Many ways to criticize Interior Secretary Deb Haaland without low blows
A special note to The Daily Caller.
WASHINGTON — One more thing before we let this difficult American week pass us by, dear Wiredians. It came to our attention today that The Daily Caller, Tucker Carlson’s conservative place of worship before he went on to FOX News demigodom (rhymes with…), published a recent hit piece trolling U.S. Secretary of the Interior Deb Haaland for performing a land acknowledgement at a May 19 Capitol Hill budget hearing.
As if she was doing some ritual, tribal dance, casting a voodoo curse, or something. (Tucker, read on, if you want some real scoop, before making that wincing, hurt mug. You might even want to feature Indigenous Wire, of all publications! We could talk about Maine tribes, if you want, since you like it so much up there.)
Land acknowledgements — the process of recognizing that the lands you are on originally belonged to other peoples, and such lands were most likely stolen from them by force and/or lie — are increasingly en vogue. Universities do them, conferences, even casinos. Heck, we even once mentioned that we, ourselves, were blogging from Piscataway lands.
These recognitions really don’t amount to a hill of beans, except that they allow the Indigenous peoples who had their lands wrongly taken know that you realize their peoples had their lands taken. They don’t form any legal basis for some secret land grab in the night. They aren’t akin to treaties or federal Indian law or conspiracy.
Thomas Catenicci, The Daily Caller’s energy and environment reporter, appears worried, though, that that apparently wily Laguna Pueblo citizen, Haaland herself, is doing something nefarious — that her land acknowledgements are creating a new federal pathway for Indian casinos, more sovereign tribes, increased environmental protections, or something worse.
Haaland had simply said before a recent U.S. House hearing at the beginning of her testimony on the president’s next fiscal year budget — a budget that fails Indians in multiple ways — that “it’s an honor and privilege to be here on the ancestral homelands of the Anacostan and Piscataway people to speak with you today on behalf of the president’s 2023 budget.”
It’s a plain fact that those tribal homelands were from where Haaland was testifying. Always have been, since D.C. was founded. That’s history, folks. History that probably should be taught in schools, no?
But Catenicci was unmoved.
“Haaland’s statement appeared to diverge from the written remarks she had planned to deliver at the hearing,” he reported. “There was no mention of the capital being the homeland of the two tribes in her published statement.” (The Interior Department wouldn’t comment for his report. They won’t officially do so for some of our reports, too.)
What a renegade, that Deb Haaland, talking plain and simple historical facts while serving as the nation’s first Native American Interior secretary. So radical.
No, what has actually been radical is that Interior has performed such poor trust and treaty duties to tribes and Indigenous citizens for hundreds of years — and these were obligations that the federal government chose to take on.
Haaland is moving the needle the other way in a tiny manner that doesn’t even have any real force behind it. It’s symbolism, nothing more. Symbolism is important, but it’s not legal.
Now, if Catenicci wanted to take an initial dive into true problems under Haaland’s leadership to date, he might ask about:
Unhappy staffers who complain she too often leads with emotions over substance.
That she might not have the ear of the president, even on issues critical to her, like boarding schools.
That the White House supposedly doesn’t always treat her well, expecting — and taking — a lot, possibly more than it does from many other Cabinet secretaries. Look at her travel schedule.
That she didn’t prevent inequitable pandemic fund distributions to tribes, even as she knew they were happening, and they could have been curbed.
That she hides from talking about some serious policy topics, preferring at times gloss over substance, including magazine fashion spreads, fancy parties and outlandish company.
High initial staff turnover with lots of juicy stories to share. Why should VP Kamala Harris get all of the attention on that front?
That FY2023 budget, again, and her agency’s doublespeak on energy development and environmental protections.
Staffers who are protecting her family — including an adult child who is a public figure in their own right — from scrutiny, even though it’s not said staffers’ job.
These are all stories people who are seriously scrutinizing Haaland’s political and policy leadership are looking into, and she doesn’t like any of them, we can say with utmost confidence. And these aren’t even a fragment of the juicy tidbits out there involving her short time in office.
Land acknowledgements, be damned. Report, journalists!
And keep sending us your tips, dear subscribers.
Happy Friday, Wiredians! This time we mean it.
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