Rep. Deb Haaland (D-New Mexico) addresses the Native American Contractors Association on February 17, 2021.

“This past year has been a struggle for Native communities across the country,” Haaland, a citizen of the Pueblo of Laguna, said in a video message to NACA’s Federal Contracting Policy and Advocacy Conference.

In her remarks, Haaland focused on recently enacted laws that will enhance economic opportunity in Indian Country. They include the Native American Business Incubators Program Act and the PROGRESS for Indian Tribes Act.

“The law creates three-year grants to business incubators with ties to tribal communities education institutions and other organizations to expand assistance to a broad range of business sectors and incubation methods,” Haaland said of S.294, the Native American Business Incubators Program Act. She introduced H.R.1900, the U.S. House of Representatives version of the bill.

Haaland also introduced H.R.2031, the House version of the PROGRESS for Indian Tribes Act. PROGRESS stands for “Practical Reforms and Other Goals To Reinforce the Effectiveness of Self-Governance and Self-Determination.”

Haaland said the new law, which was enacted as S.209 in the 116th Congress, ensures that “tribes have the ability to exercise their inherent right to self-governance by giving them the responsibility to administer programs, services, functions and activities that were traditionally managed by federal agencies.”

Haaland has been nominated to serve as Secretary of the Interior for President Joe Biden. She tied her legislative achievements — which had bipartisan support in both chambers of Congress — to the ongoing efforts of the new Democratic administration.

“The Biden-Harris administration got off the right foot to help this work by signing an executive order that will ensure the federal government takes an ‘all-of-government’ approach to equity and does not perpetuate the racial injustice that has caused disparities that have put our communities at greater health and economic risks during this pandemic,” Haaland said in reference to COVID-19, which has impacted American Indians and Alaska Natives at disproportionate levels.

On his first day in office on January 20, Biden issued an executive order addressing racial equity and underserved communities. Another day one action promised more effective coordination with tribal authorities in combating the coronavirus.

Haaland’s confirmation hearing to be Secretary of the Interior takes place February 23.

Note: A still image appears in the video in first few moments of Haaland’s message.