By SCOTT MCKIE B.P.
ONE FEATHER STAFF
Indian Country was a flutter on the afternoon of Thursday, Dec. 17 with the news that President-elect Joe Biden was nominating Congresswoman Deb Haaland (D-N.M.) as Secretary of the Dept. of the Interior.
Rep. Haaland, a member of the Laguna Pueblo, tweeted her reaction on Dec. 17 stating, “A voice like mine has never been a Cabinet secretary or at the head of the Department of Interior. Growing up in my mother’s Pueblo household made me fierce. I’ll be fierce for all of us, our planet, and all of our protected land. I am honored and ready to serve.”
The Department of the Interior, created on March 3, 1849, manages most of the public lands and resources of the United States and includes such agencies as the National Park Service, Bureau of Indian Affairs, Bureau of Land Management, U.S. Geological Survey, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, and others.
Rep. Haaland, along with Congressman Sharice Davids (D-Kansas), was one of the first two Native American women elected to the U.S. House of Representatives in 2018. She was recently re-elected to her seat. Rep. Haaland is the co-chair for the Native American Caucus and is a member of the House Subcommittee for Indigenous Peoples of the United States.
Following are statements from some of the leading Native American organizations in the country regarding Rep. Haaland’s nomination:
“During NCAI’s most recent Annual Convention, our membership adopted a resolution calling for the appointment of a Native American to the position of Secretary of the Interior. Today, all of Indian Country celebrates an incredible and historic milestone. The centuries of invisibility of American Indian and Alaska Native people are fading as our best and brightest emerge into prominent positions of leadership. Like all Native people, Representative Haaland possesses a centuries-old tie and reverence for the beautiful and sacred landscape of this country that was gifted to our ancestors when time began. She will no doubt work hard every day to ensure federal lands continue to be managed in a way that ensures many more generations to come will experience and know America’s beauty and timeless legacy.”
– Fawn Sharp, president of the National Congress of American Indians (NCAI)
“USET SPF has had the pleasure of working closely with Congresswoman Haaland on numerous initiatives during her service in the U.S. Congress. Time and again, she has proven to be a passionate and committed advocate for Tribal Nations and the delivery of sacred trust obligations. We have no doubt that she will bring this same dedication to her role as Secretary. As a Native woman, she carries an innate understanding of our history, experiences, and challenges. This will allow her to serve in a manner that truly upholds, promotes, and advances Tribal sovereignty, self-governance, and self-determination. On behalf of the USET SPF family, we congratulate her on this historic nomination and extend our appreciation to President-Elect Biden for delivering upon his promise to appoint a Native person to a Cabinet that reflects the diversity of our country.”
– Chief Kirk Francis, president of United South and Eastern Tribes (USET) Sovereignty Protection Fund (SPF)
“Representative Deb Haaland is a fantastic choice to lead the Department of Interior and the many agencies it oversees. If confirmed, Rep. Haaland will bring a unique perspective and tireless leadership to a Department that plays a vital role in Indian Country, including its economy. Her experience as an advocate, small business owner, Native leader, and Member of Congress will be a positive for Interior’s 70,000 employees and the millions of Americans who benefit from the services the Department provides. Though it took far too long for a Native American to lead a federal Cabinet-level agency, Rep. Haaland is a more than worthy ‘first’.”
– National Center for American Indian Enterprise Development
“This is an opportunity to reset the relationship the US government has with Native peoples. The Department of Interior has long served as a vehicle for systematic oppression and paternalism over Native peoples. Under Congresswoman Deb Haaland’s leadership, a new chapter can now begin. Our Native children will now live in a world where they understand not only are they valued and loved, but that they can be leaders in the highest levels of government. She is a remarkable leader grounded in community and has deep experience working with communities of color, and being a public advocate for public lands. We can’t underestimate the value and importance of Native leadership being seen, valued, and seen.”
– IllumiNative, a Native American advocacy group
“It is truly a historic and unprecedented day for all Indigenous people as Congresswoman Deb Haaland has been selected to head one of the largest federal agencies, which oversees the BIA and BIE, at the highest level of the federal government. I congratulate her and I also thank the Biden-Harris team for making a statement and keeping their word to place Native Americans in high-level cabinet positions.”
– Navajo Nation President Jonathan Nez