Haaland confirmed as first Native secretary of Interior
The U.S. Senate voted 51-40 today to confirm Rep. Deb Haaland, D-N.M., as President Joe Biden’s secretary for the Department of the Interior, making the second-term Democrat the first Native American Cabinet secretary in U.S. history.
Indian Country erupted in celebration at about 4:30 p.m. as news spread about Haaland’s confirmation.
President Jonathan Nez said, “This is an unprecedented and monumental day for all first people of this country. Words cannot express how overjoyed and proud we are to see one of our own confirmed to serve in this high-level position.”
“Today’s historic confirmation sets us on a better path to righting the wrongs of the past with the federal government and inspires hope in our people, especially our young people,” Nez said.
Ray Halbritter, Oneida Nation representative, said, “This moment marks a historical and significant triumph for Native people and Native children in particular. Deb Halaand’s confirmation is an inspiration for current and future generations of Native people who will now see a Native person represented at the highest level of U.S. government.”
Chris James, president and CEO of the National Center for American Indian Enterprise Development, said, “Native Americans nationwide can celebrate this confirmation as a defining moment for Native representation in the United States. With a long history of advocating on behalf of Native communities and other groups historically left out of the political conversation, we know that Secretary Haaland will be a strong advocate for America’s first peoples.”
Members of Congress were also high-fiving one another.
The Democratic National Committee’s Native American Caucus said, “Debra Haaland’s confirmation as our next interior secretary is historic, groundbreaking, and sets a new standard for American government. We are elated to have a highly qualified Native citizen serve in the Biden-Harris Cabinet. Thanks to the voters, organizers, and all those who got involved, we celebrate this day and look toward the future with great optimism.”
U.S. Senator Brian Schatz, D-Hawai‘i, chairman of the Senate Committee on Indian Affairs, said, “Her leadership on public lands and waters, natural resources management, and climate action as well as her deep connections to Native communities will benefit all Americans. It’s clear Secretary Haaland shares my commitment to consultation with Native leaders to address the real challenges facing Native communities across the country.”
New Mexco Sen. Martin Heinrich said, “This is a proud day for New Mexico. I voted to confirm Congresswoman Haaland to lead the U.S. Department of Interior because I know she will do an excellent job protecting our natural heritage for future generations.
“She will be a true partner for Western states like New Mexico as we diversify our economy,” he said, “invest in our communities, and remain a global leader in producing and exporting energy.”
Haaland, an enrolled member of the Laguna Pueblo, earned bipartisan support to run the Interior department, which has a staff of 70,000 employees and is charged with overseeing the country’s natural resources. The agency manages nearly 500 million acres of land.