Washington, DC - December 18, 2020 - Yesterday, President-elect Biden nominated Congresswoman Deb Haaland (NM-01) to serve as the Secretary for the Department of Interior. This historic announcement is a first for Indian Country as a Tribal Citizen of the Laguna Pueblo would be the first Native American to lead the Department of Interior.
I, along with the leadership and membership of the National Indian Gaming Association, commend the President-elect’s decision to select Congresswoman Haaland to head the most crucial government agency for Indian Country. Today we are in celebration at this historic moment and applaud the Biden-Harris Administration for showing that Native voices need to be at the decision-making table.
If confirmed, Ms Haaland will be the first Native American to head DOI and to hold a cabinet position. We are honored to have been part of Ms. Haaland’s journey to Congress and now with her path to this long-awaited representation within a presidential administration. Ms. Haaland has worked hard to be a fierce advocate for Indian Country and has been a trailblazer during her career in public office. It is time that one of our own from Indian Country is at the head of the Department of Interior, and as the stewards of this land from time immemorial, we are more than confident that she will lead the Department into a future that protects our land and treaty rights as Native peoples.
Deborah Haaland is a member of the Laguna Pueblo. Elected in 2016, she was one of the first two Native American women elected to Congress. Congresswoman Haaland grew up in a military family; her father was a 30-year combat Marine Veteran who was awarded the Silver Star in Vietnam for his actions in saving six of his fellow Marines. Her mother is a Navy veteran who was a federal employee for 25 years in Indian education. Ms. Haaland began her career in politics as a volunteer, working to increase voter turnout among Native Americans in her spare time. That work led to a job with the Obama campaign in 2012 and taking the step to run for Lieutenant Governor of New Mexico in 2014. After an unsuccessful campaign, she took over as Chair of the New Mexico Democratic Party. Deborah Haaland was also the first Chairwoman elected to the Laguna Development Corporation.
Rep. Haaland has served in key leadership positions during her time in Congress. She is the Vice-Chair of the Committee on Natural Resources (HNR) and serves as Chair of the HNR Subcommittee on National Parks, Forests, and Public Lands. She is also Co-chair of the Native American Caucus and was elected the Freshman Class Representative to the House Democratic Steering and Policy Committee.
We look forward to meeting with Congresswoman Haaland as soon as she is confirmed by the full Senate. On behalf of the National Indian Gaming Association’s Member Tribes, we wholeheartedly endorse her Nomination and look forward to supporting her through the nomination process. This is a historic moment for all Native Americans and in particular our Native Women. All nominees deserve a quick and fair confirmation process so that they can begin the important work on behalf Indian Country.
The National Indian Gaming Association looks forward to the challenges ahead and working with our first Native American Secretary of Interior.