Deb Haaland is the U.S. Secretary of Interior. She is the first native American woman ever to serve in a president’s cabinet.

Deb Haaland was born in Winslow, Arizona in 1960 and is a member of the Laguna Pueblo Native American people. Her mother, Mary Toya, is a Native American women and United States Navy veteran. Her father, J.D. Haaland, was a Norwegian American veteran of the United States Marine Corps and a recipient of the Silver Star for his courageous actions in Vietnam. J.D. was buried with full military honors at Arlington National Cemetary in 2005. Deb Haaland has three sisters and a brother.

Deb Haaland Bio: Early Life & Education

Haaland earned her Bachelor’s degree in English from the University of New Mexico in 1994, at the age of 34. She earned her J.D. in Indian law from University of New Mexico School of Law in 2006 and served as the tribal administrator for the San Felipe Pueblo from January 2013 to November 2015.


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Deb Haaland Bio: Early Political Career

In an exclusive interview given to uPolitics, Haaland said, “I got into politics because I really wanted more Native Americans to get out and vote.”

She detailed how her first political experiences involved lots of volunteer work attempting to increase the number of Native American voters. “I started going into campaign offices of candidates I liked and asking for lists of native Americans who I could make phone calls [to],” she said. “That turned into me actually showing up in those communities, knocking on doors, registering voters. I’d go to the Navajo nation fairs, Pueblo feast days, set up a booth, register voters, and drive them to the polls when it was time.”

From that point Haaland began to aim higher, aspiring to reach higher positions in order to better help her community. Detailing her introduction to formal political work, Haaland described how volunteering “turned into me working on the Obama campaign in 2012, one of my few paid staff positions—I was usually volunteering.”

She then ran for Lieutenant Governor of New Mexico in 2014 on a ticket headed by the state’s Attorney General. Haaland’s ticket lost the general election, giving another term to the incumbent Republican governor, Susana Martinez. Undaunted, Haaland continued her political career, becoming the head of the New Mexico Democratic Party the next year.

“I became the state chair of our party in 2015 and we won across New Mexico. We had lost our statehouse in 2014 and we won it back in 2016 under my leadership,” said Haaland of her first formal position. “When I finished my term there I thought ‘maybe I could run for Congress.'”

Deb Haaland Bio: Domestic Life

Haaland is a single mother, giving birth to a daughter on her own around 1995. in 2021, Haaland married longtime partner, Skip Sayre, the Chief of Marketing at Laguna Development Corporation.

Deb Haaland Bio: House of Representatives, Record, Policies, Bills

In 2018 Haaland successfully mounted a campaign to win New Mexico’s 1st congressional district, a region that includes most of Albuquerque and the surrounding suburbs. She was part of the wave of new women who joined the House of Representatives during the 2018 elections, bringing unprecedented diversity to the body.

Haaland and Sharice Davids, a fellow Native American woman who was voted into the House during the 2018 elections as well, are the first Native American women to ever serve in the legislative body.

When asked by uPolitics about what it was like being one of the first Native American women in the House, Haaland replied, “Every day for me I realize the weight that’s been put on my shoulders, but I gladly take it and will do everything I can to make sure that I am working toward what we should all be working toward, and that is to make sure that everybody has a chance to succeed in this country.”

“I welcome any Indian tribe into my office whether they’re in my district or not,” added Haaland. “I make sure that any issues they bring to me have a voice.”

On March 7, 2019, Haaland became the first Native American woman to ever preside over the House of Representatives during a debate on voting rights and campaign finance.

“Presiding over the house, sitting in the speaker’s chair, it was especially significant because at the time we were working on the amendments to pass HR1 which was the big bill to protect voting rights and get big money out of politics,” said Haaland about the experience. She continued by describing how it “was pretty amazing” that she was “standing in that chair as the first native woman.”

On November 3rd, 2020, Haaland was reelected to her seat in the House of Representatives with 58.2% of her district’s vote over challenger Michelle Garcia.

She cosigned a number of bills during her time in the House of Representatives, including the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act of 2021 and the Abortion is Healthcare Everywhere Act of 2021.

Deb Haaland Bio: Nomination as Secretary Of The Department Of Interior

President Joe Biden announced Rep. Haaland as his nominee for Secretary of the Department of Interior on December 17, 2020. Rep. Haaland will be the first Native American cabinet secretary in American history. Haaland’s nomination marks a significant shift in the federal government’s perspective on climate change environmental injustice. Haaland is a staunch supporter in the preservation of US lands and oceans and was a vocal supporter of the indigenous peoples protesting the Keystone Pipeline.

“Environmental injustice and economic injustice have taken a hold of so many communities, and they’ve had enough. They want us to pay attention and help them to succeed … As far as Indian Country is concerned, I want to make sure tribal leaders – and all marginalized communities – have a seat at the table,” Haaland said to the Guardian on her nomination.

There is a small group of Republican Senators who plan to oppose Rep. Haaland’s nomination. Fifteen GOP senators wrote a letter to President Joe Biden calling Haaland’s nomination “a direct threat to working men and women and a rejection of responsible development of America’s natural resources,” and cited Rep. Haaland’s support of the Green New Deal as the reason for their objection. President Biden was unmoved by the letter and will move forward with Rep. Haaland’s nomination.

Deb Haaland Bio: Secretary Of Interior

Haaland was sworn into the Biden administration as Secretary of the Department of Interior on March 18, 2021. She made history as the first Native American to ever serve as a cabinet secretary, overseeing nation-to-nation relationships with hundreds of tribes and working to protect thousands of acres of land.

Amongst her many great achievements during her time as Secretary of Interior is the establishment of the Missing and Murdered Indigenous People Unit within the Bureau of Indian Affairs.

A 2016 study by the National Institute of Justice found that 1.5 million American Indian and Alaska Native women have experience violence in their lifetime. According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, murder is the third leading cause of death for Native women. Haaland is working to draw attention and put an end to these crimes.

“Whether it’s a missing family member or a homicide investigation, these efforts will be all hands on deck,” said Haaland in a statement. “We are fully committed to assisting Tribal communities with these investigations, and the MMU will leverage every resource available to be a force-multiplier in preventing these cases from becoming cold case investigations.”

This new unit will pull the total government weight in investigating these cases. As a champion for Indigenous people, Haaland is credited with the efforts of the federal government to help put an end to this crisis.

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