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  • Writer's pictureBy Pacific Island Times News Staff

Haaland confirmed as new DOI secretary

Updated: Mar 17, 2021

Debra Haaland

The U.S. Senate today voted to confirm Rep. Debra Haaland (D-NM) as the new secretary of the Interior by a vote of 51-40.

"As my fellow freshman colleague in the 116th Congress and on the Natural Resources Committee, we have the privilege of knowing firsthand that Congresswoman, now secretary, Haaland will serve the people and the nation with ability and dignity as our first indigenous United States Secretary of the Interior," said Guam Delegate Michael F.Q. San Nicolas

Guam Gov. Lou Leon Guerrero said she looks forward to working with Haaland.

“As the first Native American to lead the Department of Interior and hold a cabinet position, this is a significant moment. Representative Haaland has devoted her life to protecting our natural resources and our nation’s indigenous heritage for future generations," she said in a statement. "We look forward to working with her to advance policies that would preserve and restore our land, increase outdoor recreational opportunities, and tackle the serious issue of climate change—policies that benefit Guam and our sister territories.”

CNMI Gov. Ralph DLG. Torres and Lt. Gov. Arnold I. Palacios said Haaland's appointment to DOI is a historic and important achievement for indigenous people across the nation.

" She has been an advocate of indigenous rights and natural resource protection, and we support her as she assumes this important cabinet position in our federal government," Torres and Palacios said. "We look forward to working with her and the Office of Insular Affairs on discussing issues and promoting policies that are important to the CNMI and the territories. It is our collective hope that we can work for the betterment of the people of our entire nation and our Commonwealth here in the Pacific."

Prior to her appointment to the Department of the Interior, Haaland was serving as the U.S. representative for New Mexico's 1st congressional district. Haaland is a political progressive who supports the Green New Deal and Medicare for All.

“From reaching out to communities often forgotten during our nation’s electoral process to standing side-by-side with indigenous people to protect tribal sovereignty, Secretary Haaland symbolizes the spirit of inafa’maolek and the strength of indigenous people," said Guam Sen. Telena Cruz Nelson, oversight chair of federal relations.

She said the people of Guam and all indigenous people "should be inspired by this historic milestone as the bar of diverse leadership, which reflects the brilliant colors of our blended national community, has surely been raised.”

In Washington, D.C., U.S. Sen. Joe Manchin (D-WV) said he voted for

Haaland despite his past disagreements with her on some policy positions.

Manchin, chairman of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, said as DOI secretary Haaland will be carrying out President Biden’s agenda.

At her hearing, Haaland confirmed that she and the administration recognize that the nation will remain dependent on fossil fuels for years to come, and a transition to a cleaner energy future must come through innovation, not elimination.

"She also affirmed her strong commitment to bipartisanship and the need to work across the aisle to find the bipartisan solutions needed to address the diverse needs of our country. President Biden has also expressed his commitment to assembling a Cabinet that reflects our diverse country," Manchin said.

"Two hundred thirty years after George Washington assembled his first Cabinet, it is long past time to have a Native American woman at the table. I look forward to working with Rep. Haaland to protect our public lands and ensure the responsible use of all our natural resources in a bipartisan manner,” he added.

The Department of the Interior manages the country’s national parks and approximately 450 million acres of public lands, oversees wildlife and other conservation efforts, and upholds federal trust responsibilities to indigenous communities.


“Haaland’s lived experiences are critical to reorienting Interior toward people, Indigenous rights and climate-focused, science-based conservation. We look forward to seeing our country’s lands and waters integrated with efforts to increase outdoors equity, mitigate climate impacts by protecting 30 percent of lands and water by 2030, and foster healthier communities,” said Chris Hill, acting director of Sierra Club’s Our Wild America campaign.


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