In honor of Women’s History Month, The Diversity Movement is celebrating the vast accomplishments of influential women throughout the years and a few of the amazing women who are making history right now. One of those honorees is the country’s new Secretary of the Interior, Debra Haaland.
Last week, Debra Haaland — a Native American woman with a powerful history of professional advocacy and allyship — was officially sworn in as Secretary of the Interior, thereby becoming the first Native American woman to lead the Cabinet agency. Haaland’s confirmation is a powerful and historic moment as the Interior Department is responsible for the relations between the U.S. Government and Native American tribes.
Regarding the role, Haaland has said, “this historic nature of my confirmation is not lost on me, but I will say it’s not about me. Rather, I hope this nomination would be an inspiration for Americans moving forward together as one nation and creating opportunities for all of us.” For many, Haaland’s appointment to this position represents an important step forward in clearing a path for more women and BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, and People of Color) leaders to run for and achieve public office so that they might lend their voices in making decisions that impact the populations they represent.
Haaland’s background and experiences bring increased representation to Indigenous communities in America and help to further awareness of the inequities and injustices impacting tribal nations, including climate crisis, sustainability, conservation, restorative justice, and racial inequity.
Haaland is a member of the Pueblo of Laguna tribe and also has Pueblo of Jemez heritage. She is a 35th generation New Mexican. Haaland learned her J.D. in Indian Law from the University of New Mexico and became the first chairperson elected to the Laguna Development Corporation, where she pushed for environmentally friendly business practices and policies. Prior to becoming Congressperson in 2018, Haaland also served as the chair of the Democratic Party of New Mexico.
Equitable representation in leadership is important, especially in the federal government because, throughout the past centuries, Indigenous people and women have often been excluded from political decisions and policies that affect their lives. Haaland’s appointment may serve to correct or amend the Interior Department’s blemished history of oppression and neglect within Indigenous communities. Having her in this role brings a necessary perspective on the Indigenous American experience to all decision making. Her work and her presence increases attention to the issues affecting tribal communities and could help to advance the nation toward greater equity and greater protection of Indigenous rights.
Haaland’s confirmation serves as a groundbreaking inspiration to Indigenous people, women, and BIPOC communities in particular. For many, seeing a woman from an underrepresented and marginalized community in such a powerful position of leadership not only provides hope for monumental changes but also demonstrates the possibilities for other women and marginalized groups. As we come to the end of Women’s History Month, we honor Debra Haaland, her past, and her future, which inspire us to seek diverse representation and a greater understanding of the Indigenous experience.
To learn how you can create an authentic and impactful celebration of women’s contributions within your workplace, download our Women’s History Month Programming Guide.
Noreen Quadir is a content writer, with a background in social activism and a passion in advocating for diversity, inclusion, and equity. She writes for online blogs and publications, social media, and websites.