Indigenous Americans are celebrating the appointment of Debra Haaland as Secretary of the United States Department of the Interior. For the first time, a person whose American ancestry goes back thousands, not merely hundreds of years, is in charge of federal lands and the federal government’s relationship with the 574 sovereign tribes.
Secretary Haaland’s appointment diversifies the voices in government. The League of Women Voters is committed to diversity, equity and inclusion. Our organization was created over one-hundred years ago by women who believed that women’s perspectives, voices and ideas could transform our nation if we women could get into meeting rooms.
In the 19th century, women’s voices raised issues such as safe drinking water, safe working places, child labor practices, and safe streets in the male-only city and county government meeting rooms. These were “women’s issues” and women forced the all-male world to expand its concept of what was important in their communities.
As women joined boards of directors for businesses and organizations, their diversity transformed board meetings and corporate culture in those organizations. Organizations and business expanded their boards to include people of color, various faiths, different heritages and different sexual orientations and have reaped the benefits of the diverse ideas these people bring to the board meeting. Diversity infuses equity and inclusion into corporate agendas.
Now Debra Haaland has joined the President’s cabinet meetings as Secretary of the Interior for the Biden administration. She will set the agenda for her department. She can determine what issues are her agency’s first priority. She can work to repair the tattered legacy of federal government’s relationship with tribes. She can infuse Indigenous values into decision-making and reshape the discussion of public lands that has been rooted in harvesting and resource extraction.
Representative democracy is at its best when the government includes voices of all the people who live within its borders. Debra Haaland’s appointment as Secretary of the Interior is a long-overdue recognition and inclusion of Indigenous people in our governance.
The League of Women Voters has been registering voters and providing non-partisan voting information for over 100 years. Membership is open to men and women, citizens and non-citizens over the age of 16. For more information about the Missoula League, go to our website: lwvmissoula.org