By Allison Li
Rep. Haaland of New Mexico in March. Credit: J. Scott Applewhite/Associated Press
Joe Biden is expected to nominate Representative Deb Halaand to lead the Department of the Interior. If appointed, she will serve as the first Native American Cabinet secretary. Her responsibilities would include managing the country’s public lands and honoring treaties with Indigenous people.
In 2018, Haaland made history as one of the first Native women in Congress alongside Representative Sharice Davids of Kansas. In response to her nomination, Haaland wrote in a tweet, “I’ll be fierce for all of us, our planet, and all of our protected land.”
The Interior Department is responsible for managing the 574 federally recognized Indian tribes and Alaska Native villages. With 70,000 employees, it oversees approximately 20% of US land. In addition to directing natural resource development, it manages national parks and wildlife refuges.
Biden has promised to focus on developing renewable natural resources, such as solar and wind power. Haaland also prioritizes renewable energy, stating in an interview that “climate change is the challenge of our lifetime”.
Shifting our priorities from fossil fuels to renewable resources could greatly counter the global climate crisis since the U.S. releases such large amounts of CO2.
Haaland has the experience that will ensure her success in her position. Her home state, New Mexico, has employed one of the boldest climate plans in the country.
According to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, Indigenous people are the most vulnerable to climate change. Kandi White is the Native energy and climate campaign director of the Indigenous Environmental Network. She believes that Haalan understands the relationship between the governments of Indigenous people and the United States, and will have a positive impact as the leader of the Interior.