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NIHB Congratulates Congresswoman
Deb Haaland on Confirmation as Secretary
of the Interior
WASHINGTON, DC—March 15, 2021—The National Indian Health Board (NIHB), a national Tribal organization representing the best health interests of American Indians and Alaska Natives, offered the following statements from NIHB Board of Directors Chairman William “Bill” Smith and NIHB CEO Stacy A. Bohlen on the Senate confirmation of Congresswoman Deb Haaland as Secretary of the Interior

“As a veteran, an elder and Tribal leader, I am proud to see a Native American elevated to a Cabinet position within the Administration and we have every confidence that Congresswoman Haaland will serve Indian Country and the nation to the best of her abilities,” said NIHB Chairman William “Bill” Smith who is from the Valdez Native Tribe of Alaska and a Vietnam War veteran. “Through Congresswoman Haaland’s national and state leadership, she has shown unwavering commitment to Tribal communities and proven that she can work with many different populations and coalitions to help advance policies and initiatives for the country.”
Congresswoman Haaland, who is from the Pueblos of Laguna and Jemez in New Mexico, made history again today when she was confirmed by the full Senate with a vote of 51 to 40 as the first Native American to serve as a Cabinet secretary. The Congresswoman first made history in 2018 when she was one of two Native women ever elected to Congress.

NIHB supported the Congresswoman’s nomination and encouraged Tribal leaders, advocates and Indian Country supporters to call their Senators to vote for a confirmation. In December 2020, the NIHB Board of Directors sent a letter to then-President Elect Biden endorsing Congresswoman Haaland as the Secretary of the Interior (see press statement here).
“At the National Indian Health Board, we believe firmly believe that the fulfillment of the trust responsibility applies to all federal agencies including the Department of the Interior. To have an Indigenous woman leading an agency that oversees our water, lands and resources is not only fitting, but appropriate and long overdue,” said NIHB CEO Stacy A. Bohlen. “Congresswoman Haaland has been a champion for Indian Country, underserved populations and rural communities while serving in Congress. During the pandemic, she gave continuous support for relief funding, testing and vaccination for Tribal communities. We know she will continue that leadership in her new, and historic, role as a Cabinet Secretary.”

The Department of the Interior oversees the nation’s natural resources and public lands, which are inherently Tribal land. The agency is tasked with upholding the federal government’s trust responsibilities to American Indians and Alaska Natives to help them prosper.

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Established by the Tribes to advocate as the united voice of federally recognized American Indian and Alaska Native Tribes, NIHB seeks to reinforce Tribal sovereignty, strengthen Tribal health systems, secure resources, and build capacity to achieve the highest level of health and well-being for our People.
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