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Haaland, eyed for Interior, stresses need for Native American representation

Haaland, eyed for Interior, stresses need for Native American representation
© Greg Nash

Rep. Deb HaalandDeb HaalandOVERNIGHT ENERGY: Internal watchdog to probe Trump officials who cast doubt on climate science | Kerry on climate talks: 'I regret that my country has been absent' | Biden leans on Obama-era appointees on climate Biden expands on Obama ethics pledge Biden leans on Obama-era appointees on climate MORE (D-N.M.) on Friday stressed the importance of having Native American representation in government — nodding to the role she could play in a Biden administration that has come under increased pressure to select her to lead the Interior Department.

“I think it's wonderful that our country is progressing in that manner, that a Cabinet-level position filled by a Native American is a conversation that we're having right now,” Haaland said in a Washington Post Live event.

If selected to lead the Interior Department, Haaland would be the first Native American to hold a Cabinet-level position.

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She would also be in charge of an agency that has often fallen short in its responsibilities to tribes.

Haaland specifically called out the Trump administration for building the border wall along lands sacred to Native Americans and for shrinking national monuments of importance to tribes like Bears Ears.

“We have to include Native Americans in the conversation because this was all Indian country at one time,” she said. “They deserve to be consulted when decisions about our public lands are made. We've seen that play out in real time during this administration and what happens when you don't consult tribes.”

Native American and progressive groups have upped their insistence that President-elect Joe BidenJoe BidenBudowsky: A Biden-McConnell state of emergency summit DC might win US House vote if it tries Inaugural poet Amanda Gorman inks deal with IMG Models MORE pick Haaland, urging another contender on the shortlist, Sen. Tom UdallTom UdallSenate approves waiver for Biden's Pentagon nominee Senate swears-in six new lawmakers as 117th Congress convenes We can achieve our democratic ideals now by passing the For the People Act MORE (D-N.M.), to step aside and back his New Mexican colleague.

But Biden is also weighing another Native American, Obama-era Interior Deputy Secretary Michael Connor, for the job.

Haaland dodged the question, however, when asked if Connor's potential appointment would carry the same significance.

“What I’ll say is I worked extremely hard to make sure that Joe Biden won this election. And I am going to support whoever President-elect Biden chooses for any Cabinet position, it'll be my job in Congress, or wherever I am to make sure that this administration is a success. And I'm committed to that,” she said.