GUEST COLUMN:

America needs Deb Haaland’s leadership

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J. Scott Applewhite / AP

In this March 5, 2020, file photo Rep. Deb Haaland, D-N.M., Native American Caucus co-chair, speaks to reporters about the 2020 Census on Capitol Hill in Washington.

President Joe Biden’s nomination of Rep. Deb Haaland, D-N.M., to be secretary of the interior is a long-overdue recognition that the first peoples of this land have a leadership role in determining how we care for both our land and its people. It is disgraceful that such a needed voice in the Department of the Interior is being threatened by a few Republicans who still maintain a “cowboys versus Indians” mentality.

The Department of the Interior is deeply connected to the Indigenous people of our country through unique treaty and trust obligations to millions of American Indians, Alaska Natives and Native Hawaiians. And they are entitled to and deserve Haaland’s voice leading the department.

Haaland, as a Pueblo Indian and dedicated public servant, has a deep appreciation for the delicate balances that are required when managing the environment. She knows that survival depends upon reversing climate change, and managing the land, not only for what the land can give us now, but for the benefit of our children and grandchildren.

Sen. Steve Daines, R-Mont., claims these Indigenous values are radical; they are not. William Perry Pendley, former President Donald Trump’s nominee to lead the Bureau of Land Management, believed in selling off America’s public lands, and opined that the Black Lives Matter movement was based on a lie. He even denigrated Native American religious practices. Yet Daines believed the widespread opposition to Pendley’s nomination was “overblown.” The American people know what is best for the Interior Department’s leadership, and it is in Haaland.

As a Westerner from Battle Born Nevada, I know courage. Haaland is tried, true and tested. As secretary of the interior, she will have earned her place to serve in the highest levels of the American government.

The Senate needs to live up to the promises it has made to Indian country over generations, and confirm the first Native American Cabinet member in American history.She will add courage, diversity, experience and leadership to Biden’s cabinet.

America will be better for it.

Former Nevada Sen. Harry Reid served in the U.S. House and Senate for 34 years, including as Senate majority leader from 2007 to 2015.