President-elect Joe Biden will nominate Rep. Deb Haaland to serve as the head of the Department of the Interior. If confirmed, Haaland, a “35th-generation New Mexican,” and a member of Pueblo of Laguna, will be the first Native American cabinet secretary. She will lead the department responsible for immense suffering and hardship for the country’s Indigenous peoples. “I can’t stop crying happy tears,” Minnesota Lt. Gov. Peggy Flanagan, Anishinaabekwe, tweeted. As Interior secretary, Haaland would be charged with implementing Biden’s promise to end oil and gas leasing on public lands. She would also work to undo the damage caused by a president who venerated Andrew Jackson and stripped protections for sacred tribal sites and is rushing to allow oil drilling in Alaska’s Arctic National Wildlife Refuge where Native Alaskans hunt Caribou for food.
Background and Reception
Both of Haaland’s parents served in the military and she attended 13 public schools before graduating from high school. As a single mother who at times experienced homelessness, Haaland graduated from the University of New Mexico as a 34-year-old with the help of food stamps and student loans and earned a law degree from the same school at 45.
Haaland was one of the first two Native American women elected to Congress in 2018. She rose in national prominence when in 2016 she traveled to the Standing Rock Sioux’s reservation to join the opposition to the Dakota Access Pipeline with tortillas and green chile stew. “She brought her own cooking things and opened her trunk up, and said, ‘This is the best I can do,’ ” Jodi Archambault, a former special assistant to Barack Obama for Native American affairs and a member of the tribe, told the Washington Post. Native Americans and climate advocates were effusive in their praise for Haaland and her nomination. (New York Times $, Washington Post $, E&E $, Indian Country Today, Navajo Times, Indian Country Today, Teen Vogue, NPR, New Mexico Political Report, E&E $, NBC, Axios, Politico Pro $, HuffPost, LA Times $, Vox, The Hill, Washington Examiner)