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Secretary of the Interior Deb Haaland
Secretary of the Interior Deb Haaland. Photo: U.S. Department of the Interior
Secretary Haaland addresses National Congress of American Indians
Tuesday, June 22, 2021

• NATIVES ON CLUBHOUSE: Secretary Haaland at NCAI [Audio Only]

Secretary Deb Haaland is addressing the National Congress of American Indians for the first time since taking over the Department of the Interior.

Haaland will deliver remarks at NCAI’s mid-year session on Tuesday afternoon. According to a media advisory from Interior, she will discuss first steps in reconciling the troubled legacy of the federal government’s Indian boarding school policies.

“I am a product of these horrific assimilation policies,” Haaland, who is a citizen of the Pueblo of Laguna, wrote in an opinion published in The Washington Post. “My maternal grandparents were stolen from their families when they were only 8 years old and were forced to live away from their parents, culture and communities until they were 13. Many children like them never made it back home.”

Halaand is scheduled to address NCAI at around 2:50pm Eastern on Tuesday. Indianz.Com is hosting a room on Clubhouse to listen to her remarks.

Those needing an invite to join Clubhouse, an audio-based platform, can utilize the Indianz.Com club link.

Haaland is the first Native person to lead the Department of the Interior and is the first Native person to serve in a presidential cabinet. She was nominated to her post by President Joe Biden and was confirmed by the U.S. Senate on March 15.

Interior is the federal agency with the most trust and treaty responsibilities. It includes the Bureau of Indian Education, which oversees 183 schools across Indian Country.

A handful of the BIE facilities are remnants of the prior boarding school era, in which tribal cultures, languages and ways of life were discouraged and, in some cases, outright barred. The most infamous was the Carlisle Indian Industrial School, to which Secretary Haaland has a personal connection. One of her ancestors sent there from New Mexico, over 1,800 miles away.

“My great-grandfather was taken to Carlisle Indian School in Pennsylvania,” Haaland wrote in The Post. “Its founder coined the phrase ‘kill the Indian, and save the man,’ which genuinely reflects the influences that framed these policies at the time.”

Carlisle shut down in 1918, after more than 15,000 Indian youth passed through its doors, according to records maintained by Dickinson Colley. At least 180 children were buried there. Some tribes have begun reclaiming their young ones and reburying them in their home communities.

“The lasting and profound impacts of the federal government’s boarding school system have never been appropriately addressed,” Haaland noted. “This attempt to wipe out Native identity, language and culture continues to manifest itself in the disparities our communities face, including long-standing intergenerational trauma, cycles of violence and abuse, disappearance, premature deaths, and additional undocumented physiological and psychological impacts.”

Today, in the age of self-determination, almost every single BIE school is controlled directly by tribes.

Founded in 1944, the National Congress of American Indians is the largest inter-tribal advocacy organization in the U.S. NCAI’s mid-year conference, which is taking place virtually, runs through Thursday.