Deb Haaland Biography

(United States Secretary of the Interior)

Birthday: December 2, 1960 (Sagittarius)

Born In: Winslow, Arizona, United States

Deb Haaland is an American politician serving as the 54th United States secretary of the interior who, as an enrolled citizen of the Laguna Pueblo tribe, became the first Native American to serve as a Cabinet secretary. A member of the Democratic Party, she served as the chair of Democratic Party of New Mexico Native American Caucus in 2012-13. Following an unsuccessful bid for Lieutenant Governor of New Mexico in 2014, she was elected as the chair of the Democratic Party of New Mexico in 2015. She subsequently served as the U.S. representative for New Mexico's 1st congressional district from 2019 to 2021. Following Democratic Party’s win in the 2020 elections, then President-elect Joe Biden announced nominating Haaland as Secretary of the Interior. In November 2021, she declared the word "squaw", historically used for Indigenous North American women, to be derogatory. She is a political progressive who supports the Green New Deal and Medicare for All.

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Quick Facts

Also Known As: Debra Anne Haaland

Age: 62 Years, 62 Year Old Females

Family:

Spouse/Ex-: Lloyd Keith Sayre

father: Major John David Haaland

mother: Mary Toya

children: Somáh Haaland

Born Country: United States

Political Leaders American Women

U.S. State: Arizona

Notable Alumni: University Of New Mexico

More Facts

education: University Of New Mexico

Childhood & Early Life

Debra Anne Haaland was born on December 2, 1960 in Winslow, Arizona, United States, to Mary Toya, a Native American woman and Major John David "Dutch" Haaland, a Norwegian Minnesotan.

A member of the Laguna Pueblo, a Native American tribe that has lived in the land of current state of New Mexico since the 1200s, she identifies herself as a 35th-generation New Mexican.

Her mother served in the Navy and her father was a Marine Corps officer, who received the Silver Star in Vietnam War and was buried with full military honors at Arlington National Cemetery in 2005.

Growing up in a military family, she moved frequently and attended 13 public schools across the US before the family settled in Albuquerque, New Mexico, to be close to people of the Laguna Pueblo tribe.

After graduating from Highland High School in 1978, she worked at a local bakery before enrolling at the University of New Mexico at 28 and earned her Bachelor of Arts in English in 1994.

Then a single mother, she decided to pursue a law degree in the mid-2000s and earned her Juris Doctor in Indian law from the University of New Mexico School of Law in 2006.

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Career

While she did not join the New Mexico State Bar, Deb Haaland had become active in Democratic politics while attending law school and was a volunteer for John Kerry’s 2004 presidential campaign.

A proud ‘Emergista', she graduated from Emerge New Mexico (2007), a leadership training program to increase Democratic women in public office, and served as the Native American Vote Manager for Diane Denish’s 2010 gubernatorial campaign.

From 2010 to 2015, she was a member of the Laguna Development Corporation Board of Directors, a Laguna-owned business created to strengthen the Laguna Community and its economy, and became its first chairwoman. In that position, she oversaw business operations for the second-largest tribal gaming enterprise in New Mexico and successfully advocated for the corporation to commit to earth-friendly business practices.

She previously volunteered for Barack Obama’s presidential campaign in 2008, and served as the state's vote director for Native Americans in Obama's 2012 presidential reelection campaign.

She served as the chair of Democratic Party of New Mexico Native American Caucus from 2012 to 2013 and as the tribal administrator for the San Felipe Pueblo from January 2013 to November 2015.

In the 2014 New Mexico gubernatorial election, Deb Haaland ran for Lieutenant Governor of New Mexico with the then-Attorney General of New Mexico, Gary King, as the Democratic nominee for Governor of New Mexico. However, the pair lost to the Republican ticket of Governor Susana Martinez and Lieutenant Governor John Sanchez by 57.22-42.78% of the vote.

In April 2015, she was elected to a two-year term as the chair of the Democratic Party of New Mexico and helped rebuild the state party after large defeats for Democrats in New Mexico in 2014.

Apart from regaining control of the New Mexico House of Representatives and the office of the New Mexico Secretary of State, she helped pay off seven years' worth of debt incurred under previous chairs.

In 2017, she partnered with state LGBTQ civil rights leaders to help pass a ban on Conversion Therapy in New Mexico, which was one of few progressive legislation signed by the then-Governor. Haaland, who mentioned still repaying her student loan during campaign, had authored passage SB 482 in the New Mexico Legislature in 2005, allowing native tribes in-state tuition at higher education institutions regardless of their residency.

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After her tenure as state party chair expired in April 2017, she announced her intention to run for the United States House of Representatives in New Mexico's 1st congressional district in the 2018 elections.

She secured the Democratic Party nomination by winning every county in the district and went on to defeat former New Mexico State Representative Janice Arnold-Jones in the general elections receiving 59.1% of the vote.

She wore traditional Pueblo dress, necklace and moccasins during her swearing-in ceremony in January 2019 and became the first Native American woman to preside over the U.S. House of Representatives during a debate in March.

She won reelection by defeating retired police detective Michelle Garcia Holmes in the 2020 elections, and served as one of three co-chairs of Elizabeth Warren's 2020 presidential campaign.

Incoming President Joe Biden announced on December 17, 2020, that he would nominate her as Secretary of the Interior, with several senior Democrats already voicing their support.

On March 15, 2021, she was confirmed by the Senate 51–40, with support from four Republicans and became the first Native American Cabinet secretary in U.S. history. She was sworn in on March 18, 2021.

In April 2021, she announced a new unit within Bureau of Indian Affairs that plans to tackle the decades-long crisis of missing and murdered Native Americans, emphasizing full commitment to assisting Tribal communities.

In May 2021, she approved the new constitution of the Cherokee Nation with protections for Cherokee Freedmen, and announced the creation of the Federal Indian Boarding School Initiative in June 2021.

Personal Life & Legacy

Deb Haaland gave birth to daughter Somah four days after graduating from the University of New Mexico in 1994 and started a salsa business in about 1995 to support the family as a single mother. She sold her products by driving across the state with her daughter, and when she didn’t earn enough money, she had to rely on friends for shelter and even on food stamps for sustenance.


She has three siblings: sisters Denise Kirksey, owner of a cultural arts and crafts store in New Mexico, and Zoe Antoinette Magee, a registered nurse, and brother Judd Haaland, owner of a construction company.

She married her longtime partner Lloyd Keith Sayre, head of sales and marketing at Laguna Pueblo Development, the economic development arm of the Laguna Pueblo, at a New Mexico tribal resort on August 28, 2021.

Trivia

Deb Haaland, who has often spoken of her love of the outdoors, running and hiking, completed the Boston Marathon, held on Indigenous Peoples’ Day in 2021, as a tribute to “missing and murdered Indigenous peoples”.

She suffered a broken left fibula while hiking in Shenandoah National Park on July 17, 2022, but soon after resumed her schedule virtually.

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