Hope and Haaland: Member of Laguna Pueblo, US Secretary of the Interior visits Oklahoma this weekend | Business & Energy


Oklahoma City – US Secretary of the Interior Deb Haaland comes to Oklahoma as she kicks off a year-long tour to visit states and communities where government-funded boarding schools housed – or still house – generations of Native American children.

One of his stops will be the Riverside Indian School in Anadarko.

This school, in operation since 1871, welcomes students from 4th to 12th grade.

It is managed by the Bureau of Indian Education.

The historical abuse and deaths of children in such facilities across the United States are the subject of intense scrutiny by historians, sociologists, and archaeologists (among others), and it is the object of Haaland’s trip.

Now or soon, maybe a visit to Fort Reno is also in order?

While here, or on a future trip, a hopeful historian-turned-journalist dares to dream.

Perhaps she will visit the historic military installation.

In 1999, “the U.S. Department of the Interior wrote a detailed opinion citing that the tribes had a ‘credible and fair’ if not ‘legally recognizable’ claim and Fort Reno should have been returned to the tribes in 1948. However, the DOI Solicitor also declared that the request was statute-barred. This position was later upheld by the DC Court of Appeals in 2009.”

As we have seen recently, federal courts are capable of developing and even re-developing legal interpretations of Aboriginal claims.

Or maybe Secretary Haaland could, sooner or later, visit a stretch of the Red River in southwestern Oklahoma.

Or even add a stop at Binger, home of a small tribe native to Oklahoma and neighboring states, forcibly moved to their current home from their original homes in what is now the southeastern part of the State.

Haaland could expand the meaning of ‘Progressive’

Known as a “progressive” liberal Democrat during her tenure in Congress, Secretary Haaland rarely comments these days, but that could change.

She’s got a lot on her plate, but there’s no doubt she’s more aware than any former Secretary of the Interior – and more than almost anyone from Oklahoma’s powerful Great Tribes – about how whose small nations have been penalized in power. Washington, DC game.

Haaland is a member of the Laguna Pueblo, a 3,600-member tribal nation. Their reservation spans four counties in northwestern New Mexico.

Blunt Truth: In Oklahoma, small tribal nations analogous to his have been sidelined both by the federal government and by the dominant Chickasaw and Cherokee nations.

When the Chickasaw crushed the Comanche

Not so long ago, after a flawed Interior Department procedure, the Chickasaw were able to seize development rights to a tract of land along the Red River in the southwest of Oklahoma, dashing the hopes of the Comanche nation to develop this area into a world. classroom complex and play center.

Without advance warning, bulldozers showed up to clear land for another facility operated by Chickasaw.

As a Comanche tribal chief wrote at the time – barely noticed in most tribal and other state media – the area over which the Chickasaw wrested development rights was, at the time, a winter rest area for the Comanche, and home to scattered sites with tribal burial plots.

A few years ago in southeast Oklahoma, the Oklahoma government entered into a historic water agreement that dramatically increased the water rights of the Choctaw and Chickasaw in the southeastern Kiamichi Basin. east of Oklahoma.

The agreement ignored the Caddo, an indigenous tribe in the region. They were pushed west from Oklahoma after tribes from the eastern United States were moved into the area.

Seeking justice for the Cheyenne and Arapaho

And that goes to the Cheyenne & Arapaho.

As long as the Clinton administration, the return of modest land claims to and around Fort Reno seemed imminent.

Indeed, aides to the president at the time claimed that good news was coming. But broader interests prevented simple justice and the fulfillment of the promise made by two 19th century presidents (Chester A. Arthur and US Grant) in executive orders. The land was supposed to revert to the C&A once it was no longer needed for military purposes.

Barack Obama, during his two terms as the nation’s chief executive, has often shown he appreciates the frustrations of small tribal nations. vis à vis both the US government and the major tribes.

Traditional leader Patrick Spottedwolf of the Two Tribes had reason to believe that Obama might (on his way to visit the federal prison in Reno) stop by to visit members of the tribe. Obama’s White House communications team even told this reporter that such a meeting was under consideration.

But during his visit in 2015, Obama’s motorcade passed a hopeful group of C&As – another of many missed opportunities.

Then came Donald Trump.

Trump knew and to some extent understood the plight of the C&A and other relatively poor tribal nations. He even held quiet meetings with representatives of some small tribes.

In particular, Fort Reno gave him the opportunity to do the right thing, the right way, with an edict building on EOs Arthur and Grant.

But nothing happened.

State pacts with small tribes crushed, but there is still hope…

The sketch above doesn’t even address how private, federal and Big Tribe power centers crushed Governor Kevin Stitt’s attempts to forge new opportunities for small nations in direct pacts – positive steps that were bitterly and negatively opposed by the aforementioned power. centers.

So there is an opportunity for President Joe Biden and Interior Secretary Deb Haaland. Whatever happened under their watch, the power centers of Indian Country have… evolved.

These are difficult times for the State of Oklahoma and for the officially recognized tribes whose centers of governance are based in the state.

You could say these are the best of times and the worst of times.

The best?

Power struggles aside, the world-class First Americans Museum continues to garner national attention. Much more is worth discussing, but… another time.

The worst?

Well, one of Oklahoma’s most powerful congressmen, who calls himself a conservative, led the charge in both subtle and explicit efforts to deliver a ‘Land Fix’ to the Chickasaw, erasing all the injustice. accumulated from a decades-long record. .

All in all, the rest of the Oklahoma delegation seems largely absent without permission in this debate — which could mean, of course, that some agree with the solution.

This “fix” would be fine for some members of this tribe, but would it be good for Oklahoma, other tribes, and all Oklahomans?

Oklahoma’s legacy The energy industry can expect little comfort from Haaland. However, she is more than a dreamer (me too). Secretary Haaland is well aware that “extractive” companies that exploit natural resources provide opportunities for employment and economic growth for Indigenous peoples and all others.

As America seeks a brighter future, a fairer distribution of power, and a wiser use of resources, there remains a central role for common sense, seasoned with historical wisdom and sensitive governance. Just because common sense seems rare these days doesn’t mean it’s unachievable.

I am always vigilant, wide awake if not “awakened”.

For me, at least, it’s not a contradiction to have hope in Haaland.

Note: Patrick B. McGuigan’s reporting on efforts by Cheyenee and Arapaho tribesmen to reclaim land in and around historic Fort Reno – promised by two 19th century US presidents – received the Diversity News award of the Society of Professional Journalists (SPJ) in 2012.

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