Biden Taps Deb Haaland to Be the First Native American Interior Secretary

Chelsey Sanchez
·2-min read
Photo credit: Tom Williams - Getty Images
Photo credit: Tom Williams - Getty Images

From Harper's BAZAAR

New Mexico representative Deb Haaland made history yesterday after President-elect Joe Biden nominated her to serve as interior secretary, a position that oversees the management and conservation of federal lands and natural resources, as well as agencies like the Bureau of Indian Affairs. If confirmed, Haaland will be the first Native American to lead the Department of the Interior in this role.

The history-making selection is a delivery from the centuries' worth of Indigenous organizing and lobbying from environmental groups and progressive lawmakers.

"A voice like mine has never been a Cabinet secretary or at the head of the Department of Interior," tweeted Haaland, who is a member of Pueblo of Laguna. "Growing up in my mother's Pueblo household made me fierce. I'll be fierce for all of us, our planet, and all of our protected land. I am honored and ready to serve."

In a statement, Biden—who also tapped former Michigan governor Jennifer Granholm for secretary of energy and North Carolina environmental official Michael Regan for Environmental Protection Agency administrator—praised the nominees as trailblazers prepared to tackle the existential threat of climate change.

"They share my belief that we have no time to waste to confront the climate crisis, protect our air and drinking water, and deliver justice to communities that have long shouldered the burdens of environmental harms," he said. "Together, on behalf of all Americans, they will meet this moment with the urgency it demands—and seize the opportunity to build back better with good-paying union jobs, climate-resilient infrastructure, and a clean energy future that benefits every single community.”

Haaland is a backer of the Green New Deal, a package of proposed policies that seeks to curb reliance on fossil fuels while creating jobs in the clean-energy industry.

The Sunrise Movement, a coalition of young environmental activists who have rallied behind the Green New Deal, praised Haaland's interior secretary nomination. "Indigenous people have been pushed to the side throughout America's history, and while Deb Haaland's appointment as Secretary of the Interior cannot undo that damage, it is a massive step towards halting and reversing that trend," the organization wrote on Twitter.

The Indigenous Environmental Network also lauded Biden's pick. "Representative Haaland will help facilitate the Biden/Harris vision for dealing with climate change," the organization wrote in a statement, "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."

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