President-elect Joe Biden has selected Representative Deb Haaland (D-NM) to become the nation’s Secretary of the U.S. Department of the Interior. A passionate supporter of the Green New Deal and the Endangered Species Act, Haaland will restore order to a ravaged department. For the past four years, Trump used Interior to wage a relentless assault on people, water, air, land, and wildlife. Americans can celebrate that a passionate environmentalist will now lead the agency.
Long before Columbus and his men committed genocide by slaughtering 95% of the indigenous population, the ancestors of Native Americans arrived in the United States more than 15,000 years ago. When Barack Obama ascended to the presidency, African-Americans imagined the pride slaves would have taken in the accomplishment. Indigenous people’s imaginations will soar in much the same way as one of their own will now oversee the land that marauding colonists stole from them hundreds of years ago.
U.S. Representative Haaland will be the first Native American cabinet member in American history. A member of the Laguna Pueblo tribe, her people have lived on their land since the 1200s. A 35th-generation New Mexican, she currently sits on the Natural Resources Committee and the Subcommittee on Civil Rights and Civil Liberties. Haaland also serves as the Chair of the Subcommittee on National Parks, Forests, and Public Lands. At last, Interior has a leader whose ideology aligns with the agency’s mission.
In this role, Haaland will be responsible for the nation’s almost two million Indigenous people’s well-being. She will have the power to reverse the Trump administration’s devastating anti-environmental policies–the drilling, logging, construction, and reckless abuse of public land and water. She will restore sensible regulations that protect people, animals, and the planet.
Trump’s Interior Secretary, Ryan Zinke, a former oil industry executive, received a dismal 4% rating from the League of Conversation Voters and testified that climate change is “not proven science.” An avid hunter of animals, Zinke expanded hunting on public lands, removed protections for animals, reduced national monument protections, and tried to lift the ban on elephant and other trophy hunting of animals.
Biden’s historic decision should remind voters of the differences between Republicans and Democrats. Elections really matter.
Americans can never make right the horrifying injustices, enslavement, and killing that Native Americans endured at the hands of the people who invaded their land. Still, we can take steps to make amends for the wrongs of history. A Native American’s appointment to oversee the land that belonged to them is a giant leap for mankind. It is also a victory for everyone who cares about protecting the most defenseless among us from the nation’s worst polluters and exploiters.
The incoming Secretary of the U.S. Department of the Interior is a Native American who voted for the Green New Deal. It is a new day in America.