Joe Biden has chosen Native American parliamentarian Deb Haaland as Minister of the Interior, a large department in charge of natural resources, American media said Thursday, a new symbol of the diversity desired by the American president-elect in his future government.
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If her appointment is confirmed by the Senate, at age 60, she will become the first Native American to hold a ministerial position.
A member of the Laguna Pueblo tribe living in New Mexico, Ms. Haaland will find herself at the head of a department that manages the vast natural resources of federal lands, such as national parks, but also Indian reserves.
She will also be responsible for implementing Mr Biden’s ambitious agenda to tackle climate change. He thus promised to no longer grant gas or oil drilling permits in federal zones.
A petition, supported by more than 120 tribal representatives, recently urged Joe Biden to “make history” by appointing Ms. Haaland to this crucial post for the approximately 600 recognized tribes in the United States.
Deb Haaland was one of the first two Native American women to be elected to Congress in 2018, to the House of Representatives.
The single mother, who overcame alcoholism and had to resort to government food stamps for a time, was part of this wave of women running for Congress to oppose President Donald Trump’s policies.
Before Mrs. Haaland, only one other Native American had served in the American government: Charles Curtis, vice president of Herbert Hoover between 1929 and 1933.
Joe Biden is also expected to name Michael Regan, an African American, as head of the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), according to several media including the New York Times and the Washington Post.
Mr. Regan has long been involved in air quality issues at the EPA, under the tenures of Bill Clinton and George W. Bush. Since 2017, he has been the head of the North Carolina Department of the Environment.
Calls to open government up to minorities have multiplied since the victory of Joe Biden, who promised a government “that looks like America.”
Kamala Harris will become the first female vice president on January 20, and Mr. Biden has appointed former African-American general Lloyd Austin to the Pentagon, Asian-American Katherine Tai Trade Representative (USTR) and as Minister of Transport Pete Buttigieg, the first openly gay member of an American presidential cabinet.