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Five Minnesota tribes in Rep. Pete Stauber’s (R-Minn.) congressional district criticized their leader for not representing Native interests in his effort to derail Rep. Deb Haaland’s nomination for Interior Secretary.

President-elect Joe Biden nominated Haaland (Pueblo of Laguna), a congressional representative from New Mexico (D-N.M.), on Dec. 17. If confirmed, she will be the first-ever Native American Cabinet member. She will also help drive Biden’s promise to transition America away from fossil fuels and reinstate protections on public lands.

Stauber circulated a draft letter urging other lawmakers to join him in his request to the incoming Biden administration to withdraw Haaland’s nomination. In the draft letter, which has not been made public, but was obtained by NBC News, the lawmaker wrote that “Nominating Representative Haaland is a direct threat to working men and women and a rejection of responsible development of America’s natural resources.”

Specifically, the Congressman outlined legislation Haaland co-sponsored banning mining in a 234,000-acre stretch of Superior National Forest. Included in that area is Stauber’s district, where the Twin Metals mining company is seeking to mine for copper.

In response to the news tribal leaders from Mille Lacs Band of Ojibwe, Bois Forte Band of Chippewa, Grand Portage Band of Lake Superior Chippewa, Fond du Lac Band of Lake Superior Chippewa, and Leech Lake Band of Ojibwe signed on to a letter to Stauber dated Jan. 14.

According to NBC News, the letter read: “This historic nomination is more important to us and all of Indian Country than any other Cabinet nomination in recent history. Your opposition to the first and only American Indian ever nominated to a Cabinet position is likely to reverberate across Indian Country.”

Additionally, the chair of the Midwest Alliance of Sovereign Tribes, a group that represents 35 tribal nations in the region, lambasted Stauber in a letter for not first consulting with the tribes in his district.  

“We are unaccustomed to any member of Congress serving in such a public role in leading an attack that diametrically opposes the wishes of nearly all of Indian Country,” chair Aaron Payment wrote. 

Stauber’s communications director, Kelsey Mix, told Native News Online that Congressman Stauber cannot support Haaland’s nomination because “the nominees’ support for extreme policies is not what hardworking families across northeast Minnesota need.”

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About The Author
Author: Jenna Kunze
Staff Writer
Jenna Kunze is a reporter for Native News Online and Tribal Business News. Kunze’s 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.