US President-elect Joe Biden plans to nominate New Mexico congresswoman Deb Haaland to be the US’s first Native-American Interior Department leader, according to multiple reports published Thursday.
The Department of the Interior oversees roughly 20% of all land in the US. It is charged with managing and conserving federal lands and natural resources, as well as overseeing programs related to Native affairs.
The decision comes at the behest of Native leaders and tribal groups who were part of a group who had for weeks been urging Biden to select Haaland, according to reports from the Washington Post and The Associated Press.
Haaland, 60, was born in the part of the Navajo Nation that lies in Arizona. She graduated from the University of New Mexico’s law school before successfully running for Congress in 2018.
She told NPR in November that her appointment “would mean a lot to Indian Country.”
“When Sharice [Davids] and I got sworn in, everybody was so happy. It means a lot to a group of people who have been here since time immemorial to know that they’re truly being represented,” she said. “I think it would really change the way people see our federal government.”
Her appointment will be contingent on Senate confirmation, but in the likely event she receives the chamber’s blessing, she would be the first Native American to helm the Interior Department in its more than 170-year history.
She would be the third Democratic member of the House of Representatives to serve in Biden’s administration.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi lent her approval to the nomination on Wednesday, saying in a statement that should Biden pick Haaland “he will have made an excellent choice.”
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