Deb Haaland was confirmed as the first US Secretary of State

The Senate on Monday confirmed New Mexico Representative Deb Haaland as Secretary of the Interior, making her the first Native American to head a cabinet and the first to head the federal agency that has had influence over the country’s tribes for nearly two centuries.

Haaland was confirmed by a vote of 51-40, the smallest margin yet for a cabinet appointment by President Joe Biden. Four Republicans voted yes: Lisa Murkowski and Dan Sullivan of Alaska, Susan Collins of Maine and Lindsey Graham of South Carolina.

Democrats and tribal groups hailed Haaland’s confirmation as historic, saying her selection means that indigenous peoples – who lived in North America before the United States was created – will for the first time see an Indian lead the powerful department where decisions about relations with the nearly 600 federally recognized tribes are made. The interior also monitors a number of other issues, including energy development on public land and water, national parks and endangered species.

“Rope. “Haaland’s confirmation represents a gigantic step forward in creating a government that represents the country’s full wealth and diversity,” said Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, DN.Y.

“Indians have been neglected at government level for so long and in so many other places,” Schumer said.

Haaland is a member of Laguna Pueblo and a 35th generation resident of New Mexico. Her nomination has been closely followed by tribal communities across the country, with some virtual parties drawing hundreds of people to watch her two-day confirmation hearing last month.

Supporters projected a photo of Haaland, a two-year-old congresswoman representing greater Albuquerque, on the side of the inner building in central Washington with the caption “Our Ancestors Dreams Come True.”

Many Indians see Haaland, 60, as someone who will raise his voices and protect the environment and the rights of the tribes. Her selection breaks a two-hundred-year pattern of non-native officials, mostly men, serving as the highest federal official over American Indian affairs. The federal government often worked to abolish tribes of their country and until recently to integrate them into white culture.

“It is a long time ago that an American Indian serves as Secretary of the Interior,” said Fawn Sharp, president of the National Congress of American Indian, the nation’s oldest and largest tribal organization.

“The nation needs its leadership and its vision to help lead our response to climate change, to manage our countries and cultural resources, and to ensure that the United States, across the federal government, lives up to its demands of trust and treaty vis-à-vis tribal nations and ours. citizen, Sa Sharp.

Jonathan Nez, president of the Navajo Nation in Arizona, New Mexico and Utah, called Haaland’s confirmation “an unparalleled and monumental day for all the first people in this country. Words cannot express how overjoyed and proud we are to see one of our own confirmed to serve in this high position. ″

Haaland’s confirmation “puts us on a better path to correcting past mistakes with the federal government and inspires hope in our people, especially our young people,” Nez added.

Not everyone celebrated. Some Republican senators have criticized Haaland’s view of oil drilling and other energy developments as “radical” and extreme, citing her opposition to the Keystone XL oil pipeline and her support for the Green New Deal, a sweeping, if mostly ambitious, policy to tackle the climate. . change and income difference.

Wyoming Senator John Barrasso, the top Republican on the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, said Haaland’s “extreme views” and support for “catastrophic legislation” such as the Green New Deal make her confirmation as Home Secretary disastrous, likely to hurt America’s energy supply. and economics.

“American jobs are sacrificed in the name of the Biden agenda, and rep. Haaland could not defend it, “said Barrasso, referring to Biden’s decision to reject the Keystone XL pipeline and impose a moratorium on new oil and gas agreements. in federal lands.

Barrasso also denied Haaland’s support for continued protection for grizzly bears in the Yellowstone region of the Rocky Mountains, despite a recommendation from the Fish and Wildlife Service that about 700 bears in parts of Montana, Wyoming and Idaho no longer need protection.

“Rope. Haaland has chosen to ignore science and the researchers from the department itself, which she is now nominated to lead, says Barrasso and calls on the Ministry of the Interior to remove protection for grizzly bears under the Endangered Species Act.

Senator Maria Cantwell, D-Wash., Said she appreciates Haaland’s leadership in the House on a number of issues, adding that Haaland’s status as a Native American “will give us an extra advantage in (tribal) issues that are so important to Indians. . ”

Murkowski said she had “some real concerns” about Haaland because of her views on oil drilling and other energy issues, but said Native Alaskans, a key constituency in her countryside, had urged her to support Haaland.

“Honestly, we (Haaland) need to be a success,” Murkowski said.

Senator Martin Heinrich, DN.M., said he was disappointed with the rhetoric used by Barrasso and other Republicans. Heinrich, who lives in Haaland’s district, called her confirmation historic and said she “always has an open door and an open mind” to a range of opinions.

Ben Ray Luján, a colleague in New Mexico who led the Senate during the vote on Haaland’s nomination, said she gives “a unique and belated perspective” to the State Department’s mandate to protect natural resources and honor the responsibilities of tribes and other natives.

“I have no doubt that Secretary Haaland will leave an indelible mark on the State Department and I look forward to continuing to work with her to make a difference for the people of New Mexico,” he said.