Alaska Natives still frustrated after Haaland meeting

By Robin Bravender | 06/14/2024 01:29 PM EDT

Interior Secretary Deb Haaland, they said, had previously declined or ignored their meeting requests.

Deb Haaland.

Interior Secretary Deb Haaland testifies before the House Natural Resources Committee on April 19, 2023. Francis Chung/POLITICO

Alaska Native leaders met with Interior Secretary Deb Haaland in Washington on Thursday after she had rejected or ignored at least eight previous requests, they said.

Elected leaders of the North Slope Iñupiaq Community met with Haaland and other Interior Department staffers at the agency’s headquarters after Iñupiat representatives had accused the department of stonewalling them by refusing their previous requests to meet with the secretary to discuss Interior’s policies.

“The mood going in from our side was one of sadness as it has taken eight, nine requests to get an audience with the secretary,” said Kate Wolgemuth, program and government affairs manager for Voice of the Arctic Iñupiat, a nonprofit that represents Arctic Slope communities. “To her credit, she granted us that audience,” Wolgemuth said of Haaland. After “nine requests, there’s definitely some feelings” among the Alaskans, but there was “very respectful engagement” with the secretary, she added.


The Alaskans in Washington this week came with a series of requests for Haaland on oil and gas regulations and decisions. They want formal notices of consultation through both mail and email moving forward and a commitment that North Slope leadership be part of the development of policies and be alerted to decisions and announcements before “leaks to the press or outside organizations,” they said.