Posted by Cole Bauman.
On March 15, 2021, the United States Senate voted to confirm Debra Haaland, a 35th generation New Mexican and enrolled citizen of the Pueblo of Laguna, as the 54th United States Secretary of the Interior.
The vote concluded with 51 Senators “for” and 40 “against” with support not only from Democratic Senators, but also from Republican Senators Susan Collins, Lisa Murkowski, Dan Sullivan and Lindsey Graham.
Secretary Haaland is the first Native American to serve as Secretary of the Interior, an institution formed 172 years ago in 1849. Her confirmation is further remarkable in that Secretary Haaland serves now as the first Native American Cabinet secretary in the history of the United States.
Where once there had never been a representative of Indian country, now stands Crushed Turquoise in a position to serve all Americans.
*“Crushed Turquoise” – Congresswoman Deb Haaland Captured in Wet Plate Collodion by Shane Balkowitsch. Secretary Haaland has explained that “Crushed Turquoise” is her traditional name translated from the Keres language.
During her tenure, Secretary Haaland will be asked to pave a difficult path. When she served in the House of Representatives, then-Representative Haaland was recognized as a progressive force. In early 2020, she sponsored H.Res. 835, a bill that, were it to have become law, would have set the country on a path to protecting and conserving 30% of its land and 30% of its oceans by 2030. As a member of President Biden’s Cabinet, though, Secretary Haaland has committed to find ways to work cooperatively with all members of Congress to balance America’s energy interests, including fossil fuels.
However difficult the road ahead may be in overseeing this country’s public lands, natural resources, and various bureaus within the Department of the Interior, including the Bureau of Indian Affairs and the Bureau of Indian Education, Secretary Haaland will bring a new perspective and new solutions. During her first day on the job, Secretary Haaland explained:
we must engage tribal nations with an all-of-agency approach because for far too long, Indian issues were relegated to just the Indian Affairs bureaus. If we’re going to make sure that tribal communities thrive, that tribal sovereignty is respected and strengthened, and if we are truly to repair our nation-to nation-relationships, then that means every bureau and every office needs to be thinking about our obligations to Indian tribes across the country
Secretary Haaland’s historic confirmation has changed the landscape of the Department of the Interior, and she has “hit the ground running” in her new role. We congratulate Secretary Haaland on her confirmation!