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Secretary of the Interior Deb Haaland arrived in Alaska Apr. 19 for her first official visit to the state since taking office.

On the first day of the week-long trip, Haaland met with Alaska Native leaders and local stakeholders in Anchorage to discuss the more than $138 million available to the state through the federal infrastructure law enacted last November, the Interior Department said. That money, the department added, includes $75 million for Alaskan communities to clean up “orphaned” oil and gas wells, with more funds to clear up a landslide in Denali National Park, reduce the risk of wildfires, revitalize abandoned mine lands, enhance fish migration, protect communities from flooding, and build climate resilience in tribal communities.

Alaska has the highest percentage of Indigenous people of any U.S. state, and almost 40% of the nation’s 574 federally recognized tribes are located there. 

A spokesperson for the Interior Department could not confirm Haaland’s schedule for the week, but she is expected to visit Fairbanks, Seward, and Utqiagvik on the Arctic coast, a town of 5,000 people that is the hub of the North Slope region.

“Her goal is to come and listen and learn. It is not to announce policy,” Haaland’s communications director, Melissa Schwartz, told the Anchorage Daily News. “It is truly to have listening sessions and roundtable conversations and hear from people about the issues that are important to them.”

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Jenna Kunze
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Staff Writer
Jenna Kunze is a reporter for Native News Online and Tribal Business News. Her bylines have appeared in The Arctic Sounder, High Country News, Indian Country Today, Smithsonian Magazine and Anchorage Daily News. In 2020, she was one of 16 U.S. journalists selected by the Pulitzer Center to report on the effects of climate change in the Alaskan Arctic region. Prior to that, she served as lead reporter at the Chilkat Valley News in Haines, Alaska. Kunze is based in New York.