Photo courtesy of Haaland for Congress
You have probably already heard the news that President-elect Joseph Biden has chosen New Mexico Congresswomen Deb Haaland to be the next Secretary of the Interior, overseeing, among other departments, the National Park Service, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Bureau of Land Management, and Bureau of Indian Affairs. She will be making history as the first Native American to serve in the Presidential Cabinet.
This is not the first time Haaland has made history. A member of the Pueblo of Laguana and a woman with Jemez Pueblo heritage, Haaland was the first Native American woman to be elected to lead a state party. According to her website, she traveled to Standing Rock in 2016 to support the community committed to protecting tribal sovereignty and advocating for vital natural resources during her time as state party chair. Since then, Haaland was elected as one of the first Native American women to serve in Congress in 2018.
Now with her nomination, she will get to continue her life’s work of advocacy for land protection and Indigenous peoples in a cabinet position.
“A voice like mine has never been a cabinet secretary or at the head of the Department of Interior,” Haaland stated. “I’m incredibly honored to accept President-elect Joe Biden’s nomination for Secretary of the Interior. As our country faces the impacts of climate change and environmental injustice, the Interior has a role and I will be a partner in addressing these challenges by protecting our public lands and moving our country towards a clean energy future.”
The Secretary of the Interior is a particularly important role when it comes to access to the outdoors, since the department oversees more than 450 million acres of public land, federal parks, natural resources, and more.
According to their website, “the U.S. Department of the Interior uses sound science to manage and sustain America’s lands, water, wildlife, and energy resources, honors our nation’s responsibilities to tribal nations, and advocates for America’s island communities.”
For the first time, our nation will have an Indigenous person running an agency that upholds responsibilities to the country’s 574 federally recognized Indian tribes and Alaska Native villages. After a contentious four years between the Trump administration and Indian Country, there is much to repair and Haaland couldn’t be more perfect for the role.
The DOI also needs someone who understands the importance of protection and how public lands contribute to climate solutions. Haaland has already introduced a resolution to conserve 30% of America’s lands and waters by 2030 with The Thirty by Thirty Resolution to Save Nature. This resolution is just further proof, along with her background in leadership and advocacy, that nominating Congresswoman Deb Haaland, is a hopeful step in the right direction.