NCAI Applauds the Historic Confirmation of Congresswoman Debra Haaland as Secretary of the U.S. Department of the Interior

Published on Mar 15, 2021

The National Congress of American Indians (NCAI) applauds the historic confirmation today of Rep. Debra Haaland as President Joe Biden’s Secretary of the Department of the Interior (Interior). Congresswoman Haaland (Pueblo of Laguna), an attorney, and tireless advocate for Native American communities, was confirmed Monday by a vote of 51 to 40 in the Senate. Her confirmation is a watershed moment for Indian Country, marking the first time in the history of the United States that a Native American has served as a cabinet Secretary.

Haaland’s confirmation recognizes the importance of Native American leadership, partnership, and representation at a federal agency critical to the needs of Indian Country. The Interior Department is responsible not only for the management of public lands, waters, mineral resources and wildlife, it holds a fiduciary duty to uphold federal trust and treaty responsibilities to 574 tribal nations and more than 5.2 million American Indian and Alaska Native people.

“The impact of Native American representation at the top of a federal agency that so directly affects our daily lives cannot be overstated, and we congratulate Secretary Haaland on this historic achievement,” said NCAI President Fawn Sharp. “The relationship between Tribal Nations and the federal government has been fractured for far too long. Having an ally like Secretary Haaland who is not only deeply qualified but is from our communities has the potential to transform the government-to-government relationship and will be vital in advancing Native American issues for generations. We are grateful to President Biden for her nomination to the post, to the Senate for their support, and to everyone in Indian Country who supported Secretary Haaland in this historic journey. Most importantly, we are grateful for Secretary Haaland’s history-making commitment to serve and look forward to working with her in her new role.”

Four months ago, NCAI membership adopted resolution PDX-20-059, calling for the appointment of a Native American Secretary of the Interior. It read in part, “American Indians and Alaska Natives have served the United States with honor in the military, in Congress and federal agencies for more than a century, and have made great contributions to the advancement of American Democracy…” Even though American Indian and Alaska Native people are equally qualified as their non-Native counterparts to hold Cabinet positions, this is the first time Native Americans are seeing themselves represented in an office that touches so many facets of their day-to-day lives.

Today, it is with great pride, hope, and optimism that NCAI welcomes Secretary Haaland to her new post.


About the National Congress of American Indians:

Founded in 1944, the National Congress of American Indians is the oldest, largest and most representative American Indian and Alaska Native organization in the country. NCAI advocates on behalf of tribal governments and communities, promoting strong tribal-federal government-to-government policies, and promoting a better understanding among the general public regarding American Indian and Alaska Native governments, people and rights. For more information, visit

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