Tribes Respond To Haaland’s Historic Nomination For Interior Secretary: ‘Just Enormous Pride’

Friday, December 18th 2020, 6:29 pm

President-elect Joe Biden's cabinet could soon have the first female Native-American cabinet member. This week, Biden selected New Mexico Congresswoman Deb Haaland to lead the department, which oversees the Bureau of Indian Affairs.

"The winds are changing as they blow and that's a really good feeling," Muscogee (Creek) Nation spokesperson Jason Salsman said after Biden nominated Haaland for the position.

Haaland is a member of the Pueblo of Laguna tribe. Salsman said the tribe met Haaland last year at the State of Indian Nations address and feels confident she'll rise to the challenge.

"Just enormous pride. You know to see such a historic announcement and an historic nomination. Congresswoman Deb Holland is not only Native American but she's a Native American woman and to see the glass ceiling being broken in such a way," Salsman said. 

As Interior Secretary, Haaland would be responsible for the management and conservation of most federal land and natural resources. The Creek Nation said this nomination comes in a year of wins for Native Americans, especially after this summer's landmark Supreme Court ruling on tribal jurisdiction.

Cherokee Nation Principal Chief Chuck Hoskin Jr. also wrote a statement saying: 

“This is an historic and unprecedented day for Indian Country. President elect Joe Biden’s nomination of New Mexico Congresswoman Deb Haaland, a tribal citizen of the Laguna Pueblo, is the first Native American nominee to serve our country in a cabinet-level position. It’s a long time overdue and excellent choice to lead the Department of the Interior. President elect Biden promised to diversify his cabinet, and nobody could fill the role of DOI Secretary better than Congresswoman Deb Haaland. She is a champion of tribal sovereignty, natural resource preservation, and sacred sites protection. She already made history once before as one of the first two Native American women sworn into the U.S. House of Representatives in 2019, where she has demonstrated her ability to be a coalition builder by reaching across partisan divides for the greater good, during her tenure. Tribal issues will be a portion of her new portfolio but serving as Chair of the House Natural Resources Subcommittee on National Parks, Forests and Public Lands, she is well prepared to take on this new position that interfaces directly with tribal governments and our interests. Congresswoman Haaland is an outstanding choice to lead the department. The United States is facing great peril related directly to the global pandemic, and I am confident that Congresswoman Haaland will effectively and efficiently guide the DOI going forward.”

Salsman said this nomination is just the beginning.

"We don't want this to be the culmination, we want this to be a beginning. We want to see a Native American vice president and Native American president. All of that is an attainable dream," Salsman said.   

Salsman also added Creek Nation leaders plan to hopefully visit Haaland in person next year to talk about their reservation, once she takes her position.