“Alcatraz was born out of desperation,” said Haaland, who was accompanied by some of the dozen people who occupied the island in 1969. “This gave us a sense of community and visibility in the eyes of the federal government. But beyond that, our indigenous identities have been restored. “
Haaland, a native of Laguna Pueblo, New Mexico and the first Native American to head a cabinet agency, said Native Americans no longer need to resort to extreme measures to be heard thanks to the actions of these activists.
“The fact that I’m standing here today is proof of that. I’m here. We are here. And we’re not going anywhere, ”she said.
Haaland highlighted the guidelines that were issued the Tribal Nations Summit at the White House this weekwho brought together President Joe Biden and leaders of more than 500 tribes in the United States as an example of progress between tribes and the federal government.
The Tribal Nations Summit coincided with National Native American Heritage Month and was hosted for the first time by the White House. Biden ordered several cabinet departments to work together to fight trafficking and crime in Native American lands, and announced permanent protection for the Bears Ears National Monument, sacred to Native American people.
Haaland said her department is also taking steps to protect Chaco Canyon in northwest New Mexico, another sacred place for tribal peoples.
“We are in a new era. An era when we can embrace our identity as indigenous people and be proud of how much we have achieved, ”she said.
Indian tribes also receive billions of dollars from the $ 1 trillion infrastructure contract signed by Biden this week.
The funds “will build community resilience, replace aging infrastructure and provide the support needed for climate-related relocation and adaptation,” she said.
But these actions alone will not solve Native American challenges, and much remains to be done, including building schools and infrastructure and tackling pollution and the effects of climate change on Native American communities, Haaland said.
“We still have a long way to go to fully heal the trauma caused by historical oppression,” she said.
She added, “I know that removing racial names, investing in broadband for tribal communities, and protecting native languages will not change everything. But change – even incremental – is still change. “