SAN FRANCISCO – US Home Secretary Deb Haaland said on Saturday that progress had been made by indigenous peoples during a visit to Alcatraz Island, which has become a symbol of indigenous peoples’ struggles for the self-determination after its takeover in the 1960s, but much remains to be done.
Haaland visited the island off the coast of San Francisco on the 52nd anniversary of the occupation by Indigenous students who demanded that the US government recognize long-standing agreements with the tribes and hand over the deed to the island.
The group was withdrawn after a 19-month occupation, but the takeover became a turning point in Native American activism.
“Alcatraz was born out of despair,” said Haaland, who was accompanied by some of the dozens of people who occupied the island in 1969. “From this we have gained a sense of community and visibility in the eyes of the government But more than that, our Aboriginal identities have been restored.
Haaland, a native of Laguna Pueblo, New Mexico and the first Native American to head a Cabinet agency, said that thanks to the actions of these activists, Native Americans no longer had to resort to extreme measures to be heard.
“The fact that I am here today is proof of that. I’m here. We are here. And we’re not going anywhere, ”she said.
Haaland highlighted the policies that came out of this week’s White House Tribal Nations Summit, which brought together President Joe Biden and leaders of more than 500 tribes in the United States, as an example of the progress being made between the tribes and the federal government.
The Tribal Nations Summit coincided with National Native American Heritage Month and was first hosted by the White House. Biden ordered several Cabinet departments to work together to combat human trafficking and crime on Native American lands and announced permanent protections for the Bears Ears National Monument, which is sacred to Native Americans.
Haaland said his department is also taking action to protect Chaco Canyon in northwestern New Mexico, another place sacred to Indigenous people.
“We are in a new era. An era in which we can embrace our identity as indigenous people and be proud of all that we have achieved, ”she said.
Native American tribes will also receive billions of dollars of the $ 1 trillion infrastructure deal signed by Biden this week.
The funds “will strengthen the resilience of communities, replace aging infrastructure and provide the necessary support for climate-related resettlement and adaptation,” she said.
But these actions alone will not solve the challenges facing Indigenous peoples and much remains to be done, including building schools and infrastructure and tackling pollution and the effects of climate change on Native American communities. , said Haaland.
“We have a long way to go to fully heal the traumas created by historical oppression,” she said.
She added: “I know that removing racist names, investing in broadband for tribal communities and protecting indigenous languages won’t change everything. But change – even if it is gradual – is still change. “
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