April 2021

Deb Haaland Becomes First Native American Cabinet Secretary


Deb Haaland is sworn in as U.S. Secretary of the Interior by Vice President Kamala Harris.

On March 16, 2021 Deb Haaland took the oath of office as Secretary of the Interior. She became the first Native American to serve as a Cabinet secretary. It was a small ceremony that included her family. A more public ceremony was held on March 18.  Vice President Harris administered the oath of office. Secretary Haaland is a member of the Laguna Pueblo in New Mexico. She was one of the first Native American women elected to the U.S. House of Representatives in 2018.

Haaland commented, “A voice like mine has never been a Cabinet secretary or at the head of the Department of Interior.” The Department of the Interior (DOI) was created in 1849. The DOI oversaw the systematic abuse of Native Americans for many decades after it was created. Official department policies and legislation often eroded Native American ways of life by taking land and creating divisions. This makes Haaland’s appointment special.

The Indian Reorganization Act of 1934 tried to reverse some of the worst legislation targeting Native Americans. Further gains for Native Americans were made during the 1970s and 1980s. However, there is still much work to do in addressing historical wrongs against Native Americans. Most people believe that Secretary Haaland will continue to seek progressive expansion of DOI policies toward Native American governments.

The Department of the Interior is a huge organization. The department currently employs about 70,000 people. It has a variety of responsibilities. It is responsible for the management of the natural and cultural resources of the United States. There are 11 bureaus that oversee the department’s primary areas of responsibility:

  • Bureau of Indian Affairs
  • Bureau of Indian Education
  • Bureau of Land Management
  • Bureau of Ocean Energy Management
  • Bureau of Reclamation
  • Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement
  • Bureau of Trust Funds Administration
  • National Park Service
  • Office of Surface Mining Reclamation and Enforcement
  • U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service
  • U.S. Geological Survey

Secretary Haaland has a complex and challenging task ahead of her. In her speech accepting the nomination, Haaland said, “Growing up in my mother’s Pueblo household made me fierce. I’ll be fierce for all of us, for our planet and all of our protected land, and I’m honored and ready to serve.”

Related Links:

U.S. Secretary of the Interior

Learn more about Deb Haaland on the official website of the Department of the Interior

image credit: © Photo by Jim WATSON / AFP (Photo by JIM WATSON/AFP via Getty Images)
Question 1
In 2021, Deb Haaland became the first--

Question 2
How many bureaus does the Department of the Interior have?

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