North Dakota Native American lawmakers speak on historic Interior confirmation

North Dakota Native American lawmakers speak on historic Interior confirmation
North Dakota Native American lawmakers speak on historic Interior confirmation(KFYR-TV)
Published: Mar. 17, 2021 at 8:24 PM CDT
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BISMARCK, N.D. (KFYR) – Earlier this week, history was made when the U.S. Senate confirmed Democratic Congresswoman Deb Haaland as Interior Secretary.

Haaland’s elevation to the position sheds light on the need for more Native American representation in government. Secretary Haaland will now go down in history as not just the first Native American Woman but first Native American altogether to lead a Cabinet department.

Despite having five sovereign nations throughout North Dakota, Native American leadership is smaller on the state level.

Out of 94 representatives in the state House, there are only two acting of Native American descent, and out of 47 state senators, there is only one.

“I remember Congresswoman Deb Haaland congratulating me and saying, ‘Your reelection starts now,’” said Rep. Ruth Buffalo, D-Fargo.

Buffalo made history as the first Native American woman elected to the state House of Representatives in 2018.

She said one of her goals is to see more representation from all walks of life in every level of government.

“I’m just so excited for the future and to see what our youth are going to do because we know they will supersede any accomplishment that we do today and so, just very hopeful and I believe that what congresswoman Deb Haaland is bringing to the table is much needed hope,” said Buffalo.  

Sen. Richard Marcellais, D-Belcourt, holds the record for longest-serving Native American state senator, having served since 2007.

He said Haaland’s background will provide her a better understanding of legislation related to tribes in her position.

“Understanding federal law, Indian law and the corresponding uniqueness of tribal trust lands and resources. She’s got that background, knowledge, skills and abilities. I think she’ll do an excellent job because she understands Indian country,” said Marcellais.

Witnessing history now and making an impact for future generations.

Haaland’s confirmation vote was 51-40.

Vice President Kamala Harris will formally swear in Haaland Thursday.

Marcellais is working on the North Dakota Trust Lands Completion Act, which means state tribes could be working with the Secretary of the Interior if the bill is passed.

A hearing is scheduled before the Energy and Natural Resources Committee Thursday morning at 9 a.m.

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