Washington, March 16 : Congresswoman Deb Haaland was approved by the US Senate Monday to join President Joe Biden’s administration, making her the first Native American to become a cabinet secretary.
She was confirmed by a vote of 51-40 to the position of Secretary of the Interior, overseeing a massive agency responsible for roughly one-fifth of land in the United States — including its many tribal reservations.
Haaland, 60, who hails from New Mexico’s Laguna Pueblo tribe, already made history in 2018 when she became one of the first two Native American women elected to US Congress.
“Rep Haaland’s confirmation represents a gigantic step forward in creating a government that represents the full richness and diversity of this country because Native Americans were for far too long neglected at the cabinet level and in so many other places,” the Senate majority leader, Democrat Chuck Schumer, said ahead of the vote.
“In elevating Rep. Haaland to lead the Department of Interior, we reset the relationship between the federal government and tribal nations to one of cooperation, mutual respect and trust.”
Haaland’s appointment was backed by a petition signed by some 120 tribal representatives, who urged Biden to make history by picking the congresswoman.
When her name first began to circulate for the position, Haaland noted she thought it was time for the world to start listening to indigenous communities regarding climate change and the environment.
“My ancestors have sacrificed a tremendous amount to keep my customs and traditions for me,” she told in 2018, during her first Congress run.
“So I want to make sure that I am bringing that perspective to the table in anything I do.”
Haaland has been a member of the House of Representatives since January 2019.
A single mother, she overcame alcoholism in her youth and for a time had to use government food stamps to survive.
Before Haaland, the only other Native American to serve in a US administration was Charles Curtis, Herbert Hoover’s vice president between 1929 and 1933, who liked to say he was “one-eighth Kaw Indian and 100 percent Republican.”