WASHINGTON   Thursday’s announcement that President-elect Joe Biden has picked Rep. Deb Haaland (D-NM) to be the next secretary of the U.S. Department of the Interior was historic because as a tribal citizen of the Pueblo of Laguna, she will be the first American Indian to serve in a presidential cabinet.

The announcement drew praise and celebration across Indian Country. Several national American Indian organizations, tribal leaders and members of Congress released statements on the historic nomination.

Here are some of statements received by Native News Online on Thursday:

Rep. Sharice Davids (D-KS)

I want to congratulate my friend and sister Deb Haaland on her well-deserved and historic nomination for Secretary of the Interior. For the first time in our nation’s history, a Native person will oversee an agency tasked with protecting our federal lands, including the millions of acres of Tribal land, and upholding the federal government’s trust responsibilities to Tribes. I can think of no one more uniquely qualified and prepared to lead the Department of Interior and advise the President, particularly during a crisis that has disproportionately impacted and harmed Native communities.

Deb has spent her career fighting for economic, social, and environmental justice. In Congress she has been a champion for our environment and a leader in the fight against climate change, experience that will serve our country well as we work to undo the destructive policies of the Trump Administration. She has been a fierce advocate and organizer in Indian Country for decades, maintaining a deep understanding of both the realities and challenges that Native communities face as well as the hope and potential they contain with improved federal resources, true consultation, and respect for tribal sovereignty.

With this choice, President-Elect Joe Biden has re-affirmed his commitment to protecting our climate and natural resources, to standing with and listening to Indian Country, and to creating a Cabinet that truly reflects the diversity of our country. While I’ll miss serving alongside Deb in the House, I’m very much looking forward to working with her at the Department of the Interior.

Sally Jewell, Former Interior Secretary

“Congrats @RepDebHaaland on @JoeBiden nomination for Sec of Interior-1st Native American in the role! Thx also to @SenatorTomUdall & fmr Dep Sec Michael Connor for being willing to serve. I look fed to helping the new Sec & @Interior thrive, shaping a sustainable future for all!” 

Ken Salazar, Former Interior Secretary and U.S. Senator

“Once again, President-elect Biden has made an historic choice in selecting the first Native American to serve as Secretary of Interior. For far too long the Nation’s First Americans have been left out. President-elect Biden has corrected that as he creates the most diverse and inclusive Cabinet in history. Great choice!” 

U.S. Sen. Tom Udall (D-NM), Vice Chairman, Senate Committee of the Indian Affairs

"I congratulate my friend Deb Haaland on this momentous and well-earned nomination to serve as the next Secretary of the Interior. President-Elect Biden has chosen an outstanding leader in Congresswoman Haaland, and I am confident that she will be both a historic Interior Secretary and an excellent one. She will undo the damage of the Trump administration, restore the department’s workforce and expertise, uphold our obligations to Native communities, and take the bold action needed to tackle the accelerating climate and nature crises.

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. 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. This is a watershed moment for Native communities, and for our nation.

In addition to calling Deb a good friend, I’m proud to have worked closely with Congresswoman Haaland — as co-leaders of the 30x30 Resolution to Save Nature in Congress and the ANTIQUITIES Act — and I look forward to continuing our shared work to protect 30 percent of our lands and waters by 2030 and safeguard America’s national treasures. Together, we can take on the climate and nature crises, jumpstart our economy through renewable energy and land restoration, and pursue greater environmental justice. I will do everything I can to support Deb Haaland and the Biden-Harris administration in the years to come to ensure that the Department of Interior delivers progress for Tribes, the West, and the entire nation."

U.S. Senator Martin Heinrich (D-NM)

"I am pleased that President-Elect Biden will nominate fellow New Mexican Congresswoman Deb Haaland to serve as his Interior Secretary. I have no doubt that Congresswoman Haaland's experience and leadership will help us restore our nation-to-nation relationship to Indian Country, and recommit to protecting wildlife, landscapes, and watersheds.

I will sleep better at night knowing that the strong relationship I have with Congresswoman Haaland and our shared vision for public land management and trust obligations to our First Nations will allow us to undo the damage caused by the Trump administration and accomplish so much for New Mexico and the entire country. Given the desire of Americans for outdoor recreation, environmental justice, climate solutions, preservation of wildlife, clean water and rural economic development, I'm optimistic she will reorient the Department of the Interior towards those forward-thinking objectives.

I am confident Congresswoman Haaland will use the best science to restore our landscapes, open up new outdoor recreation opportunities for everyone, put our public lands to work in confronting the climate crisis, and help Indian Country recover and rebuild from the Covid-19 pandemic. I am eager to support her confirmation so she can get to work protecting our natural heritage for future generations."

National Congress of American Indians (NCAI)

"President-elect Joe Biden announced that United States Congresswoman Deb Haaland (D-NM), an enrolled member of the Pueblo of Laguna, is his nominee for Secretary of the United States Department of the Interior. During her service in Congress, Representative Haaland has been a steadfast advocate for Indian Country and has advanced critical legislation on key issues, including tribal water infrastructure, climate resiliency, job growth, and broadband deployment.

'During NCAI’s most recent Annual Convention, our membership adopted PDX-20-059, a resolution calling for the appointment of a Native American to the position of Secretary of the Interior. Today, all of Indian Country celebrates an incredible and historic milestone,' NCAI President Fawn Sharp said. 'The centuries of invisibility of American Indian and Alaska Native people are fading as our best and brightest emerge into prominent positions of leadership. Like all Native people, Representative Haaland possesses a centuries-old tie and reverence for the beautiful and sacred landscape of this country that was gifted to our ancestors when time began. She will no doubt work hard every day to ensure federal lands continue to be managed in a way that ensures many more generations to come will experience and know America’s beauty and timeless legacy.'

NCAI congratulates Congresswoman Haaland on her nomination and applauds President-elect Joe Biden for appointing the first Native American woman to serve in a Cabinet-level position. We celebrate with Indian Country on this momentous step forward, and we are confident that Congresswoman Haaland will carry out the federal government’s treaty and trust responsibilities to tribal nations in a manner that meets the most pressing priorities in Indian Country. We look forward to working with the Department of the Interior to support meaningful government-to-government engagement with tribal nations on advancing Indian Country’s needs."

All Pueblo Council of Governors

"The All Pueblo Council of Governors (APCG) joins Tribal Nations and organizations from across the country in celebrating Congresswoman Debra Haaland’s selection this afternoon as Secretary of the Interior by President-elect Joe Biden.

'The appointment of Deb Haaland, a Pueblo woman with impressive credentials and deep community roots, is long-overdue and incredibly emotional for Pueblo people,' said APCG Chairman Wilfred Herrera Jr., 'As the leaders of the 20 sovereign Pueblo Nations we respectfully call upon every member of the Senate to confirm Secretary-designate Haaland and usher in a new era in our country’s nation-to-nation relationship with Indigenous people.'

Last month, the APCG voted to join Tribal Nations throughout the country in supporting Congresswoman Haaland’s appointment to lead a department that was established 150 years ago with one of its responsibilities to maintain the federal government’s trust obligations to tribal nations. As the first Native American to be appointed as a cabinet secretary in the history of our nation, her appointment demonstrates the incoming administration’s commitment to the “Biden-Harris plan for Tribal Nations” and will ensure that the voices of tribal nations are rightfully considered at the highest levels of government.

'Our Pueblo Nations are extremely appreciative and grateful for Congresswoman Haaland’s service and leadership during her time in Congress,' APCG Secretary David Toledo said.  'We believe that the State of New Mexico and Congressional District 1 would best be served by ensuring that another strong Native American is elected to take Congresswoman Haaland’s seat.'"

New Mexico Indian Affairs Department (IAD)

"'We celebrate President-elect Biden’s selection of Congresswoman Haaland as the first Native American cabinet secretary for the United States Interior Department,' said Lynn Trujillo, Indian Affairs Secretary. 'Congresswoman Haaland has been a shining example of public service in the United States Congress and will no doubt be a true champion for Indian Country as Interior Secretary. It is with a full heart that I congratulate Congresswoman Haaland on this tremendous accomplishment. Young native women and girls have a new role model today as we see a strong, indigenous woman take on this responsibility.'

'Congratulations to Congresswoman Debra Haaland for being appointed to serve as the first Native American Secretary for the U.S. Department of Interior. This is a historic moment for all Native Americans,' said Nadine Padilla, Indian Affairs Deputy Secretary. “'Congresswoman Haaland exemplifies what it means to be a public servant, this new appointment is remarkable: her track record and depth of experience make her the ideal candidate. I look forward to continuing to work with Congresswoman Haaland as she moves into her new role.'"

Midwest Alliance of Sovereign Tribes (MAST) 

"'We fully support Rep. Haaland’s appointment that will help turn the page to a new chapter in re-aligning the relationship between the federal government and the nation’s 574 federally recognized Indian tribes,' said Aaron Payment, Chairperson of Sault Ste. Marie Tribe of Chippewa Indians in Michigan, and President of MAST. 'In upholding the department’s trust and treaty responsibilities, we look forward to continued collaboration and consultations on policies that continue to impact our people and our communities.'

Chief Executive Melanie Benjamin of the Mille lacs band of Ojibwe and Treasurer of MAST states 'As a female leader of a tribal nation I want to extend a heartfelt congratulations to Congresswoman Deb Haaland on her historic nomination to serve as the next Secretary of the Interior.  I also want to thank President – elect Joe Biden for being a man of his word as he works to ensure his cabinet reflects the diversity of our great nation.  For the first time in our nation’s history, Native Americans can look upon their federal government and see a cabinet leader who has walked in our shoes and who understands how her decisions will impact our daily lives.  I have no doubt Deb Haaland will do an outstanding job for Indian Country and for all of America.'

A member of the Laguna Pueblo of New Mexico, Haaland will be the first Native American in the department’s history to lead Interior, which oversees 500 million acres of public lands, including tribal lands, as well as the country’s public lands, vast natural resources and conservation efforts."

The Indigenous Environmental Network

"The Indigenous Environmental Network enthusiastically supports President-elect Biden’s nomination of Representative Debra Haaland to the cabinet position of Secretary of the Department of the Interior. 

Representative Haaland will help facilitate the Biden/Harris vision for dealing with climate change, addressing the COVID-19 pandemic in Indian Country, ensuring an effective economic just recovery plan for Indian Tribes, Alaskan Natives and Native Hawaiians and communities, overseeing the protection of public lands, and fulfilling all treaty and statutory obligations."

Coalition to Protect America’s National Parks

"Representative Deb Haaland is exactly the type of national parks and public lands champion we need at the helm of Interior. Her nomination to be Secretary of the Interior is historic, as she would be the first Indigenous person to serve in that position.

Representative Haaland is a public lands champion with experience protecting and managing America’s most majestic landmarks. As a member of the National Resources Committee and its National Parks, Forests, and Public Lands subcommittee, she has been at the forefront crafting thoughtful solutions to combating the climate crisis that continues to impact our national parks."

Navajo Nation, President Jonathan Nez

"It is truly a historic and unprecedented day for all Indigenous people as Congresswoman Deb Haaland has been selected to head one of the largest federal agencies, which oversees the BIA and BIE, at the highest level of the federal government. 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. I am looking forward to continuing to work with Congresswoman Haaland and the Biden-Harris Administration in the years to come.

As a member of Congress, she has been a strong voice for all tribal nations and the people of New Mexico on a wide variety of issues including land management, clean energy, economic development, social justice, and job creation. Her advocacy for equality and justice has never wavered and continues to grow stronger. Her ability to weigh the issues from social, economic, and political standpoints is unique and something that is not easily found.

We need a person like Congresswoman Haaland to lead the Department of the Interior to build a stronger relationship between the federal government and tribal nations.

The appointment of Deb Haaland is not only be historic, but it also sends a clear message to all tribes and people across America that the Biden-Harris Administration is committed to addressing the wrongs of the past and clearing a path for real change and opportunity for tribal nations."

24th Navajo Nation Council – Speaker Seth Damon

"The Navajo Nation congratulates Rep. Deb Haaland on being asked to serve as the first Native American Secretary of United States Department of the Interior. The consideration, and hopeful confirmation, of Rep. Haaland to this role is a sign of change and hope that tribal nations will be represented well in Washington. Most importantly, we recognize the importance of this moment and offer our sincere appreciation to Rep. Haaland for advancing our causes during her dedicated service in Congress. The Navajo Nation Council looks forward to working with the Biden-Harris Administration to further tribal sovereignty and self-governance."

Nedra Darling, Former Public Affairs Director for the Office of the Assistant Secretary for Indian Affairs at the Department of the Interior and Co-founder of Bright Path Strong & an Executive Producer of the forthcoming feature film Bright Path

“Deb Haaland is absolutely the right strong Native woman to lead the DOI at this very difficult time.  Her Pueblo Family of 35 generations have provided their shoulders for Deb to stand on for this historic moment.  She listens, she is kind, respectful, intelligent, strategic and knowledgeable about the programs and responsibilities at DOI.  Her presence in Biden’s Cabinet will help her cut through red tape and work directly with other Agencies on important projects affecting our Nation now.  Thank you Deb for taking on this big task, know that our hearts and prayers and support are with you!” 

Aaron A. Payment, Sault Ste. Marie Tribe, Chairperson and First Vice President of the National Congress of American Indians

"I am not ashamed to say I cried when the announcement was made. The US Department of Interior and BIA started out as the Department of War. History is full of hostility and examples of paternalism in the federal administration. With a Native woman as the lead and as a Member of the President's Cabinet, a new era is within reach. Congrats to my friend Deb Haaland ~ or now, Madam Secretary."

Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians, Richard Sneed, Principal Chief

"The Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians celebrates President-elect Joe Biden’s choice to nominate Debra Haaland to serve as Secretary of the Interior. This is a breakthrough for all Native people in this country. She is the first. She is our first."

The USET Sovereignty Protection Fund (USET SPF)

"If confirmed, she will be the first Native person to lead the U.S. Department of the Interior and the first to hold a Cabinet-level position. The Department of the Interior is charged with the execution of critical parts of the trust obligation to Tribal Nations, historic preservation, and the management of a majority of federal lands. Each of its agencies has responsibilities to our governments and our people.

This is an historic moment for Indian Country and represents significant progress in the evolution of our nation-to-nation relationship with the United States. The nomination of Congresswoman Haaland sends a powerful message to Tribal Nations and Native people—one of regard, honor, affirmation, and visibility. For too long, Native experiences, perspective, understanding, and voices have been largely invisible or fundamentally misrepresented in public discourse. Too often, we are a forgotten people in our own homelands. For these reasons, and many others, the importance of this nomination cannot be overstated. As Secretary of the Interior, Congresswoman Haaland will ensure that Tribal Nations are represented at the highest levels of government, including through direct dialogue with the President and his Cabinet. In doing so, we are confident that her voice will serve to improve and strengthen our relationship with the United States.

USET SPF has had the pleasure of working closely with Congresswoman Haaland on numerous initiatives during her service in the U.S. Congress,” said USET SPF President, Chief Kirk Francis. “Time and again, she has proven to be a passionate and committed advocate for Tribal Nations and the delivery of sacred trust obligations. We have no doubt that she will bring this same dedication to her role as Secretary. As a Native woman, she carries an innate understanding of our history, experiences, and challenges. This will allow her to serve in a manner that truly upholds, promotes, and advances Tribal sovereignty, self-governance, and self-determination. On behalf of the USET SPF family, we congratulate her on this historic nomination and extend our appreciation to President-Elect Biden for delivering upon his promise to appoint a Native person to a Cabinet that reflects the diversity of our country.

Congresswoman Haaland’s unique, lived experiences and work with Tribal Nations will be critical in evolving the Department. She has both a full appreciation for our diplomatic relationship with the federal government, as well as an indigenous sensibility to the stewardship of our lands, environment, and cultural resources. This includes an appreciation for the Traditional Ecological Knowledge held by Tribal Nations. USET SPF is confident that her service will be transformative for the Department, for Indian Country, and for all Americans. We call upon the United States Senate to act swiftly to confirm her as Secretary in accordance with its responsibility to honor its obligations to Tribal Nations."

Rep. Dan Kildee (D-MI)

"Congresswoman Deb Haaland is an outstanding choice by President-elect Biden to lead the U.S. Department of the Interior. Her appointment as the first Native American to lead a Cabinet agency is historic. Congresswoman Haaland has a long record of advancing policies that focus on conserving and managing our federal lands and natural resources, both as a Member of Congress and in her previous work as the Chairwoman of the Laguna Development Corporation Board of Directors. In Congress, I have worked closely with Congresswoman Haaland to protect the sovereignty of tribal nations while pushing to address the inequities that currently exist for Indian Country. The U.S. Senate should quickly vote to confirm Congresswoman Haaland after President-elect Biden is sworn into office."

Muscogee (Creek) Nation Principal Chief David Hill

"Muscogee (Creek) Nation applauds the nomination of Congresswoman Deb Haaland to serve as the U.S. Secretary of Interior. While much work remains, this historic appointment is a joyous moment for all of Indian Country and emblematic of the distance we have travelled since our ancestors’ first steps on the Trail of Tears."

The Lakota People’s Law Project – Madonna Thunder Hawk

"Once she’s confirmed, Rep. Haaland will bring valuable experience to the executive branch as both a legislator and an Indigenous woman. A 35th-generation New Mexican and member of the Pueblo of Laguna Tribe, she’s already served in Congress on a committee overseeing the Department of the Interior. As a Native person, she’ll bring a new perspective to the position, which is responsible for the federal government’s relationship with tribal nations and has a large role in determining domestic environmental and land use policy. 

We could not have hoped for a better person to fill this role at this time. We have so much work to do to heal our nation — from COVID-19, the disastrous environmental rollbacks of the outgoing administration, and the historical disregard of Indigenous people. So, today, we celebrate a new day and a better direction for America. We heartily congratulate our friend, Congresswoman Haaland, and we look forward to working even more closely with her to win justice for the Lakota and tribal nations across the land."

Native American Agriculture Fund

"We applaud Haaland’s nomination as she is the first Native American woman to be nominated to a Cabinet level position.

As Secretary of the Interior, we know that Haaland will not only uphold the Trust Responsibility to Tribes but will help Indian Country recover stronger from the pandemic. We are looking forward to the progress Haaland will bring to the Department and our food systems resources that are currently located on America’s public lands. We are confident Haaland will work for a better future for Indian Country and serve our country in a good way as the first Native person to oversee the Department of the Interior.

Haaland’s historic nomination is a victory for Indian Country."

Hilary Tompkins, a partner in Hogan Lovells’ Energy & Natural Resources practice and a former Solicitor for the U.S. Department of the Interior (DOI)

"This is a historic day for America to have the first Native American in this important post.  Rep. Haaland will bring her wisdom, lived experiences as a Native woman, and great leadership to Interior for the betterment of our public lands and waters, the trust relationship, and wildlife protection.  

While Solicitor for the DOI, Hilary led over 300 attorneys in 16 offices nationwide and acquired significant experience in onshore and offshore energy development (conventional and renewable), the administration of federal water projects, conservation, and legal wildlife requirements, and public land law. She also oversaw litigation in support of Interior decisions, including cases before the U.S. Supreme Court, and issued landmark legal opinions. Her accomplishments include the development of legal reforms following Deepwater Horizon, the successful defense of the first renewables on public lands, and resolving complex disputes involving multi-stakeholder projects under the Endangered Species Act, the National Environmental Policy Act, the Migratory Bird Treaty Act, and the National Historic Preservation Act, among other statutes. Interior clients included the Bureau of Land Management, National Park Service, Fish and Wildlife Service, Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, and the Bureau of Reclamation."

National Organizers Alliance – Judith Le Blanc (Caddo)

"Rep. Haaland’s nomination to lead the Department of the Interior is a historic moment for tribes and the representation of Native peoples in our federal government. Her nomination validates the impact Native people had in this year’s presidential election. For the first time, we will have a person who looks like us and understands the complexities of treaties and tribal governments in the process of overseeing public lands. 

Rep. Haaland brings deep experience in natural resources and tribal sovereignty, and an understanding of our Indigenous ways of protecting our lands, waters, fish, and wildlife. Native peoples have always been stewards of this land but we have not always been in the political positions to make the key policy decisions that shape our natural resources. 

We praise President-elect Joe Biden for his decision to nominate a Native woman for a position that has tremendous impact on tribal governments and our cultures and traditions. This decision will have a lasting impact on Indian Country, and we can only hope it is the first step in reversing a long history of the federal government’s failure to uphold our treaties and a signal that the Biden administration will make good on its trust responsibilities."

Center for Native American Youth, Nikki Pitre, Executive Director

"The nomination of Representative Deb Haaland to lead the Department of Interior is historic, groundbreaking, and a proud moment for Indian Country. As a Native American woman, I know that representation and visibility matters. To be the first Native woman cabinet secretary in history will be a proud moment for our people.  

Rep. Haaland will do right by our nation's public lands, waters, wildlife and will help lead the Bureaus of Indian Affairs and Indian Education, where she will have the opportunity to right historical wrongs, chart a new path forward between the United States’ government and Indigenous communities, and will lead with passion, equity, and a penchant for justice. 

“Native youth look to her as more than a role model, but as an Aunty, because we trust her and are continually inspired by her leadership. She was recognized as an honorary Champion for Change at the Center for Native American Youth at the Aspen Institute in 2018. 

The Center for Native American Youth is incredibly excited and ready to continue to work with Rep. Haaland in this new role."

Pueblo Action Alliance Julia Bernal, Executive Director

"Congresswoman Deb Haaland has the unique perspective on how culturally important our lands are in the Southwest. Being an Indigenous womxn from Laguna Pueblo, she has advocated for the protection of our ancestral cultural landscapes from the oil and gas industry that has spiralled out of control under the Trump Administration. 

Nominating Congresswoman Haaland as the Secretary of DOI would provide the sovereign tribal nations a chance to be an integral voice when it comes to how our lands and waters are managed. 

In order for us to mitigate climate change and address other adverse environmental impacts, an Indigenous femisist perspective on resource management is the only way to shift the paradigm and protect our ancestral lands for generations of the future."

Climate Power 2020, Lori Lodes, Executive Director 

"President-Elect Joe Biden’s nomination of Congresswoman Deb Haaland to lead the Department of Interior shows his strong commitment to environmental justice and bold climate action. Her appointment is also an historic moment for our country with profound meaning. Haaland will be the first Native American to serve as Secretary of the Interior, which controls federal lands and has a history of exploiting Indigenous people and displacing Tribal communities. As Secretary of the Interior, Haaland will be on the front lines of addressing the climate crisis and protecting our land, air and water from polluters. Climate and justice champions like Congresswoman Haaland must be the standard for Cabinet leaders and political appointees in the Biden-Harris administration as they implement the bold, government-wide, and just climate plans promised during the 2020 campaign.

Haaland serves as vice-chair of the House Natural Resources Committee and led a coalition of Members of Congress to introduce an aggressive land and ocean conservation strategy. Haaland also introduced a bill to expand access to public lands. Along with Sen. Cory Booker, Haaland introduced a $100 billion plan to clean up legacy pollution that disproportionately impacts Black, Brown, and Indigenous communities. 

Her nomination would also be a historic achievement as Haaland - a member of the Laguna Pueblo people - would be the first Indigenous person to serve in the Cabinet. Honoring Tribal sovereignty and advancing climate proposals that justly work in partnership with Tribal governments must be a critical focus for the next Interior secretary after the Trump administration ignored Native communities’ rights to clean air, water, and sacred lands."

Celebrating 10 years of Native News...

We launched Native News Online back in February 2011 with the belief that everyone in Indian Country deserves equal access to news and commentary pertaining to them, their relatives and their communities. That's why the story you’ve just finished was free — and we want to keep it that way, for all readers. We hope it inspires you to celebrate our first decade with a gift of $10 or more to Native News Online so that we can continue publishing more stories that make a difference to Native people, whether they live on or off the reservation. Your donation will help us keep producing quality journalism and elevating Indigenous voices. Any contribution of any amount — big or small — gives us a better, stronger future and allows us to remain a force for change. Donate to Native News Online today and support independent Indigenous journalism. Thank you.

About The Author
Native News Online Staff
Author: Native News Online Staff