Aliyah Chavez
Indian Country Today

Wednesday began Interior Secretary Deb Haaland’s first official day of work after being confirmed to the post. She is the first Native American to ever lead a Cabinet agency.

Haaland, Laguna and Jemez Pueblos, held an all staff meeting where more than 15,000 Interior employees joined her virtually.

“It was invigorating to feel the energy,” Haaland said after the event. “I am ready to pull up my sleeves to get working.”

On social media, one Interior employee who attended said, “Best all staff meeting EVER.” 

Shortly after the meeting, Haaland sat down virtually for her first interview as Interior secretary where she was interviewed by 10 reporters from the Native American Journalists Association. Indian Country Today was among those in attendance.

At the media briefing, Haaland stressed a need for making the best decisions possible, saying “I know Indian Country is watching everything we do at Interior.”

She addressed goals to accomplish a shared vision outlined by President Joe Biden to tackle the climate crisis by developing key approaches to build a clean energy future.

(Read: New Interior Secretary starts her term, reporting by Mvskoke Media)

Haaland frequently spoke to tribal consultation being a hallmark of her new role. She said she would aim to be flexible with tribal leaders and would prioritize consultation meetings before decisions were made on key issues.

“I will work as hard as I ever have,” Haaland said. She added that she sometimes spent more than 13 hours on Zoom while in Congress — and if tribal leaders don’t have internet access, she’s willing to talk on the phone.

Assistant Secretary for Indian Affairs Bryan Newland, Bay Mills Indian Community, was also on the call and said the Interior department will show their commitments to tribal nations through future actions.

Haaland said she hasn’t yet spoken to Biden since taking office and laughed saying, “today is my first day on the job.”

It is expected Haaland will be ceremoniously sworn into office by Vice President Kamala Harris on Thursday morning.

“The vice president is very much looking forward to swearing in Secretary Haaland,” said Doug Emhoff, Harris’ husband, during a visit to New Mexico where he met with Pueblo leaders on Wednesday.

Haaland was privately sworn in on Tuesday by her chief of staff hours after officially resigning from Congress.

Other parts of Haaland’s first day included updates to the Interior’s websites and online platforms. She now officially has a biography page, a new Twitter account and an updated headshot.

Next month, Haaland will visit Utah before submitting a review on whether to reverse former President Donald Trump’s decision to shrink national monuments in the state, the agency announced Wednesday.

She is expected to submit the report to President Biden after the trip in April where she’ll meet with tribes, elected leaders and others. Specific dates were not immediately announced.

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The Associated Press contributed to this report