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'An actual seat at the Cabinet table'

Today's topics: The nomination of a Native American to a Cabinet-level position, and a look back at a historic achievement for the Taos Pueblo
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This week has been history in the making with the nomination of the first Native American to lead the Interior department. But there is more history: 50 years ago the Nixon administration signed legislation returning Blue Lake to the Taos Pueblo.

Joining us today are Red Lake Band of Ojibwe citizen Holly Cook Macarro, a partner at Spirit Rock Consulting and a federal lobbyist since 2001, to talk about the nomination of U.S. Rep. Deb Haaland, Pueblos of Laguna and Jemez, to the position of Secretary of Interior, and Indian Country Today Editor Mark Trahant will discuss the historic return of Blue Lake to the Taos Pueblo.

Plus you won't want to miss Vision Maker Media's Indigenous twist in "The Twelve Days of Native Christmas," an animated short film written and directed by Choctaw and Cherokee filmmaker Gary Robinson. Head to Vision Maker Media to watch the trailer.

Some quotes from todays show.

Holly Cook Macarro:

"I think given the buildup and all of the efforts, engagement of so many across Indian Country, [the announcement] was tremendous. The meaning, the significance, the symbolism of Deb Haaland's nomination ... I don't know that there's been a more monumental political event happening for us. 

Really the joy that was reflected when Congresswoman [Sharice] Davids, [Ho-Chunk, of Kansas], and Congresswoman Haaland were elected was tremendous. And then to see Deb Holland go through what was somewhat of a bruising nomination process which is not always very transparent, but really, I think the importance and the significance cannot be overstated to Indian Country."

"And we have such high hopes for Deb. And this is not just Deb joining the cabinet, but it’s as Interior secretary. The irony is rich there, but to see a Native American that will be in charge of our public lands, in charge of Indian Affairs, and leading that department, I think we all are still in our celebration, but still getting our head around that we will have an actual seat at the Cabinet table. And so for all the times that we say, 'we want a seat at the table.' We have a seat at the Cabinet table. This is the highest levels of our nation's government and Congresswoman Haaland, Secretary Haaland. We'll be there too."

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Mark Trahant:

"The White House understood the symbolism. The United States was returning land to Taos Pueblo… land that everyone acknowledged had been illegally taken for a national forest in 1906. In past years the solution would have been to write a check. But the Pueblo for nearly a century insisted that the land must be returned. Gilbert Suazo Sr. was in a youth society that represented the Pueblo. As a young man he traveled to Washington and was present at the white house ceremony," Trahant said.

"An April 17, 1970 memo from Leonard Garment to President Richard Nixon made the case for the return of the Blue Lake to the Taos Pueblo. 'In 1906 the president signed a proclamation making 130,000 acres of this area a national forest; the Indians have contested this ever since.' The Indian Claims commission and the Justice department reached the conclusion in 1965 that the United States 'took said lands … without compensation.'"

“Over the years, since 1906, this particular issue has snowballed,” Garment wrote. “it is now the single specific Indian issue and as such of major symbolic importance. To be very candid, the question before you is not what happens to the bill,” Garment wrote, “the answer seems to be little chance. The question, however, is what position you as president should take, for both moral and political reasons.'

"That moral argument won the day… and Richard Nixon signed the bill into law on December 15, 1970. 'This is a bill that represents justice,' Nixon said, because the bill also involves respect for religion. 'Those of us who know something about the background of the first Americans realize that long before any organized religion came to the United States, for 700 years the Taos Pueblo Indians worshiped in this place. we restore this place of worship to them for all the years to come,'" Trahant said.

"Gilbert Suazo says it’s a story that must be told."

Patty Talahongva, Hopi, is executive producer of Indian Country Today. She is also the anchor of the weekday newscast. Follow her on Twitter: @WiteSpider

Mark Trahant, Shoshone-Bannock, is editor of Indian Country Today. On Twitter: @TrahantReports Trahant is based in Phoenix.

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