Democratic Congresswoman Deb Haaland has been nominated by Joe Biden to serve as the next United States Secretary of the Interior. If her nomination is confirmed, she will become the first Native American Cabinet Secretary in the country’s history.
Who is Rep. Deb Haaland?
60-year-old Haaland is a member of the Laguna Pueblo, an indigenous tribe that has resided on land in west-central New Mexico since the 13th Century. Born to a Native American mother and Norwegian American father, she identifies as 35th generation New Mexican.
Moments after her nomination, Haaland tweeted:
“A voice like mine has never been a Cabinet secretary or at the head of the Department of Interior. Growing up in my mother’s Pueblo household made me fierce.”
After periods of financial instability as a single mother, Haaland earned her Juris Doctor in 2006. She then went on to work for Barack Obama’s 2012 re-election campaign in New Mexico. Upon her election to the House of Representatives in 2019, she became one of the first two Native American women serving in Congress.
Earning her political stripes as Representative for New Mexico’s 1st Congressional district, Haaland has been vocal about protecting Indian land and spoken out against oil drilling in her state. Her nomination to the Secretary of the Interior was publicly celebrated by many environmental and indigenous groups.
Sharice Davids, Representative for Kansas’s 3rd district and Haaland’s fellow Native American Congresswoman, said in a statement:
“I can think of no one more uniquely qualified and prepared to lead the Department of Interior and advice the President, particularly during a crisis that has disproportionately impacted and harmed Native communities.”
“Deb has spent her career fighting for economic, social and environmental justice. In Congress she has been a champion for our environment and a leader in the fight against climate change”
Leading America’s Greener Future:
The Department of the Interior presides over almost 20% of land in the U.S. This includes 422 national parks and 75 million acres of wilderness. The incoming leadership of Deb Haaland is particularly significant as the Department provides education, social and economic services to 1.9 million Native Americans.
Ms. Haaland has already promised to re-think the Interior Department’s allegiance to fossil fuel companies. This is a partnership that has often led to the degradation of indigenous lands. Hailing from a state that is heavily reliant on the oil and gas industry, she expressed that she understands the complexity of the issue but is keen to move towards a greener economy.
This is a pledge mirrored by President-elect Joe Biden, who has stated his commitment to ending all new oil and gas drilling projects on public land.
The Biden cabinet line-up is shaping up to be one of firsts. Choosing Haaland as his latest nomination secures environmental protection at the top of the policy agenda. Crucially, it sends a message of solidarity to the people whose descendants first lived on American land.