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NM's Haaland First Native American Nominated as U.S. Cabinet Secretary

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More than 130 tribal leaders in New Mexico wrote letters to President-elect Joe Biden supporting the selection of U.S. Rep. Deb Haaland, D-New Mexico, to lead the Department of the Interior. (npr.org)
More than 130 tribal leaders in New Mexico wrote letters to President-elect Joe Biden supporting the selection of U.S. Rep. Deb Haaland, D-New Mexico, to lead the Department of the Interior. (npr.org)
December 18, 2020

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. - In what would be an historic selection, President-elect Joe Biden has nominated New Mexico Rep. Deb Haaland, D-Albuquerque, to serve as U.S. Interior Secretary. If confirmed by the Senate, Haaland would be the first Native American Cabinet secretary.

Gussie Lord is a managing attorney of tribal partnerships for the environmental law firm Earthjustice, and said she believes Haaland - as a representative of the nation's Indigenous peoples - is the right person for the job.

"Native women hold a lot of leadership positions in tribal communities, in tribal government, in tribal businesses," said Lord. "And it's really gratifying to see this leadership, that's been apparent for so long in Indian Country, be reflected in national the leadership."

Haaland has championed the environment and public lands during her tenure in Congress.

The Interior Department manages the country's national parks and about 450 million acres of public lands. It also oversees wildlife and conservation efforts, and upholds federal trust responsibilities to Indigenous communities.

Biden has proposed an ambitious agenda that would address climate change and help reverse policies under the Trump administration that have further opened public lands to the fossil-fuel industry. Jayson O'Neill, director of the Western Values Project, said Haaland is steeped in Western issues and would be a good choice to put "public" back in public lands.

"But also has the perspective and understanding not only of the West, but also of the first people in America and how that relationship works with our Native American tribes," said O'Neill. "It is going to be so refreshing, and such a contrast."

Haaland made history in 2018 when she was elected as one of the first two female Native Americans in Congress. She represents New Mexico's 1st Congressional District, which covers most of Albuquerque.

Roz Brown, Public News Service - NM