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Rep. Debra Haaland wore Indigenous dress at historic swearing-in ceremony as Interior Secretary

The member of the Laguna Pueblo tribe honored her heritage as she became the first Native American to lead a Cabinet agency.
/ Source: TODAY

Rep. Debra Haaland honored her Indigenous heritage as she made history at her swearing-in ceremony as the new Secretary of the Interior on Thursday.

The 60-year-old congresswoman from New Mexico, who is a member of the Laguna Pueblo tribe, was dressed in a traditional ribbon skirt as she became the first Native American to lead a Cabinet agency.

She wore a skirt adorned with images of butterflies and corn while also wearing traditional Laguna Pueblo moccasins as she was sworn in by Vice President Kamala Harris, who is the first Black and Asian American female to hold her office. Her daughter, Somah Haaland, held the Bible as Haaland took her oath.

"Thank you @POTUS Biden and @VP Harris," Haaland tweeted. "I am honored and ready to work. I look forward to tackling some of the nation's most pressing issues with @Interior so that future generations can enjoy our public lands and waters for years to come."

Haaland's colorful skirt was made by Agnes Woodward of ReeCreeations, an Indigenous-owned company. Woodward shared her joy on Instagram at being part of Haaland's historic moment at the Eisenhower Executive Office Building in Washington, D.C.

"Photos of Deb Haaland proudly wearing the ribbon skirt I designed for her brings me so many emotions that are difficult to describe," Woodward wrote. "It is such an honor to see an Indigenous woman be sworn in as the first Native American Cabinet head. Deb Haaland is such a gracious, humble, and compassionate leader who exemplifies all the teachings that are pretty universal for Indigenous Peoples.

"The teachings of love, kindness, humility, honesty, truthfulness and courage can be felt every time someone meets Deb or each time we see her speak. Today not just as a ribbon skirt maker but as an Indigenous woman….I feel SO SEEN."

Debra Haaland is shown alongside Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi in 2019 after being sworn in as one of the first two Native American women to be elected ton Congress. Chip Somodevilla / Getty

Woodward noted that the ribbon skirt, which is traditionally worn at special occasions, "reminds us of the matriarchal power we carry as Indigenous women. They carry stories of survival, resilience, adaption, and sacredness. As survivors of genocide we wear our ribbon skirts to stay grounded in our teachings, to stay connected to the earth and our ancestors."

A video shared on Twitter by Michael Li of the Brennan Center For Justice showed Haaland putting on her Laguna Pueblo moccasins ahead of the ceremony.

She also wore a concho belt and turquoise bead necklace as well as dragonfly earrings that were made by Laguna Pueblo metalsmith Pat Pruitt, according to Vogue.

Haaland also wore traditional Native dress at her 2019 swearing-in ceremony for new members of Congress when she made history as one of the first two Native American women to be elected to Congress along with Rep. Sharice Davids from Kansas.

Another Indigenous lawmaker from Kansas, Christina Haswood, honored her heritage earlier this year by dressing in traditional Navajo attire on the proud day of her swearing-in ceremony in January after being elected to the Kansas House of Representatives.