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Rep. Deb Haaland has made history once again. The New Mexico representative for the state’s 1st Congressional District was selected Thursday by President-elect Joe Biden to be the nation’s first ever Native American interior secretary, and the first ever Native American cabinet secretary in U.S. history. The news was first reported by Reuters.

But this isn’t the first time Haaland has been “a first.” Haaland was one of the first two Native Americans elected to U.S. Congress in 2018, along with Sharice Davids. Haaland has written openly about her experience being the first Native American woman elected to Congress, and the importance of representation at all levels of government.

“Our ancestors struggled, fought, and died for a future where I could walk the halls of Congress, not just as a citizen, but as a representative,” Haaland wrote in an op-ed for Prism a few weeks before Election Day. 

Since she was elected to Congress, Haaland has been an outspoken advocate for social justice, a supporter of the Green New Deal, and an outspoken opponent of voter suppression.

“Our fight for a more representative government is in jeopardy. Native Americans face a number of modern voter suppression challenges today,” Haaland wrote in her op-ed. “These challenges vary state-to-state: from voter ID laws not recognizing tribal IDs as a valid form of identification, to tribal street addresses not being recognized as valid in certain states.”

Haaland’s appointment has already been met with cheers by several notable progressives.

“A fantastic and historic choice. For too long, Native people have not been adequately represented in Washington. @RepDebHaaland is a leader and trailblazer who will protect our lands and resources and ensure Indigenous people have a seat at the table,” tweeted former Secretary of Housing and Urban Development Julián Castro.

Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez has also tweeted her approval of the appointment and praised Haaland for her “commitment on climate and justice.”

More coverage from Prism to come.

Carolyn Copeland

Carolyn Copeland is a staff reporter and copy editor at Prism. She covers racial justice and culture. Follow her on Twitter @Carolyn_Copes.