Biden: Federal government ‘has long-broken promises to Native American tribes’

President-elect Joe Biden on Saturday said the U.S. government has “long broken promises to Native American tribes,” in remarks officially introducing Rep. Deb Haaland (D-N.M.) as his pick for Interior secretary, making her the first Native American to be selected for a Cabinet position. 

The federal government has long broken promises to Native American tribes who have been on this land since time immemorial,” Biden said while announcing his nominees to join his climate team. 

“With her appointment, Congresswoman Haaland will help me strengthen the nation-to-nation relationship,” the former vice president added. 

Haaland, who was backed to take on the role by a number of progressive groups and tribes, said in her remarks Saturday, “this moment is profound when we consider the fact that a former secretary of the interior once proclaimed his goal to ‘civilize or exterminate us [Native Americans].'”

“I am a living testament to the failure of that horrific ideology,” the Democratic representative added. 

Haaland, a member of the Laguna Pueblo tribe, was one of the first two Native American women elected to Congress, alongside Rep. Sharice Davids (D-Kan.), and was an early backer of the Green New Deal.

In an official statement following news of her planned nomination Thursday, Haaland said, “A voice like mine has never been a Cabinet secretary or at the head of the Department of Interior.” 

“It’s profound to think about the history of this country’s policies to exterminate Native Americans and the resilience of our ancestors that gave me a place here today,” she continued. 

Haaland added in the statement, “As our country faces the impacts of climate change and environmental injustice, the Interior has a role and I will be a partner in addressing these challenges by protecting our public lands and moving our country towards a clean energy future.” 

If confirmed, Haaland will likely deliver a turnaround for the sprawling, 70,000-person agency that has rolled back environmental and endangered species protections and expanded oil and gas drilling under the current administration. Biden has pledged to bar any new oil and gas leasing on public lands, which will likely require action from the Interior department.

Biden on Saturday also introduced his other picks to shape climate policy under his administration, including former Michigan Gov. Jennifer Granholm (D) for Secretary of Energy and North Carolina Department of Environmental Quality Secretary Michael Regan to serve as administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). Regan, 44, would be the first Black man to run the EPA if confirmed. 

Biden has also selected environmental lawyer Brenda Mallory as his pick to lead the White House Council on Environmental Quality (CEQ). She would be the first Black person to head the CEQ. 

The president-elect on Saturday also highlighted former EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy as his choice to lead the newly-formed White House Office of Domestic Climate Policy, and climate expert and longtime Biden adviser Ali Zaidi as deputy national climate adviser. Zaidi is the highest-ranking Pakistani-American to be appointed by Biden in his administration.

Tags Biden climate policy Deb Haaland Department of Interior Environmental protection Environmental Protection Agency Gina McCarthy Interior Secretary Jennifer Granholm Joe Biden Michael Regan Native American Sharice Davids Tribes
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