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Who is Deb Haaland, first Native American Cabinet secretary?

Joe Biden continues to make good on his promise to mount the most diverse cabinet in history, nominating the first ever Native American cabinet secretary.

Who is Deb Haaland, first Native American Cabinet secretary?
ERIK S. LESSER EFE

On Thursday evening, president-elect Joe Biden’s transition team announced that he will be nominating Representative Deb Haaland to lead his Department of the Interior. If confirmed by the Senate, she would be in charge of the agency responsible for managing the US’ public lands, and honouring its treaties with the Indigenous people from whom those lands were taken.

Haaland would also play a key role in implementing the administration’s environmental policies, including a pledge to move the federal government away from dependency on fossil fuels.

In a statement, the Biden-Harris transition team called Haaland a "barrier-breaking public servant who has spent her career fighting for families, including in Tribal Nations, rural communities, and communities of colour," who will be "ready on day one to protect our environment and fight for a clean energy future."

Haaland tweeted today acknowledging the unique "voice" she'll bring. "Growing up in my mother's Pueblo household made me fierce," she wrote. "I'll be fierce for all of us, our planet, and all of our protected land."

"She understands at a very real level — at a generational level, in her case going back 30 generations — what it is to care for American lands," says Aaron Weiss, deputy director of the Center for Western Priorities, according to NPR.

Who is Deb Haaland?

If her nomination is confirmed, Haaland, 60 years old and a member of the Laguna Pueblo tribe in New Mexico will become the country’s first Native American cabinet secretary. She has made history before when in 2018 she became one of the first two Native women in Congress, alongside Rep. Sharice Davids of Kansas. Haaland is 35th-generation New Mexican.

Since 2019, Deb Haaland the US Representative from New Mexico’s 1st Congressional district. The districts includes most of Albuquerque and its suburbs. Before that, she was the chairwoman of the Democratic Party of New Mexico.

Haaland was born in Arizona to a Native American mother and Norwegian American father. Both parents served in the US armed forces and her father received a Silver Star for his actions in Vietnam. She is a single mother to her daughter, Somáh.

Speaker of the House of Representatives Democrat Nancy Pelosi described Ms Haaland as one of the most respected members of Congress.

Fellow progressive Democratic Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez praised her nomination as "historic on multiple levels".

"She brings a commitment to climate and justice to the position, and the historic weight of having a Native woman, no less a progressive one, in charge of federal lands is enormous."

Haaland has sponsored a House bill that sets a national goal of protecting 30% of US lands and oceans by 2030, a plan the Biden administration has adopted and made a priority for its environmental agenda.