Debra Anne Haaland is an American politician serving as the U.S. Representative for New Mexico's 1st congressional district since 2019 and the Senate-confirmed Secretary of the U.S. Department of the Interior. From 2015 to 2017 she was chair of the Democratic Party of New Mexico. Haaland's district includes most of Albuquerque and most of its suburbs. Along with Sharice Davids, she is one of the first two Native American women elected to the U.S. Congress. Haaland is an enrolled member of the Laguna Pueblo. Haaland is a political progressive who supports the Green New Deal and Medicare for All.
On December 17, 2020, President Joe Biden announced that he would nominate Haaland to serve as United States Secretary of the Interior. She was confirmed by the United States Senate on March 15, 2021, by a vote of 51-40. Following her swearing-in, she will be the first Native American to serve as a Cabinet secretary and the second to serve in the Cabinet, after Charles Curtis.
Early life and education Haaland was born in Winslow, Arizona. She 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. Her mother, Mary Toya, a Native American woman, served in the United States Navy. Her father, Major John David 'Dutch' Haaland, a Norwegian American born in Minnesota, was an officer in the United States Marine Corps and recipient of the Silver Star for his actions in Vietnam; he was buried with full military honors at Arlington National Cemetery in 2005. 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 who also belong to the Laguna Pueblo. Haaland graduated from Highland High School in Albuquerque. She has three sisters and a brother.
After graduating from Highland High School, Haaland worked at a local bakery. In 1988, she enrolled at the University of New Mexico, where she earned her Bachelor of Arts in English in 1994. Four days after graduating, she gave birth to her daughter, Somáh. As a single mother, Haaland started a salsa company to support herself and her daughter. At times during this period, she did not earn enough money to afford housing and had to rely on friends for shelter. She also relied on food stamps at times. She earned her Juris Doctor in Indian law from the University of New Mexico School of Law in 2006, but is not a member of the New Mexico State Bar. Haaland 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. 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 served as the tribal administrator for the San Felipe Pueblo from January 2013 to November 2015.
Earlier political career In 2012, Haaland served as the state's vote director for Native Americans in Barack Obama's 2012 presidential reelection campaign. She served as the chair of Democratic Party of New Mexico Native American Caucus from 2012 to 2013. She ran for Lieutenant Governor of New Mexico in 2014. Her ticket, headed by then-Attorney General of New Mexico Gary King, the Democratic nominee for Governor of New Mexico, lost to the Republican ticket of Governor Susana Martinez and Lieutenant Governor John Sanchez.
Haaland was elected to a two-year term as the chair of the Democratic Party of New Mexico in April 2015. During her tenure, New Mexico Democrats regained control of the New Mexico House of Representatives and the office of the New Mexico Secretary of State. Haaland has been credited with rebuilding the state party after large defeats for Democrats in New Mexico in 2014. She raised enough money during her two-year term as chair to pay off seven years' worth of debt incurred under previous chairs.
U.S. House of Representatives Main article: List of Native Americans in the United States Congress Elections 2018 See also: 2018 United States House of Representatives elections in New Mexico § District 1
Haaland speaks at 'Stop Kavanaugh Rall'y at the U.S. Capitol in 2018 After the expiration of her term as state party chair, Haaland announced her intention to run for the United States House of Representatives in New Mexico's 1st congressional district in the 2018 elections, to succeed Michelle Lujan Grisham, who was running for governor. Haaland defeated Damon Martinez and Antoinette Sedillo Lopez to win the Democratic Party nomination in June 2018, receiving 40.5% of the vote and winning every county in the district.
In the November 6 general election, Haaland defeated former New Mexico State Representative Janice Arnold-Jones, receiving 59.1% of the vote and winning three of the district's five counties. Her victory was part of a sweep of New Mexico that saw Democrats win every statewide and federal office on the ballot that year, along with expanding their majority in the New Mexico House of Representatives.
2020 See also: 2020 United States House of Representatives elections in New Mexico § District 1 In the November 3 general election, Haaland defeated retired police detective Michelle Garcia Holmes, who ran for Lieutenant Governor of New Mexico in the 2018 gubernatorial election. Haaland subsequently received 58.2% of the vote.
Congresswoman Deb Haaland , is sworn in to the House of Representatives by Speaker Nancy Pelosi, accompanied by her mother Mary Toya and her daughter Somáh.
Congresswoman Debra Haaland, "Crushed Turquoise", Laguna Pueblo, New Mexico's 1st District, captured in the historic wet-plate collodion process of pure silver on glass for "Northern Plains Native Americans: A Modern Wet Plate Perspective" by Shane Balkowitsch, North Dakota Historical Society, Bismarck, ND Along with fellow Democrat Sharice Davids of Kansas, a member of the Ho-Chunk Nation, Haaland is one of the first two Native American women elected to the United States Congress. During the swearing-in ceremony in January 2019, Haaland wore traditional Pueblo dress, necklace and moccasins.
On March 7, 2019, during a debate on voting rights and campaign finance, Haaland became the first Native American woman to preside over the U.S. House of Representatives.
Committee assignments Committee on Armed Services Subcommittee on Military Personnel Subcommittee on Readiness Committee on Natural Resources Subcommittee on Indigenous Peoples of the United States Subcommittee on National Parks, Forests and Public Lands Committee on Oversight and Reform Subcommittee on Civil Rights and Civil Liberties Caucus memberships Congressional Native American Caucus Congressional Progressive Caucus Secretary of the Interior Main article: List of Native American politicians On December 17, 2020, incoming President Joe Biden announced that he would nominate Haaland as Secretary of the Interior. Before Biden nominated Haaland, many senior Democrats had voiced their support for her as Secretary of the Interior, including House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, Majority Leader Steny Hoyer and Senator Elizabeth Warren. Republican representatives Don Young and Tom Cole also expressed their support for Haaland's nomination.
On March 15, 2021, Haaland was confirmed by the Senate 51-40, with four Republicans voting to confirm. She will be the first Native American Cabinet secretary in U.S. history.
Personal life Haaland has a daughter, Somáh, whom she raised on her own. Haaland's hobbies include marathon running and gourmet cooking. She is a Catholic.
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