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Just three days after the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) issued a public land order that prevents mining within 10 miles of Chaco Culture National Historical Park, the House Committee on Natural Resources sent a letter to Secretary of the Interior Deb Haaland (Laguna Pueblo), alleging a conflict of interest and ethics violations.
 
The Committee's June 5 letter states that Haaland met with the  Pueblo Action Alliance (PAA) leaders while she was the Secretary of Interior to discuss the organization’s opposition to oil and gas production on federal lands. They also state that the House Committee Chairman Bruce Westerman and Oversight and Investigations Subcommittee Chairman Paul Gosar did not receive a response to their inquiry into Haaland’s potential conflicts of interest. 


The letter states that Haaland’s daughter Somah Haaland —who has been employed by the PAA since 2020–traveled with the organization to lobby members of Congress to pass legislation that would prohibit lease sales for oil and gas development on federal land. 

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The letter demands Haaland turn over all communications between Somah and herself from March 16, 2021, to the present day, to the House Committee on Natural Resources before June 26, 2023.

“As you are aware, Federal agencies are responsible for fostering cultures of ethical conduct,” the Committee wrote. “Employees unable to act impartially are not qualified to perform their role in government. To ensure appropriate conduct, the U.S. Office of Government Ethics (OGE) issues ethical standards by which all executive branch employees must abide.”

On July 13, the Energy and Mineral Resources Subcommittee submitted a letter to the House Committee on Natural Resources’s Republican members citing Haaland’s history of advocacy for the protections around Chaco Canyon. 

Prior to her election to the House of Representatives, Haaland published an opinion piece with VICE on October 23, 2017, where she wrote about additional protections surrounding the Chaco Canyon and asserts that it is her ancestral homeland. 

The Committee wrote that they are interested in Haaland’s connections with the PAA. 

PAA submitted a letter to Haaland with 101 organizations opposing bill H.R. 4337, which would roll back protections of the lands surrounding Chaco Canyon, and had a legislative hearing on July 13.

The House Committee’s June 5 letter also requested additional information regarding Secretary Haaland’s husband, Skip Sayre, and his ongoing consulting contracts with the Laguna Development Corporation (LDC). The letter states that Sayre was previously employed by the LDC in a leadership sales and marketing position and that the LDC is the operating “business arm” of the Pueblo of Laguna, where Haaland is an enrolled citizen. 

The, signed by the Committee’s Republican members — Bruce Westerman (R-AR), Paul Gosar (R-AZ), Doug LaMalfa (R-CA), Russ Fulcher (R-ID), Pete Stauber (R-MN), Cliff Bentz (R-OR), Lauren Boebert (R-CO), Jerry Carl (R-AL), John Duarte (R-CA), Harriet Hageman (R-WY), and Anna Paulina Luna (R-FL) — stated that federal government officials cannot use their positions for the gain of family members or nonprofit organizations. 

In an email to Native News Online, the Department of the Interior stated they will not be commenting on the requests from the House Committee.

This is a developing story.  

This story has been updated to include a statement from the Department of the Interior. 

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About The Author
Author: Darren ThompsonEmail: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
Darren Thompson (Lac du Flambeau Ojibwe) is a staff reporter for Native News Online who is based in the Twin Cities of Minnesota. Thompson has reported on political unrest, tribal sovereignty, and Indigenous issues for the Aboriginal Peoples Television Network, Indian Country Today, Native News Online, Powwows.com and Unicorn Riot. He has contributed to the New York Times, the Washington Post, and Voice of America on various Indigenous issues in international conversation. He has a bachelor’s degree in Criminology & Law Studies from Marquette University in Milwaukee, Wisconsin.