WASHINGTON: US Representative Deb Haaland was confirmed Monday as Home Secretary, becoming the first American by birth lead a cabinet and ensure a central role in President Joe Biden’s ambitious plans to tackle climate change.
The US senate New Mexico Democrat 51-40 confirmed after garnering support from Republicans including South Carolina Senator Lindsey Graham, Alaska Senators Lisa Murkowski and Dan Sullivan and Maine Senator Susan Collins.
Haaland became one of the first two Native American women elected to Congress in 2018. Her rise to cabinet follows weeks of campaigning by Native American tribes and environmental groups in support of her landmark nomination. She faced resistance from Republican lawmakers who summoned her to a two-day hearing last month over her involvement in the pipeline protests, her support for the Green New climate resolution The Biden administration’s deal and break on new federal drilling leases.
Haaland will oversee policies guiding the use of 500 million acres of federal and tribal land, or one-fifth of the country’s land area. A member of the Laguna Pueblo tribe, Haaland will also oversee US government relations with some 574 federally recognized tribal nations.
New Mexico Democratic Senator Ben Ray Lujan, who chaired the Senate in Monday’s vote, said Haaland’s appointment sends a signal to young Native Americans.
“She is the embodiment of the old adage that if you see it, you can be,” he said.
INDIAN COUNTRY WATCHES
Native Americans watched Haaland’s confirmation vote in homes across Indian country.
In interviews, two young Native Americans said they hoped Haaland’s appointment would prompt the federal government to consult more with tribes on issues ranging from protecting the environment to policing.
“For me, these environmental issues are intimately linked to tribal sovereignty. Under his leadership, I think there is potential to tackle environmental racism, ”said Majerle Lister, 26, a Diné graduate student living in Shiprock, New Mexico.
For Alysia Coriz, a college student and community organizer from New Mexico, 24-year-old Kewa Pueblo, Haaland’s rise is a reminder of the challenges Indigenous women face within their own communities.
“In order for our Pueblo women to reach and exceed their potential, they have to look outside… I see Deb Haaland as an example,” said Coriz.
A difficult balancing act
Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer said Haaland’s appointment will help mend the relationship between the Home Office and the tribal nations the agency has treated unfairly.
“Given the long and troubled relationship between the federal government and tribal nations, Representative Haaland’s rise to the top of the Home Department is a deeply significant moment for America,” Schumer said ahead of the vote.
Megan Hill, a citizen of the Oneida Nation of Wisconsin and director of Harvard’s Project on American Indian Economic Development, said Haaland now has to juggle many competing demands, facing huge expectations due to the historic nature of her appointment.
“While she will have decision-making power at the Cabinet level, she will face competing interests from protecting the environment and elevating Indigenous priorities to dealing with the demands of major oil and climate change deniers.” She said.
Even before its confirmation, the Home Office moved quickly to reverse the former’s deregulation actions. Trump administration, such as the cancellations of the Migratory Birds Treaty.
Last week, the Interior announced it would launch its review of the federal oil and gas leasing program on March 25, helping to determine whether the Biden administration would permanently stop new leases on federal lands and waters.
Prior to its confirmation, Haaland pledged to “be fierce” on all Americans, promising to advance policies to curb greenhouse gas emissions; about 25% of emissions come from the combustion of fuels extracted from land and public waters.