Native women call for Indigenous representation in Biden Administration


Letters underscore a growing consensus among tribal leaders across the nation that Congresswoman Deb Haaland should lead the Department

SOVEREIGN NATIONS ACROSS AMERICA – In an open letter to President-elect Joe Biden and Vice President-elect Kamala Harris, Native American women leaders from tribal governments, Native women’s organizations, and the United States Congress have joined together to urge the incoming administration to honor its promise for diversity in the cabinet by appointing Congresswoman Deb Haaland as the first Native American to serve as Secretary of the Interior.

“As a man of extraordinary integrity, we know you will stay true to your word, which is why we
write today to join the euphony of more than 110 tribal leaders, 50 Members of Congress, and
scores of environmental and climate change leaders and organizations who have voiced their support of Rep. Deb Haaland to serve as your Secretary of Interior,” the letter said.

With Biden’s promise of a diverse cabinet, the letter frames the appointment of a Native American to lead Interior as an expectation of Indian Country. As the legal trustee over tribal lands held in trust by the federal government, DOI impacts the daily lives of over a million Native Americans more directly than any other department.

“Every day, decisions are made or actions undertaken by all DOI bureaus and offices that affect our children, elders, communities and lives.”

The authors called it “stunning” that a Native American has never been appointed to lead the DOI. “An unfortunate reflection of the bias, white privilege and structural racism that is so endemic in our systems of government in the United States, and which you have committed to dismantling wherever possible.”

“We are women leaders of Indian country, but we are also mothers, grandmothers, sisters and
aunties of our Native Nations. We have spent over 10,000 years on these lands. Through the eyes of our grandmothers, great grandmothers, and their grandmothers before them, we have watched for 170 years while the Secretary of Interior as our “trustee” failed to protect our lands…”

While the group detailed Haaland’s qualifications for the DOI position, they also noted that Rep. Haaland “has actually walked the path of those she will have jurisdiction over.”

A second letter, sent by representatives of Tribal Women for Indigenous Nations (TWIN) and Women Empowering Women for Indigenous Nations (WEWIN), requested the Biden Administration “ensure gender parity in the selection of Native political appointees - at all appointee levels”, and to “ensure political appointments below the Senate confirmed levels have an equitable representation for Native appointees.”

The groups expressed excitement at supporting the Biden-Harris administration’s vision for interacting with Indian nations in a true nation-to-nation relationship.

“As your transition teams fan out across the federal agencies, departments and offices, we would like to encourage you…to consider personnel and policies that will fairly incorporate Native people and tribal considerations,” their letter said.

To read the letters in their entirety: