This past Monday, the Senate approved Deb Haaland to lead the U.S. Department of Interior. This finally fulfills a pledge made during President Joe Biden’s campaign to “ensure tribes have a seat at the table at the highest levels of the federal government.”
A Democrat from New Mexico, Haaland, became the nation’s first Native American Cabinet secretary after a tally of 51 to 40.
“My life experiences give me hope for the future,” Haaland tweeted out on March 4 after the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee advanced her nomination. “If an Indigenous woman from humble beginnings can be confirmed as Secretary of the @Interior, our country and its promise still holds true for everyone.”
My life experiences give me hope for the future. If an Indigenous woman from humble beginnings can be confirmed as Secretary of the @Interior, our country and its promise still holds true for everyone.
— Deb Haaland (@DebHaalandNM) March 4, 2021
Joining the Democrats, four Republicans joined in voting for her historic confirmation. Senator Susan Collins from Maine was said to be the first to publically show support for Haaland, citing her “deep knowledge of tribal issues.” The other Republicans that showed supported Haaland were Sens. Lisa Murkowski (AK), Lindsey Graham (SC), and Dan Sullivan (AK).
Haaland, aged 60, is a member of the Pueblo of Laguna which is a federally recognized tribe in the west-central part of New Mexico, near Albuquerque. As a 35th generation resident of New Mexico, Haaland stated that “growing up in my mother’s Pueblo household made me fierce.” Haaland described her history of being a single mother living paycheck to paycheck, and relying on food stamps, before the senators during her testimony.
Haaland takes over an Interior Department that, as stated by its website, “conserves and manages America’s lands, water, wildlife, and energy resources, honors our nation’s responsibilities to tribal nations, and advocates for America’s island communities.”
Previously, she has promised to listen and work with both Democrats and Republicans, “honor the sovereignty of Tribal nations,” and “be a fierce advocate for our public lands.”
If confirmed, I will work my heart out for everyone. The ranchers and farmers who care deeply for their lands and the people of color whose stories deserve to be heard. I will honor the sovereignty of Tribal nations, and I will be a fierce advocate for our public lands.
— Deb Haaland (@DebHaalandNM) February 23, 2021
As The New York Times reported, Haaland will be the first Native American to “oversee 500 million acres of public lands, including national parks, oil and gas drilling sites, and endangered species habitat, and control the federal agencies most responsible for the well-being of the nation’s 1.9 million Indigenous people.”
President Biden has promoted Haaland as a piece of an incoming administration that would “confront the climate crisis, protect our air and water, and deliver justice to communities that have long shouldered the burdens of environmental harms.”
We have no time to waste to confront the climate crisis, protect our air and water, and deliver justice to communities that have long shouldered the burdens of environmental harms.
Together, on behalf of all Americans, this team will meet this moment with the urgency it demands. pic.twitter.com/ob58nUVIJm
— Joe Biden (@JoeBiden) December 18, 2020
Haaland has stated she hoped her nomination would inspire Americans “moving forward together as one nation and creating opportunities for all of us.”
Her mother worked for the Bureau of Indian Education for more than two decades and served in the U.S. Navy. Haaland’s father was a U.S. Marine corps Combat veteran who fought in Vietnam and is buried at Arlington National Cemetary.