WASHINGTON – President-elect Joseph R. Biden Jr. chose Representative Deb Haaland, Democrat of New Mexico, to lead the Home Department, according to people familiar with the decision, a move that would make history: If she was confirmed by the Senate, she would be the first Native American appointed to a position of secretary to the cabinet.
Ms Haaland would not only lead the federal agency most responsible for the well-being of the country’s 1.9 million indigenous people, but would also play a central role in implementing Mr Biden’s ambitious environmental and climate agenda. . As the head of the agency that oversees 500 million acres of public land, including national parks, oil and gas drilling sites and habitat for endangered species, she would be tasked with restoring protections federal governments over vast tracts of land and water that the Trump administration has opened up. right through to drilling, quarrying, logging and construction.
In addition, she would oversee the Bureau of Indian Education and the Bureau of Trust Funds Administration, which manages the financial assets of Native Americans held in trust.
“It would be an honor to advance the Biden-Harris climate agenda, help mend government-to-government relationships with the tribes the Trump administration has ruined, and become the first Native American cabinet secretary in history of our country, ”Ms. Haaland said in a statement.
Ms. Haaland is a citizen of Laguna Pueblo, one of the nation’s 574 federally recognized tribes.
Historians and tribal leaders have said that the appointment of a Native American to this role would be a milestone in the marked history of the United States with its Indigenous people.
For much of the country’s history, the Home Office ruled federal lands and often dislodged and mistreated Native Americans. In 1972, about 500 Native American activists took control of the department’s headquarters in Washington, DC, protesting the standard of living and broken treaties.
“It would be a huge moment in American history to have an Indigenous person running our national parks, wildlife, tribal relations, ancient sites,” said Douglas Brinkley, a presidential historian who has written extensively. on the environmental issues of the presidents. “It’s a long time to come.”
Ms Haaland was not seen as Mr Biden’s initial choice to run the agency. In the days after the election, he was believed to be leaning towards Senator Tom Udall, a Democrat from New Mexico and longtime friend who has spent his career lobbying for nature, according to people close to the transition team.
But a coalition of Congressional Democrats, Native Americans and Hollywood celebrities have launched a campaign urging Mr. Biden to nominate Ms. Haaland. Actor and conservationist Mark Ruffalo posted a video on Twitter with tribal leaders speaking out in favor of Ms Haaland. And the Lakota People’s Rights Action Center launched a petition, supported by more than 120 tribal chiefs, in support of Ms. Haaland.
“Like no year before, 2020 has shown us what happens when we fail to see the importance of putting the right leaders in position to protect society,” the petition reads.
Ms. Haaland has made history once before. In 2018, she and Sharice Davids of Kansas became the first two Native American women elected to Congress.
Ms Haaland campaigned in 2018 against the Trump administration’s sweeping immigration policies and promoted Indigenous sovereignty as the “35th Generation New Mexican.” She said many of the issues affecting indigenous communities, such as low-wage jobs and violence against women, affect other groups as well.
For the past two years, Ms. Haaland has served on the House Natural Resources Committee, which oversees the Home Office.