I have practiced Indian law for over 50 years, mostly from my base here in Santa Fe. I argued twice in the U.S. Supreme Court for the Native side of vital issues, both successfully. Time and time again I have witnessed even sympathetic Department of Interior secretaries come out on issues shortchanging Indians. In my view, that is because none has been a member of a recognized tribe and therefore did not fully understand the issues from their perspective. This is outrageous. Not only is it high time that an Indian, especially one as uniquely qualified as Rep. Deb Haaland, be appointed to the central agency influencing and regulating the United States’ relations with its first inhabitants, it is morally, ethically and politically high time that this central agency be commanded by a member of this community.

In my half-century-long legal career, I have witnessed time and time again, under both Democrats and Republicans, how Indians and Indian tribes have been shortchanged on natural resources and basic human rights issues — sometimes purposely, but often by sheer ignorance. Haaland is experienced, intelligent, and as a New Mexican, especially qualified to regulate this agency that is so central to New Mexico’s welfare and, of course, its Indian citizens. I urge that she be affirmed as secretary of the Department of the Interior immediately.

Michael P. Gross

Santa Fe

Celebrate and support

This week we must celebrate and support one of our own, U.S. Rep. Deb Haaland as her nomination hearing for the secretary of the Department of the Interior starts Tuesday. The United States has had a long, untenable history with Native Americans. The historical treatment of Native Americans was so mercilessly institutionalized. While the current relationship is bankrupted, fueled by greed and contempt for tribal nations in their own backyards, the future relationships will depend on us acknowledging the broken treaties and ignoring all promises made to Native Americans here in the United States. It is long overdue having a Cabinet leader that can represent broad oversight of tribal affairs and energy development. The future is promising with Deb Haaland, who will have a voice in amending the deceit which has so long plagued us in the United States.

Donna Thiersch

Santa Fe

Breath of fresh air

The U.S. Senate is poised to consider President Joe Biden’s nomination of U.S. Rep. Deb Haaland for secretary of the Department of the Interior in the coming days. The Senate should confirm Haaland without delay or argument.

Republican leaders at the state and federal level have criticized Haaland for not listening to the needs of the fossil fuel industries, especially oil and gas, and for endorsing a Green New Deal. However, under the Trump administration, federal lands’ only purpose was to allow the oil and gas industry to “drill, baby, drill.” A recent analysis by the Wilderness Society found that 90 percent of our public lands are available to oil and gas extraction, leaving only 10 percent available for conservation, recreation, traditional land use and wilderness. Most of that land is not being used by the industry, even while critics suggest that a temporary moratorium on leases will cripple their ability to produce.

There is a different and bolder idea for how our public lands can be used — to support a growing, equitable, diverse and sustainable outdoor recreation economy and protect 30 percent of our lands and waters by 2030. In introducing 30x30 legislation in the House of Representatives, Haaland said “our communities deserve fresh air to breathe, clean water to drink, and a livable planet, but right now inaction on climate change is putting everything at risk, particularly in communities of color.” That attitude will be a breath of fresh air for the Department of the Interior.

Percy Byron Anderson

Manuelito, N.M.

Agencies unprepared to get to one line

Police, sheriff’s office, city, ski basin and other agencies need better emergency planning. I was among a few hundred people recently stranded in their cars for over three hours, stalled and freezing on the roadside, with no cell service, from 4:45 p.m. to 8:10 p.m. There was zero official communication or information — nothing from emergency personnel, on the radio or on The New Mexican’s website. My wife was probably not alone in calling 911 out of concern. Do better next time.

Steven Dichter

Santa Fe

Life in house arrest

My 91-year-old mother has been on a state-mandated version of house arrest in her assisted living community for nearly a year due to the pandemic. She is now fully vaccinated and had the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention-recommended wait time after her second jab. We have been informed that she still is subject to the same house arrest structure even after being vaccinated. How is this in any way reasonable, fair or justifiable? What criteria are officials at the New Mexico Department of Health actually waiting for with respect to easing her restrictions? She is now safer from the virus than most of the population and could certainly go about her life, just as staff members do who come and go on a daily basis. This house arrest/window visit/no physical contact policy needs to change immediately for those who have been fully vaccinated.

Matthias Recker

Santa Fe

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