Rep. Deb Haaland
Photo: Twitter/ @DebHaalandNM
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Rep. Deb Haaland Could Be first Native American Cabinet Secretary in U.S.

President-Elect Joe Biden announced nominated New Mexico Representative Deb Haaland to serve as Secretary of the Interior in a historic move. If she’s confirmed by the Senate, she’ll be the first Native American to hold a cabinet secretary position. She’s already made history back in 2018 when she was one of the first two Indigenous women to be elected to Congress.  She currently acts as the vice-chair of the Committee on Natural Resources and chair of the Subcommittee on National Parks, Forests and Public Lands.

“A voice like mine has never been a Cabinet secretary or at the head of the Department of Interior,” Haaland tweeted Thursday. “Growing up in my mother’s Pueblo household made me fierce. I’ll be fierce for all of us, our planet, and all of our protected land. I am honored and ready to serve.”

The Democrat reelection in November in the 1st Congressional District with a platform that includes environmental justice and fighting for the rights of Indigenous people. She is an enrolled citizen of the Pueblo of Laguna and also has Jemez Pueblo heritage and identifies as a 35th generation New Mexican. Following the announcement of her nomination, she assured Americans that the department will address climate change and environmental injustice and “we will ensure that our decisions will once again be driven by science.”

Rep. Haaland sponsored a House bill providing a conservation plan to protect 30 percent of land and ocean in the U.S. by 2030, the Biden administration has adopted and made this plan a priority for his environmental agenda.  She also recently led the fight to require the Department of Interior to conduct a report on how its activities impact environmental justice communities. Her advocacy for Indigenous communities makes the role of being the head of the Department of the Interior that much more significant since the department has a history of committing injustices against Indigenous Americans and currently is the agency most responsible for their welfare.

Among the tasks the Interior handles in relation to Native communities are negotiating land buy-backs, natural resource management of land trusts, and providing education and economic services. The department is responsible for managing national parks, wildlife refuges, historic landmarks, and offshore territories of the outer continental shelf. The department upholds the federal government’s responsibilities to the country’s 574 federally recognized Indian tribes and Alaska Native villages.

“A former Secretary of the Interior once proclaimed it his goal to ‘civilize or exterminate’ Indigenous people. I’m a living testament to the failure of that horrific ideology. I’m here on the shoulders of my ancestors and all the people who have sacrificed,” she tweeted Sunday night.