Even with the history of a record-number of Native Americans elected to Congress on Nov. 3, another milestone might happen soon.
President-elect Joe Biden has continued to name members of his forthcoming Cabinet. Some positions have yet to be filled, like secretary of the Department of the Interior.
Several national media outlets have reported that Rep. Deb Haaland, D-NM, is being considered for the position. If selected, she would be the first Native American to hold that or any cabinet position.
Dozens of House Democrats have endorsed her. The Indigenous Environmental Network, along with 25 other organizations, sent a letter to Biden’s transition team as well, urging him to select Haaland for the job.
Haaland, 59, is a member of the Pueblo of Laguna. She serves as the vice chair of the House Natural Resources Committee.
“First of all, it would mean a lot to Indian Country,” Haaland said recently in a National Public Radio interview when asked about the potential nomination. “When Sharice [Davids] and I got sworn in, everybody was so happy. It means a lot to a group of people who have been here since time immemorial to know that they’re truly being represented. I think [being nominated] would really change the way people see our federal government. Being able to listen, being able to move issues forward, bringing people to the table — I think that would make a huge difference.”
The Department of Interior is responsible for the management and conservation of most federal lands and natural resources. The department manages about 75% of federal public land and administers programs relating to Native Americans, Alaska Natives and Native Hawaiians.
On his campaign website, Biden pledges in his plans for tribal nations that he’d “ensure tribes have a seat at the table at the highest levels of the federal government and a voice throughout the government.”
“As historical firsts have occurred in this election, there is an opportunity for another one by nominating a qualified and dynamic Indigenous woman to head the Department of Interior,” the letter by the Indigenous Environmental Network reads. “Our belief is that 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 Tribes and communities, overseeing the protection of public lands and fulfilling all treaty and statutory obligations.”
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