This totem was created for President Joe Biden “to raise awareness of Indigenous sacred sites at risk from oil, gas, mining, and infrastructure projects.” The totem was accepted on behalf of the President by the Secretary of the Interior, Deb Haaland. The totem traveled more than 25,000 miles before reaching its final destination, stopping at eight endangered sacred sites: Snake River, Idaho; Bears Ears, Utah; Chaco Canyon, New Mexico; Black Hills, South Dakota, Missouri River, South Dakota, Standing Rock, North Dakota, White Earth, Minnesota and the Straits of Mackinac, Michigan.
You can watch the dedication ceremony at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7RSmE38DmUs
The director of the NCTC, Steve Chase, in his opening remarks, began by acknowledging that the land on which the NCTC sits was once the home of many indigenous peoples including the Shawnee and the Delaware. Those who spoke stressed not only the need to protect sacred sites, but for all of us to be stewards of Earth. Human activity has created a planetary crisis of global warming which affects every person and every nation. As I write this, we are learning of the awful devastation from Hurricane Ian, and I thought back to my own experiences on Pine Island in Florida, one of the places hardest hit. That island too has a long history with indigenous peoples. Perhaps the highest ground on that island is the shell mounds built by the Calusa, the dominant people of South Florida for many centuries. I wonder if that place is still recognizable.
By Ray Smock
When I served as House Historian, I was eyewitness to the ceremonial events in the House Chamber. With the passing of Queen Elizabeth today, I offer this account of her only appearance before the U.S. Congress on May 16, 1991. The following are excerpts from the journal I kept during my years in the House.
Excerpts from the Journal of the House Historian, May 24, 1991
…The night before the Queen's appearance before the joint meeting of Congress on the 16th I was working late, and Vic Ratner of ABC called to ask a question. "Did we ever send the British a bill for burning the Capitol in the War of 1812?" He apologized for asking; it was clear he was stretching for a story angle. (Later Cokie Roberts told me she put Vic up to it.) I laughed and said to Vic "Why would we send them a bill, we thought we won that war."
The Queen and the Duke of Edinburgh do have a regal and polished bearing from a lifetime of role playing. I was surprised by how short (and wide) she is and how tall he is. The Duke sat in a chair on the Speaker's dais to the left and behind the Queen. Behind him in his usual prominent spot was the Clerk of the House Donn Anderson, who simply loves all this pomp and circumstance. I could tell that he was thoroughly enjoying this setting. My only exposure to the Queen was during the joint meeting. I was in the chamber in my usual spot [standing near the portrait of George Washington] and watched the proceedings. The chamber was packed, but not overly crowded the way it was for Nelson Mandela or Lech Walesa. The Doorkeeper was a little more nervous than usual because he wanted to get their introduction just right. Even the wily old veteran Molloy seemed taken by the opportunity to introduce the Queen, for the first appearance of a British monarch before the U.S. Congress. It was a historic moment, if only a symbolic one.
The press gallery was particularly animated during the joint meeting, especially when the Queen first entered the chamber and again when she exited following her address. The press sits in the gallery directly above and behind the Speaker. Most of the time there are only a few members of the press seated there for the regular business of the House. During special occasions, however, they fill the seats. Those in the press gallery never show any particular emotion other than mild boredom or amused detachment. They don't stand or applaud when the president or the guest speaker enters the chamber.
While all the other galleries rise and engage in applause, as do the Members and staff on the floor. The press, as a show of their aloofness, and to demonstrate the fact that they are busy working and writing, pretend they are not a part of the proceedings. In Don Ritchie's excellent new book Press Gallery he quotes journalist Louis Ludlow of Indiana, a member of the press gallery for more than a quarter century before running for Congress himself: "In the Press Gallery we sit at the top of the world and the kingdoms of earth are at our feet." That captures the attitude that prevails in the press gallery.
In reality, however, they are no more detached from what goes on the floor of the House than I am, but both our professions demand the appearance of detachment and impartiality. For the Queen's visit the press leaned forward and strained to see every nuance of her arrival and departure. They reacted just like any other citizen who wanted to glimpse a celebrity. They lost their cool, if only for a moment. As the Queen approached the Speaker's dais and the press had to look almost straight down, I thought half of them were going to tumble out of the gallery and fall on the Speaker, [Tom Foley] the Vice President, [Dan Quayle] and the Queen. Wouldn't that have made a good story and a great picture for the cover of the news magazines.
There was nothing special about the Queen's address. It was, in fact, very bland, and she read it without much spirit or emotion. I guess queens and popes don't have to be entertaining. They are speaking to the ages. The Queen, of course, is really delivering a message from the British government. She delivers what the Prime Minister wants her to. It was a short speech, politely interrupted by respectful applause on several occasions. Her only display of playfulness and spirit came at the very beginning before she launched into her formal remarks. As she stood at the podium she said, "I do hope you can see me today." This brought down the House and she received a standing ovation and much laughter. The day before when she was received by the President [George Bush] someone screwed up and did not make arrangements for the podium to match her height. It was set for the President who is well over six feet tall. When the Queen came forward to speak all anyone could see was a bank of microphones and her purple hat. She was dubbed the "talking hat" or the "talking mushroom." The Queen’s opening line before Congress was perfect, a real icebreaker. But then her speech was so uninspiring that the ice began to form again almost immediately.
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