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The Day – US Secretary of the Interior visits Mashantuckets, Mohegans

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US Interior Secretary Deb Haaland visited the Mashantucket Pequot and Mohegan reservations privately on Wednesday, Haaland’s office and the tribes acknowledged later in the day.

Haaland toured the Mohegan Cultural Preservation Center, Tantaquidgeon Museum and Mohegan Church for about 90 minutes before heading to Mashantucket, where she met for about an hour with tribal leaders at the Mashantucket Pequot Museum and Research Center.

It was Haaland’s first official visit to either reservation since being sworn in as secretary in March 2021, the first Native American Cabinet Secretary in US history. She had previously visited the Mohegan Reservation in October 2019 when she represented New Mexico in the United States House of Representatives. She is a member of the Laguna Pueblo.

Lynn Malerba, the Mohegan chief, said Haaland was accompanied by several staff members.

“She’s so down to earth,” Malerba said. “She works so hard to understand the tribes and the people she represents. It’s so important for tribes to share their culture. Every tribe is different and she cares about nuances.”

In a statement, James Gessner Jr., president of the Mohegan Tribal Council, called it “a historic day for the Mohegan Tribe.”

“She’s been a strong advocate for tribal communities,” he said of Haaland, “and we’re thrilled she came the next morning after President (Joe) Biden announced in his state of Union that it was committed to investing in critical infrastructure in our communities…. Just as we value our historic partnerships with the State of Connecticut and neighboring local municipalities, our continued collaboration with the federal government and the Department of the Interior is of utmost importance to our tribal leaders and members.

Lori Potter, spokeswoman for the Mashantucket tribe, said Haaland was greeted by members of the tribal council, council of elders and council of youth.

“A longtime friend of Mashantucket, Secretary Haaland is the first serving Home Secretary to visit our reservation,” Potter said in a statement. “There was no better way to kick off Women’s History Month than to welcome a woman who has broken down so many barriers and has an unparalleled commitment to this country and all Native Americans.”

In a press release, Haaland’s office said his visit helped highlight the bipartisan Infrastructure Act of 2021’s $13 billion investment in Indian Country, which will help strengthen tribal economies, strengthen the resilience of communities, replace aging infrastructure and expand access to drinking water and high-speed internet. . The act provides $466 million for the Bureau of Indian Affairs, including $216 million for climate programs and $250 million to support water and health infrastructure.

On Wednesday, Haaland also joined Gov. Ned Lamont and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Director Martha Williams at the headquarters of the Stewart B. McKinney National Wildlife Refuge in Westbrook to highlight the law’s $1.4 billion allocation. on infrastructure for ecosystem restoration.

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