PBCI welcomes U.S. Secretary of Interior on historic visit to reservation

Published 3:18 pm Friday, January 19, 2024

Special to the Advance

U.S. Secretary of the Interior Deb Haaland on Jan. 15 made a historic visit to the Poarch Band of Creek Indians reservation in Atmore.

Haaland is the first Native American to serve as secretary of the Department of the Interior, which has jurisdiction over a wide variety of governmental programs, including the Bureau of Indian Affairs.

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In fact, this is the first time that any member of that department has been to the Tribe’s lands in Atmore, and Haaland’s tour of Poarch’s reservation was heralded as both an important milestone and a distinct honor for Alabama’s only federally recognized Tribe.

“Secretary Haaland has been a tireless advocate for Tribes throughout her years of service to our country, both as the Secretary of the Interior and as a Member of Congress,” said Stephanie A. Bryan, PBCI chair and CEO in a release. “She truly understands how critically important it is for us, as an independent, sovereign Indian nation, to maintain a strong government-to-government relationship with the United States.”

Haaland has advocated for Tribes to have a seat at the table when policies that affect Indian Country are shaped. As evidence to that, she created the Secretary’s Tribal Advisory Committee (STAC) of which Bryan is a member.

Formed in 2021 as part of the White House Tribal Nations Summit, STAC’s mission is to further strengthen relations between the Department of Interior and Indian Country, and to ensure that Tribal Leader Members have direct, consistent communication with the Department’s executive leadership and staff.

“Personally, it has been both an honor and a privilege for me to have the opportunity to work with her and to see her commitment to finding solutions to some of the toughest problems facing Indian Country,” Bryan said. “She is a true public servant and our country is blessed to have her in this important role.”

During her visit to the reservation, Haaland met with the Tribal Council to hear first-hand about the Tribe’s journey and challenges. She was briefed on the Tribe’s recent multi-million dollar investment into reliable, high- speed Internet service for the reservation and surrounding communities. Haaland toured several locations on the reservation including the Tribe’s Assisted Living Facility, Senior Activities Center and the Poarch Creek Community Center, where preschool children shared with her a Mvskoke language presentation, she met several youth Tribal princesses and watched a traditional stickball game. She continued her visit with a stop at the Poarch Creek Museum where she received an in depth guided tour of the Tribe’s history. At the conclusion of the visit, Poarch Creek Tribal Leaders and several Tribal Princesses presented Haaland with the Tribe’s book, Woven Together, to commemorate her visit.

For more information on the Poarch Band of Creek Indians, visit https://pci-nsn.gov.