- By Native News Online Staff
WASHINGTON — Since the 2020 presidential election was declared for Joe Biden, support has grown for the president-elect to nominate Rep. Deb Haaland (D-N.M. )to become secretary of the Department of the Interior. Haaland is a tribal citizen of the Pueblo of Laguna in New Mexico.
Last week, 120 tribal leaders sent a letter to the president-elect calling for the incoming administration to select Haaland for the position. According to The Hill, Haaland is being vetted for the post.
Haaland, along with Rep. Sharice Davids (D-KS) who is a citizen of the Ho-Chunk Nation in Wis., made history in 2018 when they were the first two Native American women ever elected to Congress. Both won reelection earlier this month.
If Haaland becomes Interior secretary she will make history again. She would be the first Native American to ever serve in a presidential cabinet position.
The U.S. Department of the Interior would be a nice fit for Haaland. Among federal departments, the Interior is the most engaged with Indian Country because it is home to the Bureau of Indian Affairs, Bureau of Indian Education, Office of Special Trustee, and Bureau of Land Management.
"Climate change is the challenge of our lifetime — it impacts public health, the economy and racial justice. The Department of the Interior has a huge role to play in tackling that challenge, and in preserving and protecting our public lands in New Mexico and around the country. If selected, I would be honored to serve and support the Biden-Harris climate agenda, as well as help repair the government to government relationship with tribes that the Trump Administration has ruined as the first Native American cabinet secretary in our nation's history," Haaland said in an email to Native News Online on Wednesday.
Rep. Davids voiced her support on Wednesday for Haaland’s nomination to the position.
“Representative Deb Haaland has been a warrior for Native peoples for decades and profoundly understands the consequences of federal administration on tribal communities,” Davids said in a press release from her office.
“Her historic nomination and her deep respect and understanding for the fundamental principles that any Department of the Interior secretary must abide by would be an invaluable asset in this position. I have only the highest trust and regard for Rep. Haaland’s integrity and her work, and there is no one more highly qualified and prepared to lead the Department of the Interior during a crisis that has disproportionately impacted and harmed Native communities,” Davids continued.
Davids voiced her support in a letter to the Biden-Harris transition team. The letter said, in part:
“As you know, this would be an historic appointment. There has never been a Native member of the president’s cabinet, despite the federal government’s unique relationship with and trust responsibility to tribal members. It is always essential that the Department of the Interior is led by an individual with a deep and profound understanding of the federal trust responsibility and of the inviolability of treaty rights and obligations. In the last four years, we have seen the dangers of leadership by those who do not meet these qualifications – those who advocate for the dissolution of a reservation for the first time since the termination era, who side with state governments against the recognition and honoring of treaty rights, and who fail to adequately consult with and meet the needs of tribal governments during the greatest public health crisis in a century. The importance of this cabinet position to Indian Country cannot be overstated.”
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