Monday, March 22, 2021

Momentous Appointment

The Biden administration's nomination of and subsequent Senate confirmation of Secretary of the Interior Deb Haaland is a monumentally important moment in our nation's history.  Secretary Haaland becomes the first Cabinet level Secretary of Native American descent in the history of the nation.  This after Ms. Haaland served as the first native Congressperson (along with Sharice Davids of Kansas, both elected in 2018) in U.S. history.  This nomination and confirmation is critical for many reasons, including according to Secretary Haaland herself:  “A voice like mine has never been a Cabinet secretary or at the head of the Department of Interior,” she wrote on Twitter before the vote. “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.”

The New York Times reports:  "Representative Deb Haaland of New Mexico made history on Monday when the Senate confirmed her as President Biden’s secretary of the Interior, making her the first Native American to lead a cabinet agency.  Ms. Haaland in 2018 became one of the first two Native American women elected to the House. But her new position is particularly redolent of history because the department she now leads has spent much of its history abusing or neglecting America’s Indigenous people.  Beyond the Interior Department’s responsibility for the well-being of the nation’s 1.9 million Native people, it oversees about 500 million acres of public land, federal waters off the United States coastline, a huge system of dams and reservoirs across the Western United States and the protection of thousands of endangered species."

Secretary Haaland said the following at her Senate confirmation hearing:  “You’ve heard the Earth referred to as Mother Earth, it’s difficult to not feel obligated to protect this land. And I feel every Indigenous person in the country understands that.”

Again, per the NY Times: "Ms. Haaland will quite likely assume a central role in realizing Mr. Biden’s promise to make racial equity a theme in his administration. Ms. Haaland, a member of the Laguna Pueblo who identifies herself as a 35th-generation New Mexican, will assume control of the Bureau of Indian Affairs and the Bureau of Indian Education, where she can address the needs of a population that has suffered from abuse and dislocation at the hands of the United States government for generations, and that has been disproportionately devastated by the coronavirus."

A hearty congratulations to Secretary Haaland on this momentous appointment, to President Biden for the foresight to seize this moment, and for an appointment that was far too long in the making.

photo in the public domain

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