The case for a Native American secretary of the interior
November 23, 2020
President-elect Joe Biden already made history by selecting Kamala Harris, the first Black and South Asian American woman to be elected vice president of the United States. He is also building a transition team that’s shaping up to be majority women and people of color. Now, tribal leaders, environmental activists, and more than 50 House Democrats are urging Biden to break barriers further by appointing the first Indigenous person to serve as Cabinet secretary.
A key role they have their eyes on is the secretary of the interior. Last week, more than 120 elected tribal leaders and organization officials sent a letter to Biden, asking the president-elect to select Rep. Deb Haaland, a Laguna Pueblo member in New Mexico, to serve in the Cabinet as interior secretary. House Democrats followed suit and also sent a letter to the president-elect. The Department of the Interior, organizers pointed out, would be best filled by an Indigenous member, considering it addresses most matters related to tribal land and Indigenous affairs, including education. Haaland — who is already being vetted by Biden’s team — told Vox and other media outlets she would gladly accept the offer if Biden decides to appoint her.
“There’s no doubt it would be historic,” Haaland told Vox. “It would be symbolic, and it would be profound, especially when we think about how the federal government essentially threw out their federal Indian policies throughout the centuries and tried to exterminate Native Americans across the country.”