Deb Haaland, One of Nation’s First Native Congresswomen, Calls for Probe of Missing Indigenous Women

Two Native American women have made history in the midterms, becoming the nation’s first Native congresswomen. Democrat Sharice Davids won the 3rd Congressional District in Kansas, unseating Republican Kevin Yoder. In New Mexico, Democrat Deb Haaland won in the 1st Congressional District, defeating Republican Janice Arnold-Jones. They will join more than 100 women in the U.S. House of Representatives—another historic first. We speak to Deb Haaland about her plans for Congress, the crisis of missing and murdered Native American women around the country, and whether she’ll attempt to impeach Donald Trump.

Transcript

NERMEEN SHAIKH: We end the show with the historic victories for women in Tuesday’s midterm elections, particularly women of color. For the first time in the nation’s history, there will be more than 100 women in the U.S. House of representatives. Rashida Tlaib in Michigan, Ilhan Omar in Minnesota became the first Muslim women elected to Congress. In New York City, 29-year-old Democratic Socialist Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez has become the youngest woman ever elected to Congress.

And two Native American women made history by becoming the nation’s first Native American congresswomen. Democrat Sharice Davids won the 3rd Congressional District in Kansas, unseating Republican Kevin Yoder. And in New Mexico, Democrat Deb Haaland won in the 1st Congressional District, defeating Janice Arnold-Jones. This is Haaland speaking at a victory party Tuesday night.

REP.-ELECT DEB HAALAND: Seventy years ago, Native Americans right here in New Mexico couldn’t vote. Can you believe that? Growing up in my mother’s Pueblo household and as a 35th-generation New Mexican, I never imagined a world where I would be represented by someone who looks like me. Tonight, New Mexico, you are sending one of the very first Native American women to Congress!

AMY GOODMAN: Deb Haaland campaigned on progressive issues, including climate change, renewable energy, universal healthcare, a $15 minimum wage. She is former chair of the Democratic Party of New Mexico.

Well, Congresswoman-elect Deb Haaland, congratulations and welcome to Democracy Now!

REP.-ELECT DEB HAALAND: Thank you. I’m so happy to be here. Thanks so much for inviting me.

AMY GOODMAN: Why don’t you start off by talking about what this means? You are true pathbreaker. You have made history, as you and Sharice Davids have both become the first Native American women to enter Congress. This year, it seemed like it happened in pairs—you know, the first two Muslim women to enter Congress.

REP.-ELECT DEB HAALAND: Yeah, yeah.

AMY GOODMAN: But talk about what that means to you. You are Laguna of Pueblo?

REP.-ELECT DEB HAALAND: Yes.

AMY GOODMAN: And what does that mean? Where do—talk about the Laguna of Pueblo—

REP.-ELECT DEB HAALAND: Yes, right.

AMY GOODMAN: —and then how you brought that into electoral politics.

REP.-ELECT DEB HAALAND: So, I mean, first of all, I am, of course, extremely proud to be elected as one of the first Native women. At last, we do have Native women representation in Congress.

And I really—you know, I’d like to stress that I started out in politics as a phone volunteer and just worked extremely hard and, you know, came to a point in my political career, so to speak, even though I was mostly a volunteer for many campaigns, to run for Congress. And I really want folks to know, other Native women to know, that you don’t have to have heavy political connections to serve your community. You can volunteer. You can work hard and, you know, have opportunities to represent your community.

So, I’m very proud that my volunteers and my team, we worked extremely hard to win this election, and, of course, would be proud to make sure that Native Americans have a voice at the table. Our country has a trust responsibility to Indian tribes, and it seems like their voice has been lacking in so many conversations that we’ve had in this country. And so, I’d like to make sure that tribal leaders have that seat at the table.

NERMEEN SHAIKH: Well, Deb Haaland, can you talk about some of the policies that you hope to pursue when you’re in Congress?

REP.-ELECT DEB HAALAND: Yes. Well, I ran on—as you mentioned in the introduction, I did run on fighting climate change, moving toward 100 percent renewable energy, making sure everyone has healthcare, funding our public schools properly. But, I mean, there are so many issues out there. One that has not gotten enough attention over the years is missing and murdered indigenous women. And so, I mean, those are—you know, that is an epidemic. That’s something that we need to work on. I’ll go to Congress to make sure that we are paying attention to the issues that folks care about. And, I mean, missing and murdered indigenous women, yes, we care about that in Indian country, but women care about that issue all over the country. So, those are the kinds of things I’d like to bring to the forefront of our conversation, so that we can solve those issues.

AMY GOODMAN: So, you were elected to Congress on Tuesday. Within 24 hours, President Trump fired his attorney general, Jeff Sessions. We just had this discussion about what this means—

REP.-ELECT DEB HAALAND: Yes.

AMY GOODMAN: —and also the possibility of impeachment, with Liz Holtzman, who preceded you in Congress, but from here in New York. What do you think about the idea of impeaching President Trump? Do you feel that the issue is off the table or something that should be explored, perhaps for this reason or others?

REP.-ELECT DEB HAALAND: It absolutely should be explored. You know, there’s been an investigation that’s ongoing. It looks to me that the president is working to make some moves before the Congress actually gets sworn in, when—and so, it absolutely needs to be explored. We need to consider all options. We have to protect our democracy. And so, I mean, I’m not saying—I didn’t run on impeaching Trump. I didn’t feel that was something that was, you know, happening with this election. However, the reality is, if he did violate our Constitution, if he did commit any crime, then that is—and if there are found to be impeachable offenses, then we absolutely have to protect our democracy and fight for the American people.

NERMEEN SHAIKH: Well, recently, Senator Elizabeth Warren came under fire since releasing a DNA test showing Native American lineage in her family tree. She released a video that told her family’s story.

SEN. ELIZABETH WARREN: My mother was born in eastern Oklahoma. It had been Indian territory until just a few years earlier, when it had become a state. My daddy always said he fell head over heels in love with my mother the first time he saw her. But my daddy’s parents, the Herrings, were bitterly opposed to their marrying, because my mother’s family, the Reeds, was part Native American. This sort of discrimination was common at the time. So when my mama was 19 and my daddy was 20, they eloped. And together they built a family—my three older brothers and me.

NERMEEN SHAIKH: Elizabeth Warren has said her mother told her her family had ties to the Cherokee and Delaware tribes. But Native Americans across the country criticized Warren’s decision to use a DNA test to assert her heritage. Tara Houska, national campaign director for Honor the Earth, recently spoke with Democracy Now!about the issue. So, can you talk about, Deb Haaland, your position on this, on Elizabeth Warren’s decision to take a DNA test?

REP.-ELECT DEB HAALAND: Sure. Well, look, throughout our history, there have been so many instances where Native Americans have been adopted out of their families, where they have lost ties to their communities or their families, because of the assimilation policies of the United States government. And I can’t blame her for wanting to find out more about her family history. And, of course, I can’t—it’s not up to me to judge anyone however they choose to identify themselves.

Elizabeth Warren has been a champion for working people. She has been a champion for Native people. She has been a champion for education and all of the things that we should care about in this country. And I expressed my support of her when she came out with that test, because I felt that she found out something about her family that she didn’t previously know, and I felt that was important to her.

AMY GOODMAN: Your thoughts on Nancy Pelosi? She just announced her intention to run for House speaker now that the Democrats have taken over. Will you be voting for her, Deb Haaland?

REP.-ELECT DEB HAALAND: Yes, I will.

AMY GOODMAN: And what do you feel about this new generation, including you, of congressmembers who are, a number of them, saying they want new leadership in the House?

REP.-ELECT DEB HAALAND: Well, at a time like this—you know, we’re talking about the possible impeachment of the president right now—I feel it’s important that we have a leader who can navigate all of these complex issues and lead our party in the right direction. I think Nancy Pelosi is extremely qualified to be speaker of the House, because she has been speaker of the House. I trust her leadership. I trust her judgment. I think that she is the person we need right now. And perhaps when we move forward and, you know, our politics isn’t as, you know, in a critical sort of era, that, yes, we—if she’s ready to pass the mantle on, I will absolutely support another qualified individual. But currently, I think she would do a good job.

AMY GOODMAN: Well, Congressmember-elect Deb Haaland, we want to thank you for being with us. We want to ask you to stay, so we can continue our conversation and talk about the drought in New Mexico and also the North Dakota voter ID laws and how they affect Native Americans. We’re going to do that and post it online in web exclusives at democracynow.org.

But we also have this latest news: Republican Congressmember Karen Handel of Georgia has conceded to Democrat Lucy McBath, African-American gun control activist whose son Jordan Davis was shot and killed in 2012 by a white man. I’m Amy Goodman, with Nermeen Shaikh. Thanks so much for joining us.