By SCOTT MCKIE B.P.
ONE FEATHER STAFF
A member of the Laguna Pueblo, Congresswoman Deb Haaland (D-N.M.) has been nominated, according to sources, by President-elect Joe Biden to head the Department of the Interior. If she is consequently confirmed by the U.S. Senate, she will be the first Native American in history to hold a cabinet level position.
Although not officially announced by Biden as of the afternoon of Thursday, Dec. 17, the news broke in the Washington Post first and then spread quickly.
The Department of the Interior, created on March 3, 1849, manages most of the public lands and resources of the United States and includes such agencies as the National Park Service, Bureau of Indian Affairs, Bureau of Land Management, U.S. Geological Survey, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, and others.
Congressman Raul Grijalva (D-Ariz.), chairman of the House Natural Resources Committee, said in a statement, “It’s a mystical opportunity for this agency to do something historic. The agency that was set up eons ago, Interior, to basically disenfranchise and colonize Indigenous America, for Deb to be Secretary America will have its first Indigenous person in a cabinet, but more historic, in Interior, in the agency that was set up for that purpose. Maybe I’m naive, but there are certain political scripts that are almost written for you.”
A day before the nomination was announced, Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), House Speaker, released the following statement, “Congresswoman Haaland knows the territory, and if she is the President-elect’s choice for Interior Secretary, then he will have made an excellent choice.”
Rep. Haaland, along with Congressman Sharice Davids (D-Kansas), was one of the first two Native American women elected to the U.S. House of Representatives in 2018. She was recently re-elected to her seat. Rep. Haaland is the co-chair for the Native American Caucus and is a member of the House Subcommittee for Indigenous Peoples of the United States.
She said in a video the night of her re-election in November, “The fight to protect our Earth and climate change, the recognition that every American has a right to health care, the need to confront racial injustice, the call to provide a good education for all of our children, and the duty to help foster an economy that creates opportunity for every single American to achieve success is real, and I am listening.”
Gussie Lord, managing attorney for Earthjustice’s Tribal Partnerships Program and a member of the Oneida Nation of Wisconsin, said, “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. We wholeheartedly endorse this nomination and believe that her leadership will result in policies that are protective of this nation’s natural and cultural heritage.”