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President Fawn Sharp
National Congress of American Indians

Indian Country will watch closely next week’s confirmation hearing for Congresswoman Deb Haaland (NM), an enrolled member of the Pueblo of Laguna, to serve as Secretary of the U.S. Department of the Interior. If confirmed, Congresswoman Haaland will become the first-ever American Indian person to serve in the capacity of Cabinet secretary.

After centuries of invisibility, the best and brightest of Indian Country are rising to the highest positions of leadership across the United States government. This moment is long overdue – and I steadfastly support Deb Haaland’s nomination.

But Congresswoman Haaland’s nomination is monumental not just for its historical significance, but more importantly for the experience and leadership she will bring to the position at a critical moment in our nation’s history.

Congresswoman Deb Haaland

First and foremost, working across political divides and understanding different perspectives is critical to getting things done, and Congresswoman Haaland has a record of doing just that. After making history as one of the first American Indian women elected to Congress in 2018, she served as the Vice-Chair of the Natural Resources Committee and the Chair of the Subcommittee on National Parks, Forests, and Public Lands. It was there where she shepherded key bipartisan legislation through the U.S. House, including the historic Public Lands package in 2019 and the Great American Outdoors Act in 2020.

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Congresswoman Haaland’s time spent building meaningful relationships with Republican House and Senate members resulted in forging common ground on issues ranging from outdoor recreation to missing and murdered Indigenous women to military housing protections. Altogether, she introduced the most bills with bipartisan cosponsors among all House freshmen in 2019.

The American people also deserve a nominee who cares about rural communities. As a Pueblo woman, Congresswoman Haaland comes from a family who hunts, farms, and ranches; and as a westerner herself, she understands the relationship between the Department of the Interior and western states. She is also a proponent of energy production and related job development – and is supported by tribal nations that are both traditional and renewable energy producers.

Congresswoman Haaland possesses a centuries-old tie and reverence for the beautiful and sacred landscape of this country, and I have full confidence she will work hard every day to ensure federal lands continue to be managed in a way that ensures many more generations to come will experience and know America’s beauty and timeless legacy.

As we stand at the doorstep of a truly historic appointment for the U.S. Department of the Interior, we call upon lawmakers to swiftly support the confirmation of Congresswoman Deb Haaland as Secretary of the Interior based on her extensive qualifications, an exceptional track record of public service, and intrinsic understanding of the careful stewardship this country’s lands require to contribute to sustaining thriving communities, economies, and cultures.

Fawn Sharp is president of the National Congress of American Indians and serves as the President of the Quinault Indian Nation in Washington State. Read full bio here.