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Deb Haaland makes history as the first Native American cabinet secretary

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Courtesy of Deb Haaland

Debra Anne Haaland made history in 2021 when she was sworn in as the 54th U.S. interior secretary; a first for Native American women.

Haaland was born December 2, 1960 and is from Laguna Pueblo. Her father was a 30-year combat Marine and her mother was a Navy veteran who worked at the Bureau of Indian Affairs or BIA.

When she was 28 and a single mother, Haaland enrolled at the University of New Mexico where she earned a bachelor’s degree in English and then a law degree, while also owning the company Pueblo Salsa.

In 2014, she lost the race for New Mexico’s lieutenant governor but a year later she became the chair of the New Mexico Democratic Party. Then in 2018, she won New Mexico’s 1st Congressional District seat, making her one of the first Native American women elected to Congress along with Kansas Democrat Sharice Davids.

After her election Haaland told NPR Americans wanted change.

"There are going to be some voices in Congress that no one has ever heard. And it's taken this long - taken 240-some years to elect a Native American woman to Congress," said Haaland. "I just think that, you know, in this political climate, people want to elect folks who are going to work hard, who can bring a new voice to the table."

Haaland certainly brought a new voice and change to Capitol Hill, with her commitment to addressing COVID-19, economic challenges, racial equity and climate change since taking office.

Her latest efforts as interior secretary include supporting the relocation of tribal communities affected by climate change and strengthening tribal participation in the management and stewardship of federal lands and waters.

She is also focused on cases of missing and murdered Indigenous peoples cases by opening an investigative unit within the BIA. And she launched a federal investigation into government-run Indian boarding schools.

Deb Haaland is a symbol of hope for Native Americans; and she’s committed to preserving Indigenous communities and lands for future generations to come.

Sources: 
Secretary Deb Haaland- U.S. Department of Interior

Jeanette DeDios is from the Jicarilla Apache and Diné Nations and grew up in Albuquerque, NM. She recently graduated from the University of New Mexico in 2022 where she earned a bachelor’s degree in Multimedia Journalism, English and Film. She’s currently a part of the Local News Fund Fellowship where she will be working with KUNM-FM and NMPBS during her 9-month fellowship where she will gain hands-on newsroom experience. Jeanette can be contacted at jeanettededios@kunm.org or via Twitter @JeanetteDeDios.
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