35th Generation Native American Deb Haaland First Secretary Of Interior

Who in the world is Deb Haaland, and why should I care?
  • Her job as Secretary of the Interior will be managing the country’s 500 million acres of federal lands and natural resources and includes the National Park Service, the Fish and Wildlife Service, the Bureau of Land Management, and the Bureau of Indian Affairs. She will also be in charge of conservation.
  • Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar said “This is a hard job.” Senator Daniel Inouye of Hawaii once said of all the Cabinet positions:

    ‘[T]he Interior is the most important because you are the custodian of America’s natural resources and custodian of America’s heritage.’


 What Shaped Her?
  • Haaland was born in Winslow, Arizona.
  • She is the daughter of military parents.
  • Her father, Major J. D. “Dutch” Haaland, a Norwegian American, was an officer in the United States Marine Corps and recipient of the Silver Star for his actions in Vietnam. He was buried at Arlington National Cemetery with full military honors.
  • Her mother, Mary Toya, a Native American woman, served in the United States Navy.
  • She has three sisters and a brother.
  • Haaland is an enrolled member of the Laguna Pueblo.
  • The Pueblo people have lived on the land that is now the state of New Mexico since the 1200s and Haaland identifies herself as a 35th-generation New Mexican.
  • Haaland has credited her mother and grandmother with her work ethic.
  • A single mother, she supported her daughter by herself by starting a salsa company, Pueblo Salsa, out of her kitchen.
  • At times during this period, she did not earn enough money to afford their home. So she had to rely on friends. She also had to get food stamps at times.
  • In 2017, Trump tried to “reduce the land size of two national monuments in Utah Bears Ears and Grand Staircase.”

Her Quote:

‘A voice like mine has never been a Cabinet secretary or at the head of the Department of Interior. Growing up in my mother’s Pueblo household made me fierce. I’ll be fierce for all of us, our planet, and all of our protected land.’

What You Do Not Know — Yet

  • Appointing Haaland means a new beginning for tribal relations with the federal government. In the past, the US government was anti-Native American.
  • Haaland is one of the first two Native American women elected to Congress, along with Representative Sharice Davids, (D-KS).
  • President-elect Joe Biden personally chose her.
  • Indian Country has more than 570 federally recognized tribes.
  • “Haaland’s personal experience with the tribal system means she can start prioritizing issues without training wheels.”
  • When young Native people come up to Deb in throngs, they feel hope.

Quotes about Her

The tribe with the largest reservation in the United States is the Navajo Nation. President Jonathan Nez said:

‘It is truly a historic and unprecedented day for all Indigenous people.’

Executive Director of IllumiNative, a Native American advocacy group, Crystal Echo Hawk, spoke:

‘[The Interior Department is] a massive battleship. It’s not going to turn on a dime, but this is the signaling of a new chapter. This is a deep resetting of the federal government’s relationship with Native peoples, one that was built on stolen land and broken promises.’

Echo Hawk continued:

‘The Department of the Interior has felt like a smash-and-grab job for the past few years. So imagine Day One, Deb in the Cabinet and in this new administration really working to protect these sacred sites.’



  • As a child in a military family, Haaland moved frequently.
  • She attended 13 public schools across the United States before the family settled in Albuquerque, New Mexico, to be close to family in the Laguna Pueblo.
  • She graduated from local Fort Hamilton High School as a valedictorian.
  • Then, she enrolled at the University of New Mexico, where she earned her Bachelor of Arts in English.
  • Four days after graduating, she gave birth to her daughter, Somáh.
  • Haaland earned her JD in Native American Law from the University of New Mexico. She took her daughter to all of her classes.


  • After graduating from Highland High School, Haaland worked at a local bakery.
  • She was an assistant professor at Harvard University.
  • Haaland first ran for higher office in 2014 as lieutenant governor on the Democratic ticket.
  • She didn’t win but became the first chairwoman elected to the Laguna Development Corporation Board of Directors, a Laguna-owned business created to strengthen the Laguna Community and its economy.
  • Then, she ran for Congress in her blue-leaning district, championing issues such as renewable energy and the environment.
  • She was the state’s vote director for Native Americans in Barack Obama‘s 2012 presidential reelection campaign.
  • She served as the chair of the Democratic Party of New Mexico Native American Caucus from 2012 to 2013:
    • As chairwoman, she oversaw business operations for the second largest tribal gaming enterprise in New Mexico and successfully advocated for the corporation to create policies and commitments to earth-friendly business practices.
  • She ran for Lieutenant Governor of New Mexico and the Democratic nominee for Governor of New Mexico, but lost.
  • She served as the tribal administrator for the San Felipe Pueblo from January 2013 to November 2015.
  • She was credited with rebuilding the state party after large defeats for Democrats in New Mexico.
  • She raised enough money during her two-year term as chair to pay off seven years’ worth of debt incurred under previous chairs.
  • Haaland was elected to a two-year term as the chair of the Democratic Party of New Mexico.

How She Works

  • Other people might have given up under all the pressure, but Echo Hawk said she has long admired Haaland:

    ‘[Her ability to] stay humble and be unfazed…As Native people, we grow up constantly being erased and minimized and dehumanized. That to be successful, you have to leave your Native identity behind.’

  • Grijalva said:

    ‘The fact that she’s not coming in with Zinke’s or Bernhardt’s agendas, that she brings a whole different and more inclusive perspective into how that agency functions, I think that’s going to be one area of opposition.’


She is the third in the series Meet The Women of Joe Biden’s Administration: Deb Haaland. I hope you enjoy hearing about this remarkable women as much as I enjoyed writing them. You will like her.


  • https://www.nbcnews.com/politics/politics-news/native-americans-rep-haaland-s-nomination-interior-secretary-signals-new-n1251727
  • https://www.nbcnews.com/politics/white-house/trump-announces-reductions-bears-ears-grand-staircase-monuments-n826326
  • https://www.nbcnews.com/specials/navajo-nation-fears-second-covid-19-wave/index.html
  • https://www.msnbc.com/ali-velshi/watch/rep-deb-haaland-the-trump-administration-tossed-tribal-consultation-out-the-window-95964229681

Featured image is a screenshot via YouTube.

The Mueller Report Adventures: In Bite-Sizes on this Facebook page. These quick, two-minute reads interpret the report in normal English for busy people. Mueller Bite-Sizes uncovers what is essentially a compelling spy mystery. Interestingly enough, Mueller Bite-Sizes can be read in any order.