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Madam Secretary Deb Haaland (Pueblo of Laguna) took the oath of office to become the 54th Secretary of the Department of the Interior Tuesday night in a small ceremony with family, according to department spokesperson Tyler Cherry. The oath was administered by Chief of Staff Jennifer Van der Heide.

Today marks her initial day serving as the first Native American to head a federal department. 

The former New Mexico Representative resigned from her Congressional seat Tuesday, and delivered an emotional farewell address on the House floor. She was confirmed by the U.S. Senate on Monday evening by a 51-40 vote.

“Growing up, Native women rarely held federal lead positions and now, little girls everywhere will know that they can run for Congress and win, and that this country holds promise for everyone,” she said in her address. “In fact, it's the unique experience and struggles that make good leaders, and why I became an organizer in the first place.”

Haaland said the fact that she survived on food stamps, has overcome addiction, and has lived experience as an Indigenous woman makes her qualified to advocate for struggling families, and hold the United States government responsible to its trust responsibilities. 

“At my confirmation hearing, I said that we all have a stake in the future of our country,” she said. “No matter your political party or Zip code, your ancestral heritage or income level, we all must take the formidable challenges that lie ahead seriously, and we will take them head-on, together.”

A ceremonial swear-in ceremony administered by Vice President Kamala Harris will be live-streamed Thursday, according to Haaland’s daughter Somáh’s announcement on Instagram. 

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About The Author
Jenna Kunze
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Staff Writer
Jenna Kunze is a reporter for Native News Online and Tribal Business News. Her bylines have appeared in The Arctic Sounder, High Country News, Indian Country Today, Smithsonian Magazine and Anchorage Daily News. In 2020, she was one of 16 U.S. journalists selected by the Pulitzer Center to report on the effects of climate change in the Alaskan Arctic region. Prior to that, she served as lead reporter at the Chilkat Valley News in Haines, Alaska. Kunze is based in New York.