President-elect Joe Biden is expected to nominate Rep. Deb Haaland (D-N.M.) to lead the Interior Department, according to The Washington Post.
If confirmed by the Senate, Haaland would make history as the first Native American Cabinet secretary, and would oversee the agency responsible for the management and conservation of federal land and natural resources, including tribal lands and national parks.
America is changing faster than ever! Add Changing America to your Facebook or Twitter feed to stay on top of the news.
Haaland, 60, is a citizen of the Laguna Pueblo, a tribe west of Albuquerque, N.M. and made history as one of the first two Native American women to ever be elected to Congress in 2018, along with Rep. Sharice Davids (D-Kan.).
“I think it’s wonderful that our country is progressing in that manner, that a Cabinet-level position filled by a Native American is a conversation that we’re having right now,” Haaland said during a Washington Post Live event last week.
A large number of House Democrats, conservationists, celebrities and tribal leaders threw their support behind Haaland for the role weeks ago, urging Biden to tap the congresswoman who currently serves as vice chair of the House Natural Resources Committee and has backed the Green New Deal.
Haaland has consistently pushed back against the Trump administration’s roll back of environmental regulations, endangered species protections and the shrinking of monuments such as Bears Ears and Grand Staircase Escalante.
Environmentalists lauded the news of the nomination Wednesday.
“Over the last four years, the department’s exclusive focus on polluter profits and deeply-embedded culture of corruption has left much to repair, both within the agency and on the ground,” Chris Hill, acting director of Sierra Club’s Our Wild America campaign, said. “We’re confident Rep. Haaland can reset the Department of the Interior.”
The incoming Biden administration had been reportedly weighing concerns about Haaland’s departure from the House of Representatives, which would leave Democrats with a thin majority in the chamber.
But on Wednesday, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said she approved of the selection.
“Congresswoman Haaland knows the territory,” Pelosi said. “If she is the President-elect’s choice for Interior Secretary, then he will have made an excellent choice.”
Sen. Tom Udall (D-N.M.), a Native American who was also reportedly in the running for the position, also praised Biden’s decision.
“I know it will be significant and meaningful for Native Americans, especially Native women, to see Secretary Haaland, a member of the Pueblo of Laguna, leading the department that is tasked with meeting many of our responsibilities to Tribes and managing inherently Indigenous land,” Udall said.
“This is a watershed moment for Native communities, and for our nation.”
READ MORE LIKE THIS FROM CHANGING AMERICA
THE CREEK FREEDMEN PUSH FOR INDIGENOUS TRIBAL RIGHTS DECADES AFTER BEING DISENFRANCHISED
TRUMP ADMINISTRATION REVOKES RESERVATION STATUS FOR NATIVE AMERICAN TRIBE
AFTER 250 YEARS, NATIVE AMERICAN TRIBE REGAINS ANCESTRAL LANDS IN CALIFORNIA
NATIVE AMERICANS RECEIVE DONATIONS TO FIGHT CORONAVIRUS IN A HISTORIC ACT OF KINDNESS
TRUMP SIGNED THREE BILLS AFFECTING NATIVE AMERICANS. HERE’S WHAT THEY DO