U.S. Senate Confirms First Native American to Lead Interior Department

March 16, 2021

WASHINGTON (AP) – The Senate has confirmed New Mexico Rep. Deb Haaland as interior secretary, making her the first Native American to lead a Cabinet department – and the first to lead the federal agency that has wielded influence over the nation’s tribes for nearly two centuries.

Haaland was confirmed by a 51-40 vote, the narrowest margin yet for a Cabinet nomination by President Joe Biden. Four Republicans voted yes: Lisa Murkowski and Dan Sullivan of Alaska, Susan Collins of Maine and Lindsey Graham of South Carolina.

Democrats and tribal groups hailed Haaland’s confirmation as historic, saying her selection means that Indigenous people – who lived in North America before the United States was created – will for the first time see a Native American lead the powerful department. The Interior Department makes decision on relations with the nearly 600 federally recognized tribes.

Interior also oversees a host of other issues, including energy development on public lands and waters, national parks and endangered species.