Mary Peltola (Yup’ik), a former state lawmaker from Bethel, AK, was sworn into the U.S. House Tuesday, becoming the first Alaska Native person to ever serve in Congress.
Alaska Public Media’s Liz Ruskin reports from The Capitol.
Rep. Peltola is 49, a mother of seven, and a salmon fishing advocate. She gave a brief speech on the House floor.
“It is the honor of my life to represent Alaska, a place my elders and ancestors have called home for thousands of years, where to this day, many people in my community carry forward our traditions of hunting and fishing.”
She’s the first Democrat to win Alaska’s sole house seat in 50 years. She’s vowed to carry on the bipartisan legacy of her predecessor, Republican Don Young, who held the seat for Peltola’s entire life, until his death in March.
“Like all Alaskans, I mourned his passing. In Yup’ik when we lose a loved one, we say Tawaingunrituq. This isn’t the end.”
Ana Hoffman was at The Capitol to witness the moment. She’s co-chair of the Alaska Federation of Natives and Peltola’s classmate from Bethel.
“It feels like she’s bringing a completeness to the House of Representatives that’s been missing. As she was speaking, the thought that kept coming into my mind is the people’s house.”
Peltola won a special election to serve the remainder of Young’s term.
She’ll have to win again in November to keep the seat for the next two-year term.
Another Native woman also made history in Washington, D.C. this week.
Chief of the Mohegan Tribe Lynn Malerba was sworn in as Treasurer of the United States becoming the first Native American and Native woman to hold the office.
Her signature will now appear on currency.
In remarks, Malerba talked about the Biden administration’s commitment to Indian Country saying her appointment is a promise kept – and demonstrates respect for tribal sovereignty and understanding of the government-to-government relationship.
The Treasurer directly oversees the U.S. Mint, the Bureau of Engraving and Printing, and is a key liaison with the Federal Reserve.
Malerba will also oversee a newly established office to communicate directly with tribes and be a hub for tribal policy.
She became chief of the Mohegan Tribe in Connecticut in 2010 and was the first woman to serve as top leader in the tribe’s modern history.
The Department of Interior has removed a racial slur from 650 geographical features in the U.S.
Taylar Stagner has more.
The S-Q word is a slur for an Indigenous woman.
This affected hundreds of natural landscapes and around 70 tribal nations submitted suggestions for name changes, many of which were granted.
It’s an issue Interior Secretary Deb Haaland has been working on since taking office.
Crystal C’Bearing is with the Tribal Historic Preservation Office on the Wind River Reservation in Wyoming.
Her office deals with protecting cultural landmarks on and off tribal lands. She says it’s about time.
“It was a name that totally degraded women and dehumanized our native woman and just made them seem less than.”
Questions still exist involving certain places with incorrect or inconsistent spelling of Native languages, what name to use when two tribes suggest different names, and features that span multiple jurisdictions.
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