President-elect Joe Biden’s transition team on Thursday announced New Mexico Rep. Deb Haaland as his nominee for interior secretary. If confirmed by the Senate, Haaland would be the first Native American Cabinet secretary.
A move that could recast the department’s often troubled ties with indigenous tribes as she is a member of the Laguna Pueblo people. The Interior Department is a vast agency of more than 70,000 employees overseeing the country’s natural resources, including national parks, and oil and gas drilling sites, as well as tribal lands — home to 578 federally recognized tribes. Haaland was picked for the role, in part, because she is someone who has “spent her career fighting for all Americans, including tribal nations, rural communities, and communities of color,” according to a person familiar with the decision. In Congress, the 60-year-old Haaland has prioritized the improvement of services to tribal communities, especially assistance during the coronavirus pandemic, which has disproportionately hurt Native American families. Biden’s transition team did not publicly confirm the pick.