Deb Haaland made history Monday by becoming the first Native American Cabinet secretary in U.S. history.
The Senate voted 50-41 to confirm Haaland as Secretary of the Interior. While most Republicans voted against Haaland, four Senators—Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, Susan Collins of Maine, and Dan Sullivan, and Lisa Murkowski of Alaska—joined the Democrats in confirming Haaland.
Haaland herself recognized the importance of the occasion but said her election should mean more than one American Indian woman serving as a Cabinet secretary in Joe Biden’s administration.
“The historic nature of my confirmation is not lost on me, but I will say, it is not about me,” Haaland said during her confirmation hearings. “Rather, I hope this nomination would be an inspiration for Americans—moving forward together as one nation and creating opportunities for all of us.”
Still the moment is worth celebrating. As Dr. Len Necefer wrote in an essay titled “The Department of the Interior Shaped My Life” in Outside magazine, Haaland’s rise to Cabinet secretary is a pivotal moment in American history.
“The nomination of an American Indian to the role of secretary of the interior represents another shift in the relationship between Native Nations and the federal government,” Necefer wrote. “It’s been a long time coming and a reality that seemed impossible even just a few years ago. Deb Haaland, a Pueblo woman, is the most fitting to serve this role.”
Haaland has served as U.S. Representative for New Mexico’s 1st congressional district since 2019; her district includes most of Albuquerque and most of its suburbs. Before that, she was chair of the Democratic Party of New Mexico.