Angel Peña poses for a portrait on a trail in the Organ Mountains-Desert Peaks National Monument outside of Las Cruces, New Mexico on 1 November 2018. Mr. Peña worked to help establish the National Monument, which was created by President Obama in 2014., Photo by Brian Sokol

Representative Deb Haaland has the opportunity to make history as the first Native woman confirmed as Secretary of the Department of the Interior. This is an intensely proud moment for New Mexicans, especially Native and Pueblo people, as well as Hispanic people, who will all benefit from having Haaland in charge of our land, air and water.

Deb Haaland is the fierce and bold leader we need and deserve. After working her way through college, living paycheck to paycheck for years, starting her own small business, and raising her daughter as a single mother, she knows, unlike many career politicians, the struggles that families face every day in America. These lived experiences are sorely missing in the personal experiences of the vast majority of D.C. offices. From these experiences, she is best suited to lead us down the road to economic and environmental recovery, and will always put the health and wellness of our people and lands over profit. 

For the last four years, Representative Haaland witnessed the deterioration of environmental protections. She proved herself to be a woman of action, fighting to protect cherished sacred places like Chaco Canyon and Standing Rock. As Secretary of the Department of Interior, she will be an aggressive advocate and force for positive change to combat the climate crisis, and will make good on the Biden-Harris Administration’s call to protect 30 percent of our land and water by 2030. 

A 35th generation New Mexican, Haaland has proudly represented her communities of Laguna Pueblo and Jemez Pueblo, and other Tribal and non-Tribal communities across her district. After almost 200 years of the Department of Interior managing federal policies involving the 574 Tribal nations in this country, an enrolled member of one of these nations will finally be running the show. This is an appointment hundreds of years overdue.

As a father of three who wants a sustainable future for my children, I believe restoring our environment is crucial. Deb Haaland has proven time and again that she will accomplish this by prioritizing our land, water, wildlife, and uplifting Indigenous practices of environmental stewardship. In her campaign for Congress, she pledged to vote against new fossil fuel infrastructure, fight for 100% clean energy, and stand up to the oil and gas industry. These are the examples I want my children to see in their leaders. 

Deb Haaland represents us all. We see ourselves in her. She is smart, authentic, relatable, honest, and won’t back off the ideals she believes in. Haaland is the champion for ALL Americans, and for all of our beautiful land. 

Vamos, Representative!

Angel Peña is the executive director of the Nuestra Tierra Conservation Project in Las Cruces, N.M.