Joe Biden made a promise on the campaign trail to build a Cabinet and Staff that looks like the country it’s going to represent. He first followed through on that promise by choosing Kamala Harris as his running mate, then followed that by continuing to make history with his all-female Communications team. Biden has met with wide approval for his picks for thus far, with nominations in important roles at the Departments of Defense and Justice.
The Biden transition team is fielding requests from every constituency on every available Cabinet pick, and as the number of remaining seats is fewer, the lobbying is becoming more intense. While some major roles remain open, such as Attorney General, there are still plenty of Cabinet positions still available. Aside from the Education department remaining without a nominee, the Secretary of the Interior also has yet to be nominated. The Department of the Interior oversees millions of acres of land, including Native reservations, and would be responsible, in large part, for the country’s nearly 2 million Indigenous people. When it was originally established, one of its first tasks was to relocate Native Americans to the Western part of the country, beginning a shameful chapter in American history. Ironically, and just as shamefully, no Native American has ever held the position of Interior Secretary.
But now a group of more than 120 Native American Tribal Leaders has sent a letter to the President-Elect to ask him to choose Rep. Deb Haaland of New Mexico for the role. Haaland is one of only two Native American women ever elected to serve in the House.
Haaland’s grandmother was taken away to boarding school when she was eight, as part of the process to break the chain of connection to their tribe, the Laguna Pueblo. Haaland’s parents served in the military, and as a single mother on food stamps, she graduated from law school, then became chairwoman of the tribe’s development corporation. Haaland successfully oversaw the tribe’s casinos and other businesses and also ran New Mexico’s Democratic party before her election to Congress.
The letter — which was organized by the actress Marisa Tomei, the progressive advocacy group We Stand United, and Allie Young, a Native American activist with the group Protect the Sacred, highlights Haaland’s experience and commitment to protecting tribal nations. Many famous activists/artists signed the letter as well, including Rosario Dawson, Jane Fonda, and Cher.
“Representative Haaland will be a strong steward of our precious natural resources and will return to the practice of science-based decision-making,” the letter says. “Additionally, she will work to honor the treaties between the federal government and tribal nations.”
Haaland is said to be a top contender for the job. You can read the full letter from the Tribal Leaders here.