Deb Haaland is the new U.S. Secretary of the Interior. Secretary Haaland was sworn into the Cabinet position after a 51-40 Senate vote, which took place on Monday, March 15. The former congresswoman’s confirmation is a historical event because she is the first Native American Cabinet lead. Haaland is a member of the federally-recognized Native American tribe New Mexico’s Laguna Pueblo, giving her personal experience for the role.
The Department of the Interior‘s purpose is to conserve and manage the country’s natural resources and cultural heritage. It provides information about natural resources and natural hazards and honors the country’s commitments to American Indians, Alaska Natives, and affiliated island communities. The department oftentimes oppressed America’s Indigenous people in the past, so Haaland’s appointment is evidence of the change happening in the country.
“Rep. Haaland’s confirmation represents a gigantic step forward in creating a government that represents the full richness and diversity of this country,″ Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer said. “Native Americans for far too long have been neglected at the Cabinet-level and in so many other places.”
At the hearing, Deb Haaland explained her views on environmental issues, saying, “There’s no question that fossil energy does and will continue to play a major role in America for years to come.”
She continued, “The department has a role in harnessing the clean energy potential of our public lands to create jobs and new economic opportunities The president’s agenda demonstrates that America’s public lands can and should be engines for clean energy production.”
Despite the excitement surrounding the confirmation, it also serves as a reminder of how much discrimination is part of the country’s framework. “It should not have taken more than 200 years for a Native person to take the helm at Interior,” Haaland said before adding, “or even be a Cabinet secretary, for that matter.”