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Aliyah Chavez
Indian Country Today

Shortly after millions of Americans listened to performances from John Legend and Common, they heard from one of the first Native women elected to Congress.

New Mexico Rep. Deb Haaland, Laguna and Jemez Pueblo, gave remarks Thursday on the final evening of the Democratic National Convention, highlighting the event’s increased focus this year on Indigenous peoples. Tuesday’s roll call included what was likely a record number of Indigenous speakers.

“I’m grateful to be here with you,” Haaland said, wearing turquoise earrings and a squash blossom. “Here on Indigenous land.”

(Related: Activating the ‘fire’ within Native voters)

Her remarks were recorded from the Indian Pueblo Cultural Center in Albuquerque, in the district she represents.

“My people survived centuries of slavery, genocide, and brutal assimilation policies,” Haaland said. “But throughout our past, tribal nations have fought for and helped build this country.”

She shared stories of her grandparents, who worked on the railroad, and her mother who is a Navy veteran.

“I stand here today a proud 35th generation New Mexican and one of the first Native American women ever elected to Congress,” Haaland said. “I am a symbol of our resilience — as the embodiment of America’s progress as a nation.”

Haaland also shared that Native people were not granted the right to vote until 1962, saying that fundamental right is "more important than ever.” 

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In 2016, Haaland addressed the DNC convention wearing a traditional Laguna Pueblo dress while she voted for Hillary Clinton as the presidential nominee on behalf of the state of New Mexico. At the time, Haaland served as the first Native woman to chair the New Mexico Democratic Party.

Earlier this week, nine Indigenous leaders addressed the nation in the DNC roll call.

RELATED:
 Native leaders featured in DNC roll call
— DNC: ‘Relatives, this clearly is the most important election of our time’

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Aliyah Chavez, Kewa Pueblo, is a reporter-producer at Indian Country Today. Follow her on Twitter: @aliyahjchavez or email her at achavez@indiancountrytoday.com.

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