Rep. Deb Haaland, Laguna
and Jemez Pueblos, is poised to be selected by President-elect
Joe Biden to lead the Department of Interior. (Photo by Haaland
Updated: Rep. Deb Haaland is poised to become the first Native
American to lead a Cabinet agency
President-elect Joe Biden, in a historic move, has chosen Rep.
Deb Haaland to lead the U.S. Interior Department. If confirmed by
the Senate, the New Mexico Democrat would be the first Native American
to serve as a Cabinet secretary.
"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 mothers Pueblo household made me fierce.
Ill be fierce for all of us, our planet, and all of our protected
land. I am honored and ready to serve."
Biden confirmed the nomination late Thursday as part of his climate
team, which also includes secretary of Energy, Environmental Protection
Agency administrator, chair of the Council on Environmental Quality
and national climate advisor.
This brilliant, tested, trailblazing team will be ready on
Day One to confront the existential threat of climate change with
a unified national response rooted in science and equity,"
the president-elect said in a statement.
|A voice like mine has never been a Cabinet secretary
or at the head of the Department of Interior.
Growing up in my mothers Pueblo household made
me fierce. Ill be fierce for all of us, our planet,
and all of our protected land.
I am honored and ready to serve.
Sources familiar with the decision on Haaland told Indian Country
Today she is considered a "barrier-breaking public servant"
and a nominee who will hit the ground running.
Haaland, who is from the Pueblos of Laguna and Jemez, became one
of the first two Native women elected to Congress in 2018.
The Interior Department is tasked with protecting the nations
natural resources and honoring the governments federal trust
responsibilities. It manages Americas vast public lands and
coastal waters while overseeing prominent departments such as the
Bureau of Indian Affairs and the Bureau of Indian Education. The
agency employs 70,000 people.
tears: Indian Country cheers Interior pick)
Haalands nomination has been backed by many Indigenous leaders,
advocates and allies for weeks.
More than 130 tribal leaders collaborated to write letters to Biden
and Vice President-elect Kamala Harris, citing Haalands bipartisan
leadership. Native organizations including NDN Collective and IllumiNative
created online campaigns, and celebrities like Mark Ruffalo have
offered support via social media.
Rep. Deb Haaland speaks
to reporters March 5 on Capitol Hill . (AP Photo/J. Scott
Many shared their elation Thursday as news of the decision spread.
The nomination of Rep. Deb Haaland a champion of the
environment and of Native people heralds a new era of conservation,
progress and healing in the Department of the Interior that is long
overdue, said Gussie Lord, a member of the Oneida Nation of
Wisconsin and managing attorney of Earthjustices Tribal Partnerships
Country Today @IndianCountry Dec
|BREAKING: Joe Biden has chosen Rep. Deb Haaland to head
the Interior Department, The Washington Post reports.
Haaland, who is from the Pueblos of Laguna and Jemez,
would make history as the first Native American to serve
as a Cabinet secretary.
Navajo Nation President Jonathan Nez called it a "truly a
historic and unprecedented day for all Indigenous people."
"I congratulate her, and I also thank the Biden-Harris team
for making a statement and keeping their word to place Native Americans
in high-level Cabinet positions," he said in a statement.
Julian Brave Noisecat, a vocal advocate who is a member of the
Canim Lake Band Tsq'escen and a descendant of the Lil'Wat Nation
of Mount Currie, highlighted Haaland's unique position, saying:
"The next Secretary of Interior will be a Laguna Pueblo woman
who went to Standing Rock in 2016 and cooked for the people."
Groups that shared their support on social media and in statements
included the National Congress of American Indians, the New Mexico
Indian Affairs Department, the Coalition to Protect Americas
National Parks and the National Native American Law Student Association.
swells for Deb Haaland Cabinet post)
Many of Haalands colleagues in Congress also had rallied
behind her. In mid-November, more than 50 House Democrats penned
a letter to the Biden transition team backing her for the post.
On Wednesday, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi joined in, saying Haaland
"knows the territory," and if Biden nominated her, "he
will have made an excellent choice."
Haaland was chosen for the post over former Deputy Interior Secretary
Michael Connor, Taos Pueblo, and two U.S. senators from New Mexico:
Tom Udall, who is retiring, and Martin Heinrich. Gov. Michelle Lujan
Grisham of New Mexico was offered the job but turned it down, according
to the Hill.
happens to Deb Haalands House seat?)
Udall issued a statement Thursday congratulating Haaland and voicing
his confidence in her leadership.
Congresswoman Haaland is fully qualified to lead the Department
of the Interior through her service in the Congress, to the
state of New Mexico and to Indian Country, and through her lived
experience," he said. "I know it will be significant and
meaningful for Native Americans, especially Native women, to see
Secretary Haaland, a member of the Pueblo of Laguna, leading the
department that is tasked with meeting many of our responsibilities
to Tribes and managing inherently Indigenous land."
Haaland has been cited saying she would accept a nomination as
Interior secretary, including in an October
interview with Indian Country Today.
I think it's nice that people are thinking about me. And
of course, if I ever had an opportunity to step up and do good work
for this district, for the state of New Mexico, for our country,
I would always be proud to do that, Haaland said.
Haaland speaks during
a Subcommittee for Indigenous Peoples hearing on destruction
at the border wall Feb. 26. (Photo courtesy of House Committee
on Natural Resources: Democrats, File)
In her first term in Congress, Haaland has held leadership positions
on a number of committees, currently serving as vice chair of the
Committee on Natural Resources and chair of the Subcommittee on
National Parks, Forests and Public Lands. She also sits on the Subcommittee
for Indigenous Peoples, the House Armed Services Committee, the
Subcommittee on Readiness, and the Subcommittee on Military Personnel.
She previously worked as head of New Mexicos Democratic Party,
as tribal administrator and as an administrator for an organization
providing services for adults with developmental disabilities.
Born to a Marine veteran father and a Navy veteran mother, Haaland
describes herself as a single mother who sometimes had to rely on
food stamps. She says she is still paying off student loans after
college and law school for herself and college for her daughter.
Biden, who has pledged to pick a diverse leadership team, said at
a Native candidate forum in January that he would nominate and appoint
people who look like the country they serve, including Native
The pick breaks a 245-year record of non-Native officials, mostly
male, serving as the very top federal official over Indian affairs
in a federal government that worked to dispossess them of their
land and, until recently, assimilate them into White culture.
It could also further deplete, at least temporarily, the narrow
majority Democrats maintain in the House. Biden has already selected
several lawmakers from the chamber, including Louisiana Rep. Cedric
Richmond and Ohio Rep. Marcia Fudge, to serve in his administration.
Interiors broad authority includes managing federal relations
with tribes, administering tens of millions of acres of land and
mineral rights held in trust for Native Americans and Alaska Natives,
running national parks and making decisions affecting millions of
miles of U.S. lands and waterways, wildlife, endangered species,
and oil and gas and mining.
Biden has promised the nation's largest effort yet to curb the oil,
gas and coal emissions that are causing the rapid deterioration of
the climate, and Interior would play an important part in that.
The president-elect has been methodically filling the posts in
his Cabinet, adding North Carolina environmental official Michael
Regan as his nominee to lead the EPA. Biden introduced former South
Bend, Indiana, mayor Pete Buttigieg earlier this week as his transportation
secretary and announced Thursday that former Michigan Gov. Jennifer
Granholm was his nominee for energy secretary.
Aliyah Chavez, Kewa Pueblo, is a reporter-producer at Indian
Country Today. Follow her on Twitter: @aliyahjchavez
or email her at email@example.com.
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The Associated Press contributed to this report. This story has
been updated with reaction.