“For the first time, we will have a person who looks like us and who, like us, shares a deep understanding of our ancestral responsibilities to care for the sacred lands and waters of this country.” – Judith LeBlanc Director of Native Organizers Alliance

March 15, 2021 —The United States Congress confirmed the appointment of Rep. Deb Haaland (D-N.M.) for the U.S. Secretary for the Department of the Interior, making her the first Native American to serve in the U.S. cabinet.

The following is a statement from Judith Le Blanc (Caddo), director of Native Organizers Alliance:

“The impact of Deb Haaland’s confirmation as Secretary of the Interior can’t be understated. For the first time, we will have a person who looks like us and who, like us, shares a deep understanding of our ancestral responsibilities to care for the sacred lands and waters of this country.

For thousands of years before settlers arrived, our Native ancestors protected and cultivated our lands, a commitment which must be shared by all who live on this land. We pray for the earth as a living being, and understand we must work together to maintain balance with the natural world. This isn’t something we have to explain to Secretary Haaland. Our shared experiences connect us.

Given her vast experience in natural resources and tribal sovereignty, we hope that Secretary Haaland will help shape a new era where tribes are informed long before decisions are made, and give consent at all phases of the project.

For too long, pipelines, large-scale infrastructure projects like dams, mining, and more, have been pushed through without proper consultation with, and the consent of, tribal nations. Many times, this is in direct violation of the treaties and the U.S. Constitution. The end result of this flawed process is degraded and destroyed sacred lands, waters, fish, and wildlife. When our natural resources are carefully managed and protected, we all benefit.

As an organization dedicated to uplifting the voices and supporting the rights of Native nations across the U.S., we call on the Department of Interior to protect our sacred places, especially Bears Ears, the Grand Canyon, Chaco Canyon, the Arctic, Mauna Kea, Missouri River and Oak Flat.

The work ahead to protect our sacred places is the work our ancestors began long before us. It is an historic moment to have a Laguna Pueblo woman in this leadership position who shares our understanding of the sanctity of our natural resources. We look forward to the department forging new and stronger relationships with sovereign tribal nations.”

In celebration, of Deb Haaland being appointed as the Secretary of the Interior, the digital gender justice organization UltraViolet partnered with Protect the Sacred, ACLU of South Dakota, IllumiNative, Center for Native American Youth, Native Organizers Alliance, Advance Native Political Leadership, and Indigenous Life Ways, to create a mobile billboard in DC, broadcasting a congratulatory message to Secretary Haaland as well as the hopes and dreams of seven Indigenous women leaders who helped make this moment possible.

Leading up to this historic confirmation and appointment Native Organizers Alliance launched a campaign along with IllumiNative, 350.org, Sierra Club, Friends Committee on Legislation, the Women’s March and Advance Native Political Leadership Action Fund, for constituents to contact their senators to show support for the confirmation of Deb Haaland for Secretary of the Interior. This resulted in 16,578 letters sent to U.S. Senators.

During Deb Haaland’s confirmation hearing Native Organizers Alliance hosted a watch party and celebration with hundreds of Native leaders from all over the United States, and VIP guests Mark Ruffalo, Senator Elizabeth Warren, Rep. Sharice Davids and even – Secretary Deb Haaland herself, along with her sisters and partner Skip.

See our Watch Party and Celebration here

Before Deb Haaland’s historic confirmation hearing for Secretary of the Interior Native Organizers Alliance & IllumiNative projected this image by Mer Young onto the U.S. Department of the Interior building in Washington D.C.