This week, in a 51-40 vote, the Senate confirmed Rep. Deb Haaland as the first Native American secretary of the interior, putting her at the helm of a federal agency that oversees natural resources, public land, and tribal affairs.
“It is long past time that an American Indian serve as the secretary of the Interior,” president of the National Congress of American Indians Fawn Sharp said.
“The nation needs her leadership and vision to help lead our response to climate change, to steward our lands and cultural resources and to ensure that across the federal government, the United States lives up to its trust and treaty obligations to tribal nations and our citizens,″ she added.
Haaland formerly served as a representative from New Mexico in the U.S. House, previously making history as one of the first two Native American women elected to the House in 2018.
“Rep. Haaland’s confirmation represents a gigantic step forward in creating a government that represents the full richness and diversity of this country,″ said Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer. “Native Americans for far too long have been neglected at the Cabinet level and in so many other places.”
Haaland’s confirmation represents a new era for the Interior Department, which has been a force to oppress Indigenous tribes and people in the past.
Per the Associated Press, “Jonathan Nez, president of the Navajo Nation in Arizona, New Mexico and Utah, called Haaland’s confirmation “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.″
Her 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,″ he stated.