Time to remake Native American policy

President-elect Joe Biden is being urged by some to include a Native American in his Cabinet, possibly as secretary of the Interior Department. If he does that, the person named would be the first Native American ever to serve in the Cabinet.

Proponent of such action have a person in mind: U.S. Rep. Deb Haaland, D-N.M. Haaland is a member of the Pueblo of Laguna.

Whether Biden name her or another Native American to his Cabinet, he should remake reforming the government’s relationship with Native Americans a priority. That could be accomplished through the Interior Department, which administers federal programs dealing with Native Americans.

The relationship is unique. In some ways, it treats Native American governments like states.

How Native Americans were treated during much of our history is a national shame. They were forced off their land and often settled on reservations no white settlers wanted. Individually, many Native Americans were treated as misguided children who needed to be remade in the white majority’s image.

All of that was discarded many years ago — theoretically. But as matters stand, many Native Americans lack opportunities taken for granted by most people in our nation.

Clearly, a top-to-bottom re-evaluation of the federal government’s relationship with Native Americans is needed. Appointing a Native American to head the Interior Department would be a gigantic step toward making that happen.

Again, however, regardless of how Biden proceeds in naming his Cabinet, change is needed on a very basic level.


Today's breaking news and more in your inbox

I'm interested in (please check all that apply)
Are you a paying subscriber to the newspaper?


Starting at $4.38/week.

Subscribe Today