United States Representative Deb Haaland was confirmed on Monday as Secretary of the Interior, becoming the first Native American to lead a cabinet agency and securing a central role in President Joe Biden's sweeping plans to fight climate change.
The U.S. Senate confirmed the New Mexico Democrat 51-40 after she clinched support from Republicans including South Carolina Senator Lindsey Graham, Alaska Senators Lisa Murkowski and Dan Sullivan and Maine Senator Susan Collins.
Haaland became one of the first two Native American women elected to Congress in 2018. Her ascension to the cabinet followed weeks of campaigning by Native American tribes and environmental groups in support of her historic appointment. She faced resistance from Republican lawmakers who grilled her at a two-day hearing last month about her involvement in pipeline protests, her support of the Green New Deal climate resolution, and the Biden administration's pause on new federal drilling leases.
Haaland will oversee polices guiding use of 500 million acres of federal and tribal land, a fifth of the nation's surface. A member of the Laguna Pueblo tribe, Haaland would also oversee the U.S. government's relationship with some 574 federally recognized tribal nations.
New Mexico Democratic Senator Ben Ray Lujan, who presided over the Senate during Monday's vote, said Haaland's appointment sends a signal to young Native Americans.
She's the embodiment of the old adage that if you see it you can be it, he said.
Native Americans watched Haaland's confirmation vote on social media watch parties in homes across Indian country.