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Rep. Deb Haaland (D-New Mexico): Reps. Haaland & Sharice Davids Celebrate Women’s History Month
Native veterans support Deb Haaland ahead of historic vote
Monday, March 15, 2021

On Clubhouse: #DebForInterior Vote Watch! [Audio Only]

WASHINGTON, D.C. — Native veterans and allies are stepping up to support Rep. Deb Haaland (D-New Mexico) ahead of her final historic vote as Secretary of the Interior.

Haaland, a citizen of the Pueblo of Laguna, comes from a military family. Her mother served in the U.S. Navy and her father was in the U.S. Marine Corps, a history she shared at her confirmation hearing last month.

“My mother is a Navy veteran, was a civil servant at the Bureau of Indian Education for 25 years, and she raised four kids as a military wife,” Haaland told the Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources during her opening statement on February 23.

“My dad, the grandson of immigrants, was a 30-year career Marine who served in Vietnam,” she added. “He received the Silver Star and is buried at Arlington National Cemetery.”

Robert Dunsmore, the veterans service officer for the Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe, said Haaland’s military background makes her uniquely qualified to lead the Department of the Interior. With her confirmation vote scheduled on late Monday afternoon, she is set to be the first Native person to lead the federal agency with the most trust and treaty responsibilities in Indian Country.

“As a United States Congresswoman, voting rights advocate, small businesswoman, farmer, outdoor enthusiast and volunteer teacher’s aide, Rep. Deb Haaland has the education, experience, background and knowledge necessary to serve as Secretary of the Interior,” Dunmore wrote in a letter of support to members of the U.S. Senate.

Further north, Native veterans in Alaska are also calling attention to Haaland’s connections to the military. Her father has been recognized for his heroic service in the Vietnam War.

“Rep. Haaland’s father, Maj. J.D. ‘Dutch’ Haaland, served 30 years in the Marines, including two years in Vietnam, where he was awarded two Purple Hearts and the Silver Star for ‘conspicuous gallantry’ for saving six lives in Con Thien,” Ozzie Sheakley, Tlingit, who serves as commander of the Southeast Alaska Native Veterans Association, wrote in a letter to the U.S. Senate.

Another veteran ally, this one from New Mexico, chimed in with support as well. Leroy Petry, who received the Medal of Honor, the military’s highest decoration, for his heroic actions in Afghanistan, said Haaland “knows the sacrifices made by military families.”

“In 2019, Deb Haaland ran the Marine Corps Marathon, and she has honored her parents’ service by sponsoring legislation aimed at improving housing for military families,” Petry said in a letter to U.S. Senators.

Shortly after winning her first election to the U.S. House of Representatives in November 2018, Haaland shared a video from Arlington National Cemetery in Virginia. She visited her father’s grave on those hallowed grounds.

“I will always work to ensure that we are fighting for the benefits that all Veterans are owed,” Haaland wrote at the time. Two months later she was sworn in as one of the first two Native women in Congress.

Last September, Haaland told followers about the impacts of being in a military family. “When my father was in Vietnam for 2 consecutive years, my mom was on her own,” she wrote in a post in which she thanked then-presidential candidate Joe Biden and his spouse, Dr. Jill Biden, for supporting Americans who send their loves to the military.

Besides her father and her mother, Mary Toya, being in the military, Haaland’s uncle also served. She shared a tribute to Paul, who fought in the Korean War, on Veteran’s Day last November.

“Today, I’m thinking of him, my father, and so many other Veterans that have served our nation,” Haaland wrote at the time.

Haaland is set to become the first Native person to lead the Department of the Interior following a vote in the Senate on her historic nomination. The roll call has been scheduled for 5:30pm Eastern.

A small number of Republicans are expected to join all Democrats in confirming Haaland as the nation’s 54th Secretary of the Interior. During a procedural vote last Thursday, she won four GOP votes — Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine), Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-South Carolina), Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) and Sen. Dan Sullivan (R-Alaska).

Native people in Alaska, Murkowski said earlier in March, are “enormously proud to have a Native American nominated to this position.”

After the vote, Haaland is expected to resign her seat in the U.S. House of Representatives on Tuesday. She would then be sworn in as Secretary on Wednesday.

“She grew up in a military family,” Sen. Martin Heinrich (D-New Mexico) said of Haaland during a speech on the Senate floor last Thursday. “Her father was a decorated Marine combat veteran, and her mother is a Navy veteran. She grew up like a lot of kids with parents in the military, moving frequently, actually attending 13 different public schools over the course of her childhood.”

Over the weekend, Haaland hosted a live session in honor of Women’s History Month. She celebrated with Rep. Sharice Davids (D-Kansas), a citizen of the Ho-Chunk Nation who is the only other Native woman to win election to Congress.

“Soon, you’ll be heading over to the Department of the Interior,” observed Davids, whose mother is also a military veteran. “Talk about Women’s History Month!”

Davids said she will miss the numerous firsts she shared with Haaland during their time on Capitol Hill.

“I’ve been making sure to take selfies with Rep. Haaland as often as I can, while we’re, like, walking to votes,” said Davids.

Haaland noted that Interior headquarters at 1849 C Street NW is only a couple of miles away from the U.S. Capitol. She told Davids that she is going to hold onto her Congressional member pin and promised visits to their stomping grounds whenever possible.

“I’ll keep my pin so i can still come back to the floor of the House and I can still visit you in your office,” Haaland said.

The Senate session can be viewed live at or on C-SPAN.

Mary Toya Haaland takes part in a celebration in honor of Deb Haaland and Sharice Davids in Washington, D.C., on January 4, 2019. Photo by Indianz.Com (CC BY-NC-SA 4.0)

Members of Clubhouse can also join a listening room that will start around 5pm Eastern. Anyone seeking an invite to the audio-based platform can send a direct message to @indianz on Twitter or to indianzcom on Facebook.

The Clubhouse app is currently limited to Apple devices. A phone number is required to join but users are not required to share their contacts with the platform until they invite others.

The Department of the Interior includes Bureau of Indian Affairs, the Bureau of Indian Education and the recently-established Bureau of Trust Funds Administration, which is taking over most of the duties previously assigned to the Office of the Special Trustee for American Indians.

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