peoples, this year has brought so much promise – and there is no turning back.
It is undeniable that the year was marked by considerable challenges. Historic drought and forest fires, a global pandemic and a worsening climate crisis that require an emergency that sometimes gives the impression of falling flat among elected officials. Yet, as our people have done from time immemorial, we persevere.
I say this often – but I truly believe we are in a new era for Indigenous peoples.
Leadership matters, and President Biden is committed to strengthening the federal government’s nation-to-nation relationship with the Native American and Native communities of Alaska. Under his leadership, our administration immediately began working with the tribes to provide economic assistance for COVID-19 through the US bailout and distribute vaccines to keep families, seniors and Indigenous communities safe. This has helped fill the gaps in access to vital resources that have disproportionately plagued indigenous communities.
We have taken the lead in addressing the intergenerational legacy and trauma that plagues our people. I launched the Home Office’s Missing and Murdered Persons Unit to put the full weight of the federal government in investigating these cases and in mobilizing law enforcement resources in agencies federal and throughout the Indian country.
When all eyes were on the tragic discoveries of anonymous graves of residential school children, we launched the Federal Residential Schools Initiative to shed light on what happened in these places and chart a path towards The healing. Since then, the Home Office has consulted with the tribes and has been working together to deal with the tide of information at the Bureau of Indian Affairs.
This work often wreaks havoc in our hearts and forces us to relive the trauma we carry. To help with this, the Department is working with the Indian Health Service to develop culturally appropriate support resources for Indigenous communities.
Yet, as we continue to heal some of the most traumatic parts of our history, we cannot forget the joy we feel knowing that our ancestral lands and traditions will be protected for generations to come.
I stood on the White House lawn alongside President Biden this summer when he fully restored the boundaries of Bears Ears National Monument. I felt the weight of this moment and remembered the many times I felt the presence of our ancestors in these canyons. It was the same feeling I felt under the blue sky and among the stones the ancestors carefully placed with their own hands as the tribal chiefs celebrated our proposed protections for Chaco Canyon.
It was one of many announcements made at the White House Tribal Nations Summit – the first in four long years and the embodiment of our administration’s commitment to working with tribes. We have also launched efforts to revitalize Indigenous languages, uphold treaty rights and strengthen tribal co-management. The discussions and feedback we received during the summit will help ensure that the policies we create reflect the needs of Indigenous communities for years to come.
Looking to the future, we are making it easier to distribute billions of dollars to Indigenous communities through bipartisan infrastructure law, the largest investment in the resilience of our physical and natural systems. These transformational investments will build on the achievements we made in 2021 and set us up for even more progress in 2022.
I stand here on the shoulders of the ancestors who made a clear path before me. The whole Indian country has my commitment to ensure that future generations have every chance to make their dreams come true and one day stand on my shoulders to achieve more than we can even dream of.
Deb Haaland is the Home Secretary and made history as the first Native American cabinet secretary.
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