This week, the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee has the opportunity to be a part of history by confirming Deb Haaland to serve as the Secretary of the Department of the Interior and become the very first Native American cabinet secretary.
In November, I advocated for the appointment of Deb Haaland and now I am proud to be one of many people from all diverse backgrounds to support her confirmation.
Through her thoughtful and decisive actions as a member of Congress, she has earned the support of many.
For Native American people and tribal nations, having a Native American person in a high-level cabinet position not only sets us on a better path to righting the wrongs of the past with the federal government, but it also inspires hope in our people, especially young people, and gives us a voice and offers a new and different perspective from a person that has experienced the reality of adversities, setbacks, and challenges of growing up on what federal officials refer to as “Indian reservations.” It is a voice that many in the federal government have never heard before.
When considering Deb Haaland’s credentials and experience, it is also important to understand where she comes from, her upbringing, and what she was taught to believe, and to grasp how she was able to use them to overcome struggles and adversities to be where she is today.
She is a proud member of the Pueblo of Laguna and one of the two very first Native American women to serve in Congress. Before she was elected to serve her first term in Congress, she experienced the struggles of being a single mother, the struggles of putting food on the table for her family, and many of the other challenges faced by working families.
Despite these struggles, Deb knew that she wanted to make a difference in her life, her daughter’s life, and the lives of others. With few resources and little support, Congresswoman Haaland relied on the teachings of her parents and her elders to persevere, become a small business owner, and earn a law degree from the University of New Mexico.
As a member of Congress, she has been a strong voice for all tribal nations and the people of New Mexico on a wide variety of issues including land management, clean energy, economic development, social justice, and job creation.
Her advocacy for equality and justice has never wavered and continues to grow stronger. Her ability to weigh the issues from social, economic, and political standpoints is unique and something that is not easily found.
Every Native American person has experienced racism, discrimination, and suppression, some of which are rooted in the history of this country and its founding, but yet we persevere and prove our resilience time and time again.
Congresswoman Deb Haaland exemplifies this strength and resilience. Her unique background and experiences, dedication, and commitment to public service are exactly what we need at the helm of the Department of the Interior, especially for the Bureau of Indian Affairs and Bureau of Indian Education.
We need a person like Congresswoman Haaland to lead the Department of the Interior to build a stronger relationship between the federal government and tribal nations.
The confirmation of Deb Haaland would not only be historic, but it would also send a clear message to all tribes and people across America that the Biden-Harris Administration is committed to addressing the wrongs of the past and clearing a path for real change and opportunity for tribal nations.
Jonathan Nez is the 9th and current president of the Navajo Nation. He was elected president on November 6, 2018. Before his election, Nez served as vice president from 2015 until his inauguration in early January 2019. At 43 years of age, Nez is the youngest person to have ever been elected as president of the Navajo Nation.