Message from the Director – March 16, 2021
On this historic occasion I want to congratulate Secretary Deb Haaland, who was confirmed last night as our new leader of the Department of the Interior. She is the first Indigenous cabinet secretary in our history. Her position marks an important step toward inclusive management of ancestral lands, sacred sites, and the public lands that we enjoy.
An impressive woman in her own right, Deb Haaland embodies the determination of the new administration to use the government for all Americans. She is a member of the Pueblo of Laguna in New Mexico, whose people have lived on this land for 35 generations. The daughter of two military veterans, she is a single mother who earned a law degree with a young child to care for. She was a tribal leader focused on environmentally responsible economic development in Laguna before she became a Democratic leader and was elected to Congress in 2018.
Secretary Haaland is heading a department that, in the nineteenth century, abandoned Indigenous peoples for political leverage. Established in 1849 to pull together federal offices that dealt with matters significant to domestic policy, the Department of the Interior took over control of Indian Affairs and public lands. The historical record of Indigenous genocide and corruption regarding the forced removal of Indigenous peoples to reservations and the greed that has led to the overexploitation of natural resources on public lands in the United States have left a tragic record. Haaland understands the struggles of Indigenous peoples and ordinary Americans and wants “to responsibly manage our natural resources to protect them for future generations—so that we can continue to work, live, hunt, fish, and pray among them.” Shortly after she was nominated by President Joe Biden she tweeted, “A voice like mine has never been a Cabinet secretary or at the head of the Department of the Interior. I’ll be fierce for all of us, our planet, and all of our protected land.”
We wish Secretary Haaland all the best in her new post.
Shelby J. Tisdale, Director
I acknowledge that the land where Fort Lewis College sits is the ancestral lands and territories of Nuchu (Ute), Apache, the Pueblos, Hopi, Zuni, and the Diné Nation.
Center of Southwest Studies, Fort Lewis College