She did it! Deb Haaland confirmed as the first Native Cabinet secretary

Aliyah Chavez
Indian Country Today

A fierce Indigenous woman is now the caretaker of the nation’s public lands and waters for the first time in U.S. history.

Republican Sens. Susan Collins, Lindsey Graham, Lisa Murkowski and Dan Sullivan broke from party lines to vote to confirm Haaland, a notable choice given other Republican senators publicly saying she was not the right candidate.

Deb Haaland was confirmed as the nation’s 54th Secretary of the Interior in a 51-40 vote Monday, making her the first Native American to lead a Cabinet agency.

Wyoming Sen. John Barrasso, the top Republican on the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, and several other Western senators missed the vote, citing a severe winter storm that dumped 3 feet of snow on parts of Colorado and Wyoming, causing multiple flight cancellations. Fellow Wyoming Republican Cynthia Lummis and Democratic Sens. Michael Bennet and John Hickenlooper of Colorado also missed the vote.

Haaland will be sworn into office either Wednesday or Thursday by Vice President Kamala Harris, she said at a public watch party hosted by IllumiNative and NDN Collective. When she is sworn in, Haaland will become the highest ranked Indigenous person in an executive office across the country.

The incoming interior secretary will sign her resignation letters Monday and send them out Tuesday, officially removing her as a member of Congress.

Her daughter, Somáh, plans to livestream the swearing-in ceremony from her Instagram account, @coffeequeer.

“She’s ready to make sure that we share that moment with the world,” Haaland said. 

Incoming Interior Secretary Haaland stands eighth in line to the presidency. She is also only the third woman to serve in the position — a low number in stark comparison to the 50 men who have served — and in an accomplishment fitting for March’s National Women’s History Month. 

Haaland is a citizen of Laguna Pueblo, and has ties to Jemez Pueblo through her grandfather, which she frequently cites. She spent her career in New Mexico as a former small business owner, organizer and tribal administrator before running for Congress.

In November, Haaland was reelected for a second term in Congress representing New Mexico’s first Congressional district in the U.S. House of Representatives.

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