- President-elect Joe Biden has officially chosen Representative Deb Haaland as his candidate for Home Secretary, The Washington Post reported Thursday.
- Haaland is said to be the first Native American to sit in a presidential cabinet and is poised to play a key role in redressing the historically strained relationship between native tribes and the federal government.
- Two Indigenous activists told Insider they were upbeat and hopeful about the selection.
- “We’re all very excited just thinking about whether or not to really start resetting this relationship the federal government has with the tribes,” Crystal Echo Hawk, executive director of the nonprofit Illumi.Native Insider said.
- Haaland, one of the first two Indigenous women elected to Congress in 2018, focused particularly on environmental and public land issues and on protecting Indigenous lands from oil and gas drilling.
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President-elect Joe Biden has officially chosen Representative Deb Haaland as his candidate for Home Secretary, The Washington Post reported Thursday.
Haaland, a first-term congresswoman representing the 1st Congressional District of New Mexico, is a citizen of the Laguna Pueblo tribe in New Mexico and, along with Representative Sharice Davids of Kansas, was one of the first two women Native American women elected to Congress in 2018..
If confirmed, Haaland would be the very first Native American to serve at Cabinet level in a presidential administration. In addition to the historical and symbolic nature of his selection, Haaland would directly oversee the Office of Indian Affairs, the Office of Indian Education, and the office responsible for managing the financial assets that Native Americans hold with the federal government.
This role would empower him to play a key role in rebuilding trust and repairing the historically strained and painful relationship between the federal government and the 574 federally recognized Native American tribes, Indigenous activists told Insider.
âThe Home Office is the agency really charged with holding this federal trust responsibility that the US government has with the tribal nations here in the US. And it was a horrible relationship. It was an abusive relationship. C ‘is a relationship that was forged with fraud and corruption … with mismanagement of tribal funds and just very paternalistic, very unhealthy, âCrystal Echo Hawk, executive director of the nonprofit IllumiNative and a citizen of the Pawnee Nation, Insider said in early December.
Haaland recently told Insider’s Kayla Epstein that one of her top priorities as Home Secretary would be to improve the tribal consultation process, the process by which federal governments seek input from Indigenous tribes. on a wide range of environmental and other issues that directly affect them. .
Haaland said the Trump administration threw this process “out the window” to continue development and resource extraction on public lands.
“We’re all very excited just thinking about whether or not to really start resetting this relationship that the federal government has with the tribes, and to have a Native and a Native woman leading that,” said Echo Hawk. “And it won’t happen overnight, but I think, as a marker to reset that relationship, it’s fundamentally important.”
Haaland has received praise from indigenous rights organizations and environmental groups for his interest in Congress in maintaining public lands and protecting the environment on which indigenous tribes depend. Haaland is a member of the National Resources Committee and chairs the National Parks, Forests and Public Lands subcommittee.
“Representative Haaland is a champion of public lands with experience in the protection and management of America’s most majestic monuments,” Phil Francis, president of the Coalition to Protect America’s National Parks, said Thursday. “She has been at the forefront of developing thoughtful solutions to tackle the climate crisis that continues to impact our national parks.”
As Home Secretary, she would head the Bureau of Land Management, the National Park Service, and the US Fish and Wild Service. These three departments are critical to protecting America’s natural resources from climate change and what Haaland and many other groups see as harmful oil drilling and fracking activities on public lands.
“For me, it makes perfect sense that this role of Home Secretary, overseeing our public lands, should belong to an Indigenous person given the way we honor Mother Earth”, Allie Young, DinÃ© activist, citizen of the Navajo Nation and co-founder of Protect the Sacred, Insider said. “I know we would be in good hands with her, especially as an Indigenous woman, because of this special relationship in our matrilineal societies and the view of our Earth as Mother.”
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A number of Haaland colleagues on both sides of the aisle, including progressives as Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Republican Rep. Don Young of Alaska, touted his candidacy for the post and praised his field experience as an advocate for New Mexico’s native tribes as well as his ability to compromise.
Even as she set out to chair a much narrower majority in the House, Speaker Nancy Pelosi officially gave Biden her blessing to remove a third House member, Haaland, to serve in his administration.
Representative Cedric Richmond from Louisiana will join the White House as a senior advisor, and Biden also called on Representative Marcia Fudge from Ohio as a candidate to lead the Department of Housing and Urban Development.