President-elect Joe Biden has selected New Mexico Congresswoman Deb Haaland (Laguna Pueblo) as his nominee to be the next Secretary of the Interior. If confirmed by the Senate, Haaland would become the first Native person to serve in a Presidential Cabinet, and manage the country’s vast public lands and coastal waters while overseeing prominent departments such as the Bureau of Indian Affairs and the Bureau of Indian Education.

President-elect Joe Biden has made a number of announcements for who will fill Cabinet and Cabinet-level positions this week. The NUNA team is continuing to track Cabinet announcements as they are made, and we are maintaining a comprehensive list of nominee’s Twitter accounts here.

See below for a full list of the nominees and staff that were announced this week:

  • Secretary of the InteriorDeb Haaland (Laguna Pueblo)
  • Secretary of TransportationPete Buttigieg
  • Secretary of EnergyJennifer Granholm
  • Council of Economic AdvisersCecilia Rouse
  • Environmental Protection Agency Administrator: Michael Regan
  • Chair of the White House Council on Environmental Quality: Brenda Mallory
  • National Climate AdviserGina McCarthy

While President-elect Biden has not yet named nominees to head the CIA, the Small Business Administration, or the Commerce, Justice, Education, and Labor departments, he has indicated that he would like to have all of his selections announced before Christmas.

A panel of independent experts recommended yesterday that the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) authorize Moderna’s COVID-19 vaccine for emergency use. The formal decision from the FDA authorizing the vaccine is expected today, and would allow for around 6 million doses to be shipped around the country starting this weekend. Meanwhile, Vice President Mike Pence received a COVID-19 vaccination earlier this morning on television in an effort to promote its safety and boost public confidence in its effectiveness.

CNN and Sesame Street are teaming up tomorrow morning for the hour-long special, The ABCs of COVID-19, will be hosted by CNN’s Chief Medical Correspondent Dr. Sanjay Gupta and Anchor Erica Hill along with Sesame Street’s Big Bird and friends. Familiar faces from Sesame Street and experts from CNN and across the country will be ready to answer children’s questions about staying healthy through the winter months, celebrating the holidays while distanced from extended family and friends, and coping with big feelings as they continue to face unprecedented challenges in their young lives.

Cherokee Nation is expected to receive 975 doses of the Pfizer vaccine in their first batch shipped to them this week, and they have announced that health care workers and Cherokee Elders – particularly native language speakers – are high on the priority list. “We’ve lost 20 of those speakers, in recent months, strictly to COVID,” Cherokee Nation Chief of Staff Todd Enlow said. “So, we’re doing everything we can to try and protect those speakers and those that hold our culture during this whole pandemic.”

Keep reading for a full news update.


Biden To Select Deb Haaland As Interior Secretary, The First Native American To Hold That Position, If Confirmed

USA Today, Rebecca Morin, December 17

President-elect Joe Biden will nominate Rep. Deb Haaland to be secretary of the Interior. If confirmed, she will be the first Native American to serve in that position. The Department of the Interior is home to the Bureau of Indian Affairs. Haaland, 59, D-N.M., is an enrolled citizen of the Pueblo of Laguna Native American tribe and serves on the House Natural Resources Committee. She was one of the first two Native American women elected to the United States Congress, the other being Rep. Sharice Davids, D-Kan.

In Historic Pick, Biden Taps Haaland As Interior Secretary

AP News, Ellen Knickmeyer, December 17

President-elect Joe Biden selected New Mexico Rep. Deb Haaland as his nominee for interior secretary on Thursday, a historic pick that would make her the first Native American to lead the powerful federal agency that has wielded influence over the nation’s tribes for generations. Tribal leaders and activists around the country, along with many Democratic figures, cheered Haaland’s selection after urging Biden for weeks to choose her to lead the Department of Interior.

Biden Selects Rep. Deb Haaland To Be First American Indian Interior Secretary

Native News Online, December 17

Rep. Deb Haaland (D-N.M.), a tribal citizen of the Pueblo of Laguna, who currently represents New Mexico’s 1st congressional district in the U.S. Congress, has been nominated by President-elect Joe Biden to become the 54th secretary of the U.S. Department of the Interior. The announcement came Thursday from the Biden transition team and first reported by The Washington Post. If confirmed by the U.S. Senate, Haaland will be the first American Indian ever to hold a Cabinet post in a presidential administration.

‘I’ll Be Fierce For All Of Us’

Indian Country Today, Aliyah Chavez, December 17

President-elect Joe Biden, in a historic move, has chosen Rep. Deb Haaland to lead the U.S. Interior Department. If confirmed by the Senate, the New Mexico Democrat would be the first Native American to serve as a Cabinet secretary.  “A voice like mine has never been a Cabinet secretary or at the head of the Department of Interior,” Haaland tweeted Thursday night.

‘Happy Tears’: Indian Country Cheers Interior Pick

Indian Country Today, December 17

Native people are crying happy tears — on their apartment floor, on social media, in their cars — over Rep. Deb Haaland’s selection as head of the Interior Department. This decision is historic for many reasons. One, a Native person in a Cabinet-level position. Two, it’s a win for Native women across Turtle Island. Three, Nick Tilsen, CEO and president of NDN Collective, sums up: “Haaland’s appointment gives us a voice in a Department that has long been responsible for our exploitation,” Tilsen tweeted.

Biden Picks Deb Haaland As First Native American Interior Secretary

The Guardian, Joan Greve, December 17

Joe Biden has chosen the US lawmaker Deb Haaland as interior secretary and will nominate the North Carolina official Michael Regan to head the Environmental Protection Agency, in two diverse and influential picks to handle crucial issues such as public lands, pollution and the climate crisis.


The ABCs of COVID-19 – A CNN/Sesame Street Town Hall For Families 

CNN, December 19

F.D.A. Panel Endorses Moderna’s COVID-19 Vaccine 

New York Times, Denise Grady, Abby Goodnough, Carl Zimmer, and Katherine J, Wu, December 17

The coronavirus vaccine made by Moderna moved closer to authorization on Thursday, a significant step that would expand the reach of the nation’s vaccination campaign to rural areas and many more hospitals.

Navajo Nation Surpasses 20,000 COVID-19 Cases; Leaders Stress Continued Caution

Native News Online, December 16

The Navajo Department of Health reported 160 new COVID-19 positive cases for the Navajo Nation and four more deaths. The total number of positive COVID-19 cases is now 20,095, including six delayed reported cases. The total number of deaths is now 731 as of Wednesday. Reports indicate that 10,779 individuals have recovered from COVID-19, and 186,724 COVID-19 tests have been administered.

Vaccines Reach COVID-Ravenged Indigenous Communities

AP News, Morgan Lee, December 17

The first doses of the coronavirus vaccine are being administered in Native American communities from the desert highlands of New Mexico to a coastal fishing tribe outside Seattle as the federal government and states rush to protect one of the most vulnerable U.S. populations. The two-pronged effort includes a massive logistical operation by the federal government’s Indian Health Service focusing on vaccinating health care workers at sovereign Indigenous nation clinics across the country and urban clinics serving off-reservation Native Americans.

Muscogee (Creek) Nation Principal Chief David Hill Tests Positive For COVID-19

Native News Online, December 17

David Hill, Principal Chief of the Muscogee (Creek) Nation, has tested positive for coronavirus, the tribal nation announced Thursday. Hill began experiencing mild symptoms on Wednesday night and was tested at the MCN Medical Center in Okmulgee, Okla. He is recovering at home and continuing his duties remotely, but he is not expected to return to the office until he is COVID-free.

Cherokee Nation To Put Native Language Speakers High On Vaccine Priority List 

News On 6, December 10

The Cherokee Nation expects to get its first allotment of COVID-19 vaccines next week.


Eastern Cherokees Green-Light Medical Pot

Indian Country Today, Joseph Martin, December 17

The Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians has started the process of legalizing medical marijuana, joining a growing number of U.S. tribes eying the drug’s economic and medicinal potential. The Tribal Council this fall passed a resolution submitted by Principal Chief Richard Sneed and two others to legalize marijuana’s medical use.


Mackenzie Scott Donates $5 Million To The Institute Of American Indian Arts

Native News Online, December 17

Billionaire philanthropist MacKenzie Scott, the ex-wife of the world’s richest man, Jeff Bezos, has made an unrestricted donation of $5 million to the Institute of American Indian Arts in Santa Fe, N.M. The institute made the announcement through its Facebook page on Wednesday. Scott, who previously donated $20 million to the American Indian Graduate Center, announced in a Medium post on Tuesday that she had gifted nearly $4.2 billion to 384 organizations over the past four months.

Report: Native American Women, Girls Suffer More Violence

AP News, December 17

Native American women and girls are far more likely than other Minnesota residents to be victims of homicide, go missing or experience others forms of violence, according to a task force established last year to address the crisis. American Indian women and girls make up less than 1% of the state’s population, yet they accounted for 8% of all women and girls slain in Minnesota from 2010 through 2018, according to state data included in the Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women Task Force report.

Minnesota’s MMIW Task Force Releases Findings

Native News Online, Darren Thompson, December 16

A task force established in 2019 in Minnesota that focuses on the epidemic of missing and murdered Indigenous women (MMIW) released its first report that in Minnesota, American Indian women and girls make up 8 percent of murdered women and girls in the State. Indigenous women (and girls) make up only 1 percent of the state’s population, according to the report released on December 15, 2020 by the Minnesota Department of Public Safety.