Haaland (D-New Mexico) is an enrolled citizen of the Pueblo of Laguna and serves on the House Natural Resources Committee. Haaland can remain in her House seat until her confirmation as Secretary of the Interior by the U.S. Senate is complete.
In its 171-year-old history, the U.S. Department of the Interior has never had a Native American at its helm. That’s about to change — if Rep. Deb Haaland (D-New Mexico) is confirmed as Secretary of the Interior. President-elect Joe Biden has selected Haaland to head the cabinet-level department, according to the Washington Post.
She is slated to become the first Native American to serve as Interior Secretary.
“It means a lot to a group of people who have been here since time immemorial to know that they’re truly being represented,” Haaland previously told NPR when news began to circulate that she would be nominated for the position. “I think it would really change the way people see our federal government.”
The role would entail her oversight of departments including the Bureau of Indian Affairs and the Bureau of Indian Education, while empowering her ability to hold the government responsible for its federal trust responsibilities to the 574 federally recognized Tribes in the United States.
Tribal leaders across Indian Country have been lobbying hard for Haaland’s appointment to the post. Meanwhile, she has received some bipartisan support, including from her Republican colleagues Reps. Tom Cole and Don Young. Haaland’s selection requires U.S. Senate confirmation.
The Interior Department, which employs 70,000 people, protects the country’s natural resources entailing 500 million acres of public lands and waters, including national parks, oil and gas drilling sites, and endangered species habitat. Thus Interior will play a significant role in implementing Biden’s energy and climate agenda. Pivotal to his campaign platform was advancing renewable energy development, and barring drilling in Alaska’s Arctic National Wildlife.
“It would be an honor to move the Biden-Harris climate agenda forward, help repair the government to government relationship with Tribes that the Trump Administration has ruined, and serve as the first Native American cabinet secretary in our nation’s history,” Haaland said in a statement.