Deb Haaland
U.S. Secretary of the Interior Deb Haaland; (photo/Romie Miller)

Deb Haaland Confirmed as First Indigenous Secretary of the Interior

Haaland makes history not only as the first Indigenous person to hold the seat but also as only the third woman to serve as the Secretary of the Interior.

On March 15, the United States Senate voted 51-40 to confirm Rep. Deb Haaland (D-N.M.) as the new Secretary of the Interior. A member of the Laguna Pueblo tribe, Haaland is no stranger to making history. In 2018, she was one of two Indigenous women elected to serve in Congress, representing New Mexico as a Democrat.

And she’s a longtime leader in the Laguna Pueblo nation and New Mexico, serving in multiple leadership posts before ascending to the U.S. House of Representatives.

A Controversial Confirmation for Haaland, But Not Entirely Partisan

Deb Haaland, Secretary of the Interior
January 28, 2020: U.S. Rep. Deb Haaland town hall meeting at the main library to discuss issues of concern to 1st district residents; photo credit: Romie Miller

Haaland’s confirmation didn’t come without its share of controversy. Her stances on land use, oil and gas, hunting and angling, and more were brought to light repeatedly before and during the confirmation hearing. Regardless of her personal opinions, she stated that she “served at the pleasure of the President,” and that she would move President Biden’s agenda forward.

Republican opposition was fierce, but not total. Four Republicans voted to confirm Madam Secretary Haaland, including Senators Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), Lisa Murkowski and Dan Sullivan (both R-Alaska), and Susan Collins (R-Maine).

The majority of Republicans voting against her were primarily focused on her previous statements opposing both fossil fuels and fracking, in addition to painting some of her viewpoints on climate and environmental issues as “extreme.”

Haaland Supports Clean Energy, Habitat Conservation, Sporting Traditions in New Role

Haaland comes into the position at a time when the climate crisis, renewable energy, and greenhouse emissions are top agendas for Democratic leadership. In addition, habitat reduction issues and the need for protection are being prioritized in Biden’s environmental policies.

Most notably, Haaland will work with Biden on his “30 by 30” promise made earlier this year, the goal being to protect 30% of U.S. land by 2030.

Additionally, Haaland herself is both a hunter and from a traditional hunting family. In her confirmation hearing, she noted that she’d support hunters as well as outdoor recreation in her time as Secretary.

“I am a Pueblo woman, we’ve been hunting wild game for centuries. And in fact, that’s the reason I am sitting here today — because my ancestors sustained themselves through those practices,” Haaland said.

“My dad, my grandparents, my brother — they all hunt. In fact, I was fortunate to harvest an oryx from the White Sands Missile Range several years back and fed my family for about a year. I understand that, and I absolutely respect the sportsmen and the anglers whose traditions those are.”

Nicole Qualtieri

Based in Montana, Nicole Qualtieri is GearJunkie's Hunt + Fish Editor. She also serves as a Board Director for Orion the Hunters Insititute, a non-profit promoting fair chase and hunting ethics nationwide. A DIY hunter, she comes from a non-traditional hunting background and began hunting and fishing in her 30s. She's been a voice for hunting, fishing, and conservation since 2014, when she got started working on the television show MeatEater. She's an avid horsewoman, bird dog aficionado, snowboarder, hiker/backpacker, food nerd, and all-around outdoorswoman. Find her online at @nkqualtieri.