Madam Secretary

Laguna Pueblo Congresswoman Deb Haaland Sworn-in as First Indigenous Cabinet Secretary; Now Leads Interior Department

Jenni Monet
Published in
6 min readMar 19, 2021


Debra Anne Haaland (Laguna / Jemez Pueblo) attended her swearing-in ceremony at the Eisenhower Executive Office Building Ceremonial Office in Washington, D.C., wearing a ribbon skirt designed by Agnes Woodard. (Photo: U.S. Department of the Interior)

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Laguna Pueblo Congresswoman Deb Haaland of New Mexico has been officially sworn-in as secretary of the interior, making her the first Indigenous Cabinet secretary in the history of the United States.

Vice-President Kamala Harris, the first woman to hold the position, conducted the ceremony for Haaland on Thursday morning. The event lasted less than two minutes.

Haaland was confirmed by the Senate on Monday evening. The final vote was 51 to 40, with Sen. Lindsey Graham (S.C.) among four Republican senators supporting Haaland.

The second-term congresswoman’s confirmation process was mired in debate over her past stance against fossil fuels. For two days, energy-backed Senate Republicans blasted Haaland over her past statements over oil extraction, including activism shared with Water Protectors demonstrating against the Dakota Access Pipeline at Standing Rock.

The Senate Energy Committee advanced Haaland’s nomination earlier this month and was met with delays last week by Sens. Steve Daines (R-Mont.) and Cynthia Lummis (R-Wyo.) who placed holds on her nomination citing concerns about energy economies in their home states.

On Monday, senators voted 51–40 to confirm Haaland. Nine senators did not vote, some citing a snowstorm in the West as reasons for their absence. (C-SPAN)

Haaland’s nomination is a political flashpoint in America, as supporters recognize the historic weight of her confirmation — the first Indigenous person appointed to a Cabinet position, and one that is responsible for the very department significant to Indigenous affairs, the Department of Interior.

The DOI is comprised of roughly 70,000 government staffers across eleven agencies, and overseeing roughly one-fifth of the nation’s public lands, including coastal shorelines, and a series of dams. Together they represent some of the 90 million acres of ancestral lands lost by Indigenous Peoples to the United States in some 375 treaties resulting in “bad paper” or breached…



Jenni Monet

Journalist and media critic reporting on Indigenous Affairs | Founder of the weekly newsletter @Indigenous_ly | K’awaika (Laguna Pueblo)

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