Indian Country was celebrating Monday night after the U.S. Senate voted 51-to-40 to confirm Rep. Deb Haaland as secretary of the Department of Interior. She is the first Native American to lead the agency and the first to serve in a cabinet position.
The New Mexico Democrat from Laguna Pueblo now manages about 60,000 employees that are charged with overseeing million of acres of federal lands. The department is also responsible for upholding the federal trust and treaty responsibilities for 574 Tribal Nations and 5.2 million Native Americans.
“The impact of Native American representation at the top of a federal agency that so directly affects our daily lives cannot be overstated,” National Congress of American Indians president Fawn Sharp said in a statement. “The relationship between Tribal Nations and the federal government has been fractured for far too long. Having an ally like Secretary Haaland who is not only deeply qualified but is from our communities has the potential to transform the government-to-government relationship and will be vital in advancing Native American issues for generations.”
Haaland released a short statement Monday night after the Senate vote.
“Thank you to the U.S. Senate for your confirmation vote today. As Secretary of [the] U.S. Department of the Interior, I look forward to collaborating with all of you. I am ready to serve. #BeFierce,” the statement read.
For more on Haaland’s historic rise to lead the Department of Interior, see the March 31 issue of the Seminole Tribune.