Tuesday Night Owls: Media coverage of Deb Haaland’s ascent has flattened Native complexities

Tuesday Night Owls: Media coverage of Deb Haaland’s ascent has flattened Native complexities

Night Owls is a themed open thread appearing at Daily Kos seven days a week.

At The New Republic, Nick Martin (a citizen of the Sappony Tribe) writes—Deb Haaland’s Ascent and the Complicated Legacy of Native Representation. The congresswoman from New Mexico could make history if confirmed as head of the Department of the Interior. But there’s more to the story than that.

Deb Haaland could be the next secretary of the interior. Her hearing is scheduled for Tuesday and, if seated, the congresswoman from New Mexico and citizen of the Laguna Pueblo will make history. Her name will be etched into the minds of young Native women across Indian Country, and her late-career path to Congress and then the Cabinet will serve as an inspiration to any Native person who believes that such offices are the places where change happens.

Maybe you already know this. There has been no shortage of laudatory coverage of Haaland’s appointment. Given the decades of invisibility that Native people have faced, both in government and in media, the coverage has been, like Haaland’s nomination, a welcome surprise. It has also flattened the complexities of the moment.

The grand myth of the power of political representation—of having a seat at the table—is the primary lens through which most “firsts” are filtered. It makes sense on a certain level. Landing Native officials like Haaland, a progressive lawmaker who is in support of tribal consultation and the reduction of extractive fossil fuel activities on Native and public lands, in positions of power is an important step toward ensuring Indigenous voices are heard and amplified within the American government. With nobody to represent the interests of tribal nations and communities, those interests will go silenced or unheard.

But we cannot forget an unfortunate truth that history has taught us many times over. Ensuring the well-being of Indigenous communities is, as it has been for centuries, a legal mandate that the federal government feels comfortable breaking with each annual budget. And while Haaland’s appointment has rightly been recognized as historic, Native people have occupied positions of great power within that colonial machine, many of them seeking to ensure those mandates are followed, only either to leave embittered or transition themselves into an active participant in the grand American tradition of treaty-breaking and excuse-making. Haaland has the potential to overcome these structural roadblocks and deliver justice for the unheard corners of Indian Country, just as the next Republican administration will have the potential to erase those gains and return us to the regularly scheduled program of treating tribal nations as a national inconvenience. This is the fraught push-pull she’s up against.

After all, this is still the United States we’re talking about.

There exists no better case study of the paradox of Indigenous participation in a colonial government than that of Charles Curtis, a longtime member of Congress and the first and only Native vice president in U.S. history. […]




Ron Johnson is up for re-election in 2022 in a state that just elected a Democratic Governor, a Democratic Lt. Governor, a Democratic attorney general, a Democratic Senator, and a Democrat for president.

— Brian Tyler Cohen (@briantylercohen) February 23, 2021


“Loss in Vietnam radicalized a generation of veterans, pushing many into the ranks of white-supremacist groups. Ronald Reagan, as the standard bearer of an ascendant New Right, effectively tapped into this radicalization, which helped lift him to victory in his 1980 presidential campaign. Once he was in office, Reagan’s re-escalation of the Cold War allowed him to contain the radicalization, preventing it from spilling over (too much) into domestic politics. Anti-communist campaigns in Central America—a region Reagan called “our southern frontier”—were especially helpful in focusing militancy outward. But Reagan’s Central American wars (which comprised support for the Contras in Nicaragua and death squads in El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras) generated millions of refugees, many, perhaps most, of whom fled to the United States. As they came over the border, they inflamed the same constituencies that Reagan had mobilized to wage the wars that had turned them into refugees in the first place.”
            ~~ Greg Grandin, The End of the Myth: From the Frontier to the Border Wall in the Mind of America (2019)


On this date at Daily Kos in 2003—Americans believe war will increase terror:

Bush Co. and its media and warblogging cabal argue that taking out Saddam will help the nation combat the terrorism threat. However, the public isn’t buying it. In the latest CBS News poll, 59 percent of respondents believed war would lead to more terrorism in the US. Only 12 percent thought it would lower the threat.

In addition, 60 percent of all respondents, and 40 percent of Republicans, think the US should wait for UN approval before invading.

Not that Bush will heed poll results, but it does indicate that he will place this nation at war without the full and enthusiastic backing of the people—a reality that may bear consequences down the road

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