Secretary of the Interior Deb Haaland addresses the National Congress of American Indians on October 12, 2021.

NCAI, the nation’s largest inter-tribal advocacy organization, is hosting its 78th annual convention this week. Tribal leaders are meeting virtually to hear from top officials from President Joe Biden’s administration like Haaland, who is the first Native person to lead the Department of the Interior.

Haaland, a citizen of the Pueblo of Laguna, addressed NCAI from Boston, Massachusetts. She ran the Boston Marathon there a day prior, on Indigenous Peoples’ Day.

“Running as a part of who we are as Native people,” Haaland said. “So in honor of my ancestors running tradition, I joined runners at the starting line on Indigenous Peoples’ Day, a day that for the first time ever was recognized by the president of the United States. What an important step for our country.”

“And so I ran. I ran for missing and murdered Indigenous peoples and their families. I ran for the victims of Indian boarding schools,” Haaland continued. “I ran for the promise that our voices are being heard and we’ll have a part in an equitable and just future in this new era.”

The Department of the Interior is the federal agency with the most trust and treaty responsibilities in Indian Country. It includes the Bureau of Indian Affairs, the Bureau of Indian Education and the recently-created Bureau of Trust Funds Administration, which is taking over most of the functions of the former Office of the Special Trustee for American Indians.

Note: Thumbnail photo by Tami A. Heilemann / U.S. Department of the Interior