Opinion | After Five Centuries, a Native American With Real Power


When she ran for office, her slogan was “Congress has never heard a voice like mine.” Now the person with that voice could soon be overseeing one-fifth of the land in the United States.

As interior secretary, her portfolio would include national parks, wildlife refuges, the United States Geological Survey and the vast acreage of the Bureau of Land Management. Interior, for good reason, is known as the Department of Everything Else.

As such, she would also be overseeing millions of acres taken from Indians in treaties broken over the past several centuries, and would be the top government liaison with 574 federally recognized tribes — the nations within a nation.

This is quite the compass — from a deep slot in the earth near the Grand Canyon, wherein dwell the Havasupai, to the rain forest of the Olympic Peninsula, home of the Makah Nation, to urban neighborhoods that house Indians struggling with health care access.

“I wish we could right some wrongs,” she said of the centuries-old saga of sorrow. But going into the new year, she seems content to try to right the many wrongs that Donald Trump’s administration has inflicted on the land.

Trump’s first interior secretary, Ryan Zinke, literally rode into office on a horse named Tonto, and then promptly launched a campaign to make it easier to drill on public land. The current secretary, David L. Bernhardt, was an oil and gas lobbyist whose public service on behalf of his former clients was warmly received by his old friends.

Biden has pledged to end all new oil and gas drilling on these rangelands, forests and plains — an enormous change that will be fought fiercely by those who profit from land owned by all Americans. He has also promised to restore Bears Ears National Monument, a marvel of sandstone, mountains and Native sacred sites in the Southwest that was gutted by Trump, who reduced the size of the protected area by 85 percent.



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