Skip to main content

Sign up for our newsletter.

Quality journalism. Progressive values. Direct to your inbox.

For Immediate Release

Press Release

'Native Americans Finally Have a Cabinet Nominee. Will an Adopted Tlingit Take Her Down?’

If confirmed, Haaland, a tribal citizen of the Laguna Pueblo, would become the first Native American Cabinet secretary in United States history.

Today, as Republicans dig in against Deb Haaland as Interior secretary, Julian Brave Noisecat, vice president of policy and strategy with Data for Progress, has a new piece out in Politico highlighting the choice faced by Alaska Senator Lisa Murkowski between her party and a powerful constituency that's come to trust her. 

Key sections below:

Over the past two months, he [Joe William Jr, a Tinglit tribal elder] and thousands of others have been making phone calls, sending emails and writing letters telling their tribal leaders and congressional representatives to support the Democratic pick to oversee federal lands, natural resources and American Indian affairs. “I fully, 100 percent support her appointment,” Williams said of Haaland, despite the fact that she’s a progressive and he’s been voting Republican since the Reagan years. “And the reason for that is I don’t have to explain to her what it means to be an Indian.”


For American Indians, the nomination of Haaland has a special symbolic power: A Native woman poised to lead a department once run by a man who declared its mission was to “civilize or exterminate” Native people. It strikes some as a rich irony that Republicans are now describing her as an existential threat to their way of life.


When a Republican House member urged Biden to withdraw his nomination of Haaland, five tribes in the congressman’s district wrote him a letter saying: “This historic nomination is more important to us and all of Indian country than any other Cabinet nomination in recent history. … Your opposition to the first and only American Indian ever nominated to a Cabinet position is likely to reverberate across Indian country.”


With Democrats out of contention in the state, Alaska Natives have little incentive to vote out a political ally. But for some, a betrayal of this significance could throw the very strength of her allyship into doubt. Native voters know too that with Murkowski already risking yet another right-wing primary, the senator has little incentive to offend them—many of whom are independent and can vote in either of the state’s party primaries, or sit out if they choose—since she likely needs their support to beat back such a challenge.


Climate Power 2020 is putting the Trump administration on defense every single day for ignoring experts, refusing to believe in science, surrendering our government to big oil executives, and gutting public health protections, all at the expense of future generations. The 2020 presidential election is the defining moment for how our nation addresses the climate crisis—our leaders must be emboldened to take immediate action on climate change and to build a just and equitable economy. The time to act is now. Learn more:

Appeals Court Orders Release of Secret Memo Barr 'Used to Undercut the Mueller Report'

While the DOJ has not announced whether it will appeal, a spokesperson for the watchdog behind the case said that "the American people deserve to know what it says. Now they will."

Jessica Corbett ·

Trans Girls in Utah Can Play School Sports After Judge Blocks Discriminatory Law

"Our daughter just wants the same chance as other kids to make friends and play on the team she loves," said one parent plaintiff. "Today's ruling gives her the opportunity to do that."

Brett Wilkins ·

'Deeply Dangerous Nonsense': Treasury Dept. Debunks GOP Lies About 87,000 Armed IRS Agents

The intensity with which Republicans "are coming at this is really a testament to how important these resources are going to be—because there are many wealthy tax evaders that stand to lose a lot," said one official.

Kenny Stancil ·

Michigan Judge Blocks Enforcement of 'Dangerous and Chilling' 1931 Abortion Ban

The decision is a "welcome" development "but our work continues," said Gov. Gretchen Whitmer, vowing to use "every tool in my toolbox to fight like hell for women and healthcare providers."

Jessica Corbett ·

Tlaib Says Biden Must 'Hold Israel Accountable' for Raid on Palestinian Rights Groups

"The silence by our country is enabling more death and violence," said the U.S. congresswoman.

Jake Johnson ·

Common Dreams Logo