Pagan Community Notes: First Native American named to Interior Secretary, petition filed against AFA, Kilauea erupts, and more news

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Image credit: Franmarie Metzler –  Public Domain

WASHINGTON – Last week President-elect Joe Biden formally announced Rep. Deb Haaland as his nominee to head the U.S. Department of the Interior (DOI). If Haaland is confirmed by the Senate, it will be the first time in U.S. history that a Native American has held a cabinet position.

Haaland is a member of the Pueblo Laguna tribe of New Mexico and won her seat to serve in Congress representing the 1st congressional district in New Mexico in the 2018 election. She currently serves as the Vice-Chair of Committee on Natural Resources, as Chair of Subcommittee on National Parks, Forests, and Public Lands, and as a member of Subcommittee for Indigenous Peoples of the United States.

The impact of having a Native American serving as the Secretary of the Interior could be considered a big advance for environmental conservationists and Indigenous peoples since the DOI stewards the management of 20% of U.S. land which includes national parks, national wildlife refuges, and public lands. The department also manages and upholds the Federal trust responsibilities to the 567 federally recognized Indian tribes and Alaska Native villages.

The DOI has around 70,000 staff to manage U.S. public lands and minerals which including providing access to more than 500 million surface acres of public lands, 700 million acres of subsurface minerals, and 1.7 billion acres of coastal areas. This also includes managing resources that supply 30 percent of the Nation’s energy, supplies, and managing the water in the 17 Western states, supplying 15% of the Nation’s hydropower energy.

It also oversees migratory bird and wildlife conservation, historic preservation, endangered species conservation, surface-mined land protection and restoration, mapping, geological, hydrological, and biological science for the Nation, and financial and technical assistance for the insular areas.

Haaland, who is a 35th generation New Mexican, and was raised by parents who both served in the military, is in a unique position to possibly strike a more measured balance between the often complicated governmental interagency interaction and the Indigenous people of the U.S. than has existed in the past.

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MURDOCK, Minn. – In an update to the previous reporting about the Murdock City Council’s December 9 vote of 4-1 to allow a conditional permit for Asatru Folk Assembly (AFA) to operate, an online petition has been created on to block the permit.

While the town’s population is small with only 275 people, so far the petition has collected over 116,000 signatures.

The AFA purchased the defunct Lutheran church earlier this year, and the residents in the area have been vocal about their opposition to AFA establishing a base.

Don Wilcox, the attorney for the city of Murdock cited legal concerns if the city council voted to deny the permit prior to the vote.

other concerns over how the meeting was conducted and that it may have violated Minnesota’s open meeting law have also been raised. The meeting was conducted online, cameras were kept turned off, and council members did not identify themselves before voting.

Minnesota law states that local governments meeting remotely must vote by individual roll call so that their audience can clearly understand how each member voted. Some legal experts like Minneapolis media law attorney, Leita Walker believe the city council violated state law by not doing a roll call for the vote.

City Attorney Wilcox told The Star Tribune it was a “matter of interpretation” and that the council members were not trying to conceal or hide the way they voted. While minutes of the meeting were published the next day and listed how each member voted, the members of the council ignored requests from those listening in on the session to list how members had voted.

While the council could be fined $300 for violating the law, it won’t change the outcome of the vote to allow the conditional permit for the AFA to use the church for religious purposes and use it as their Midwest base. The Murdock location will be the third hof the AFA has established in recent years. The other hofs are in California and North Carolina.

According to Harvard University constitutional law professor, Laurence Tribe, had the town known about the sale prior to it being finalized they could’ve opposed it on the grounds of laws that forbid racial discrimination in property transactions.

“No institution that proposes to exclude people on account of race is allowed to run an operation in the state of Minnesota,” Tribe told NBC News.


In environmental news:

  • Late on Sunday evening, Hawai’i’s Kilauea volcano erupted, spewing lava into the air, and causing the lake that had formed in its summit crater to be vaporized issuing a massive plume of steam and gases 30,000 feet into the atmosphere. The eruption began shortly after a series of earthquakes were reported in the Halema‘uma‘u crater. Kilauea last erupted in May of 2018 and lava continued to flow for four months, destroying over 700 homes and leaving parts of the area buried under as much as 80 feet of hardened lava once it has cooled. As of Tuesday morning, the lava had filled a depth of roughly 440 feet of the crater, which is twice the depth the water of the lake had occupied, and just under 1,600 feet from the rim. Kilauea is located on the Big Island of Hawai’i and the youngest and most southeastern on the island. The United States Geological Survey in Honolulu issued a warning for falling ash, volcanic glass particles known as Pele’s hair, rock falls, explosions, and high levels of volcanic gases for the area surrounding Kilauea. Authorities are advising people to stay indoors and that while the lava is currently contained to the crater, people within the park who have flocked to see the eruption are at greater risk of being injured and from exposure to poor air quality.
  • A giant iceberg, identified as A68a, that calved from the Larsen C Ice Shelf in Antarctica in 2017 and has since been drifting slowly through the South Atlantic appears to finally be starting to break up. Deep cracks observed on Monday appear to have resulted in a number of huge chunks breaking away from A68a. Researchers continue to be concerned that A68a or remnants of it will run aground or become stuck next to South Georgia Island which is home to a variety of penguins and seals. If this were to happen it could have a negative impact on the sea and wildlife that call the island home since it could impact their ability to find food.
  • In an update to a TWH story in November, last week a British coroner ruled that excessive pollution contributed to the death of 9-year-old Ella Kissi-Debrah who suffered a fatal asthma attack in February 2013. In his ruling, Coroner Philip Barlow said, “Air pollution was a significant contributory factor to both the induction and exacerbations of her asthma.” Barlow also noted that in the three years before Kissi-Debrah’s death she had been exposed to levels of particulate matter and nitrous oxide that exceeded the World Health Organization’s safety guidelines for emissions. London Mayor Sadiq Khan called the ruling a “landmark moment.” Similar rulings may follow this one and could have major implications for not just municipalities and countries, but for manufacturers as well as it could pave the way for all concerned to be held accountable for high levels of pollution.

In other news:

  • The Satanic Temple (TST) has had billboards placed in Miami, Dallas, and Houston that feature the slogan “Abortions save lives!” The billboard in Dallas was installed last week and will be in place until mid-January. TST seeks to use billboards to make any Satanists in the area aware of TST’s abortion ritual, which involves reflecting on Satanic tenets and a personal affirmation that can be done while receiving an abortion. The TST’s Religious Reproductive Rights spokesperson, Sydney Goodwin told The Dallas Observer, “It’s a process to provide spiritual sustenance in a satanic way.” She went on to explain that the ritual provides spiritual comfort and feelings of self-worth during what some consider to be a difficult time. All of the billboards are near crisis pregnancy centers which are often mistaken for abortion centers and seek to persuade women with unwanted pregnancies to carry their pregnancies to term rather than choose to abort. In September TST announced that it had filed a lawsuit of religious discrimination against Lamar Advertising in Arkansas state court after the company rejected the designs TST had submitted for the billboards calling their content “misleading and offensive,” according to the suit. The Texas GOP released a  statement last Thursday stating it would “relentlessly work” to end all abortions in the state during the next legislative session. regardless of what state lawmakers so or TST’s critics might think Goodwin said, “Satanists have religious views in accordance to our tenets. Us demanding medical care in accordance to our religious views, as is required by law, is a right that should be guaranteed to us.”
  • The University of Chicago announced a new course that has been approved titled Witchcraft and the Cultural Imagination.  The course will be a cross-disciplinary seminar taught by Assistant Professor of Medieval Iberian Studies, Noel Blanco Mourelle, and Assistant Professor of Art History, Tamara Golan. The course will examine the materials, concepts, and visual artifacts that have produced the figure of the witch, from the medieval past to the present, and be offered in the winter term of 2022.

Tarot of the week by Star Bustamonte

Deck: Wheel of the Year by Maria Caratti, artwork by Antonella Platano, published by Lo Scarabeo.

Card: King of Pentacles (The Lord of Wellness)

The week ahead may offer gestures of generosity from those in positions of power, as well as opportunities for those who are paying attention and willing to take chances. There is also an emphasis on financial health and creative fiscal planning.


Decks generously provided by Asheville Raven & Crone.