"It's difficult to not feel obligated to protect this land," Deb Haaland said during her confirmation hearings, "and I feel that every Indigenous person in this country understands that." That will be her job, now that the Senate has confirmed her appointment as secretary of the Interior. A member of New Mexico's Laguna Pueblo, Haaland becomes the first Native American Cabinet secretary in US history, NPR reports. "Before America's public lands were America's public lands, they were Native American lands, and Deb Haaland will be the first Native American to serve in any president's Cabinet and the first to serve as the secretary of this department," Democratic Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse said last week, per the Hill. "So that's kind of a wonderful harmony with history."
The vote Monday was 51-40. Most Republicans voted against Haaland, a Democrat who represents a New Mexico district in the House; several had been critical of her positions on public land use and fossil fuels. Alluding to her past statements opposing fracking and drilling on public land, per CNN, Republican Sen. John Barrasso said in a floor speech that "Representative Haaland's policy views and lack of substantive answers during her confirmation hearing, in my opinion, disqualify her for this job." Haaland, 60, will be taking over an agency that's responsible for the relations between the US and Native American tribes and that has often been used against the tribes. "Indian Country has shouted from the valleys, from the mountaintops that it's time," a Pueblo tribal member said when Haaland was nominated. "It's overdue." (Read more Native Americans stories.)