When Congresswoman Deb Haaland was putting herself through college while raising her child as a Laguna Pueblo single parent, it is doubtful she thought one day she would be one of the first female Indigenous Congressional leaders in America.
But then again, maybe her roots deep in New Mexico and her work-hard ethic are the very reasons she is where she is—taking her homeland into the future.
Prior to the election New Mexico was on track to elect all women to the U.S. Congress. What our great state did was elect all women of color to represent us in Washington D.C. This comes at a time when it seems we need some female energy most.
Not all the newly elected women are Democrats. The 3rd Congressional District in Southern New Mexico did not re-elect incumbent Democrat congresswoman Xochitl Torres Small. Republican Yvette Herrell took the seat in a close and contentious election. Herrell is of Cherokee heritage. Herrell, along with her conservative views, does represent a swath of New Mexicans. There is room at the table for all to have a voice, as long as the voices debate in a courteous, democratic way. Let’s not go back to England’s parliament’s screeching or Nazi Germany’s silencing.
After the election we talked with Congresswoman Haaland about climate change, a new administration and making history.
The Paper.: You will be joined by two recently elected women who have put New Mexico on the international map for being the first state to elect all women of color. How awesome is this, and how do you see this benefiting New Mexico?
Deb Haaland: When I was elected as one of the first two Native American women last time, it was a landmark for our country. Since then we have been able to move a lot of things forward. Women are about 50 percent of the population, and we are less than 25 percent of Congress right now. I feel confident in our ability to move the issues we care about forward. I know what it is like to struggle. As a single mom I’ve relied on food stamps and had to piece together healthcare for myself and my daughter. In fact my daughter can never afford child care as well. That is one of the issues we are pushing through to help working families—universal childcare.
I am very proud to join my New Mexico colleagues in Congress.
New Mexico made historic gains, including wins for LGBTQ and women of color. How will this dynamic change the House, and do you think it can help defeat gridlock?
I think that we are still counting the votes for the House races and then the two runoff elections in Georgia. I think those things are going to play a role in how we move forward. I am the highest-rated freshman member for bipartisanship. I will continue to work on missing and Indigenous women and protecting Chaco Canyon. Those were all bipartisan bills. I think that with a Democratic president and a Democrat vice president who break ties in the Senate we will have opportunities to move more issues forward. Yes, I hope the gridlock gets broken.
Sen. Mitch McConnell is a leader who passed over 650 bills that the house sent the Senate last year only to let a small number on the floor for a vote. He is the one holding up everything. It is very sad that he does not care about the American people, only his politics. But we will keep working as hard as we can.
You have taken strong stances on issues like climate change and are a respected leader in these areas. What will be some of the initiatives you will be working to move these forward in a Biden administration?
I will start with the 30 x 30 Resolution to Save Nature, that we introduced this 116th Congress. Joe Biden has embraced it. It is the number scientists have said we need to preserve—30 percent of our ocean and 30 percent of our land by 2030, so that we can overcome climate catastrophe. Joe Biden has the most progressive environmental policy of any president that has run for office. I know he takes it seriously; he will listen to the scientists. I feel we are on the same page, and I will help to move his agenda forward with respect to climate change. It is an issue a lot of people understand, including a number of House members whose communities have been hurt by climate change. Common sense could rule the day when it comes to this. We will keep inviting our colleagues to join us on this issue.
After the last four years, it now appears democracy will survive. After spending time in Washington and being active here back home, what can you tell young people about the future of America? And the future of New Mexico?
I feel very proud that so many young people got out to vote this time. Joe Biden got more votes than any presidential candidate in the history of our country. I feel like a lot of people rose up this time. As a Native American and a woman, I know representation matters. When young people can see themselves there in Congress, they see some hope for the future. I am going to do every single thing I can do to protect their future. It will be up to us, right? To fight climate change, to make sure the young people have a globe that is not burning up. I say to them: Keep participating in our political processes. Their voices were heard. There were lots of ballot measures that were voted in that young people care about: cannabis, drug related crimes and criminal justice reform. Those are some of the issues young people care about. We are making a better world for our young people. With Joe Biden in office and our help to move his agenda forward there will be more to be hopeful about.
Is there anything else you would like to say to all of us back here in New Mexico?
We will continue working for the people. We know Americans care deeply about healthcare, education, good paying jobs and fighting climate change. I look forward to working with an administration that leads and cares for the American people. I will continue to work extremely hard. We are always accessible and anyone can call my office anytime. I am very proud to have the opportunity to represent the 1st Congressional District in the 117th Congress. [ ]