My people, of the Northern Chumash tribe of Central California, have lived on our land for millennia, but we have not always had rights, sovereignty, or access to that land. We're not alone. The majority of tribal nations have found themselves at one point or another denied access to the decision-making on their lands by non-tribal governments. I cannot stress enough what the historical confirmation of U.S. Rep. Deb Haaland to be secretary of the U.S. Department of the Interior means to me, my tribe, and so many others.
I was fortunate enough to meet Rep. Haaland once. After a traditional exchange where I gave her sage and a baby abalone necklace, she inquired about the Chumash peoples and tribes and told me about her tribe, the Laguna Pueblo. We spoke aboutmy tribe's efforts to have our ancestral waters protected by designating them a National Marine Sanctuary. I told her my people have witnessed ocean acidification in the Chumash heritage waters, which interferes with abalone's ability to form hard shells as they grow.
Throughout our conversation, Rep. Haaland displayed deep empathy for the needs of all Indigenous people, including the importance of land and water sovereignty. She also spoke of the need to act urgently on climate change and its devastating impacts.
Indigenous people are by definition the local experts and should be leading the protection of our lands. Rep. Haaland not only understands this, but embodies it. She will make a phenomenal leader of the Interior Department.
Northern Chumash member