Joe Biden makes history with nomination of Native American to key role

Congresswoman Deb Haaland (left) has been nomiated for a cabinet role by Joe Biden (right). Credit: AP

At first, it seemed that Joe Biden was designing an administration of loyalists.

The Biden presidency was destined to be less a 'Team of Rivals' - as Abraham Lincoln's 1861 Cabinet has been famously described - and more a 'Gang of Acolytes'.

But with his latest nominations, that has now changed.

One appointment stands out.

A Native American, congresswoman Deb Haaland, has been nominated to be the head of the Interior Department.

This is a remarkable moment in the centuries-long, anguished relationship between the Interior Department and indigenous Americans.

For so much of the 19th century, the Interior Department oversaw - even orchestrated - the brutal relocation and constant betrayal of America's tribes.

In fact, Donald Trump has modelled himself on the first populist president, Andrew Jackson. America’s 7th president forced tribes from their historic lands in a series of forced marches known as the Trail of Tears.

And yet soon, for the first time, a tribal Indian will be sitting at the Cabinet table.

Congresswoman Haaland of New Mexico is from the Laguna Pueblo, one of America's 574 officially recognized tribes. Now she can put indigenous Americans' issues - their healthcare, education, preservation of their scared land, environmental concerns - at the core of the US political agenda.

It’s been welcome by America’s tribes. The Interior Department is a huge player in rural America, overseeing 500 million acres of public land.

Haaland's nomination comes with a number of other ground-breaking moves, embracing diversity.

Michael Regan, a 44-year old African-American, will run the Environmental Protection Agency, with a key role to combat climate change. He is the first African-American to run the EPA.

Pete Buttigieg, the mega-young and impressive former Democratic presidential candidate, is being put in charge of Transportation.

As my colleague Sophie Alexander wrote, he will be the first openly gay Cabinet member in US history.

People are noticing that, taken together, these are indeed historic appointments.

So, a month before Biden even takes office, we can say this: a US Administration is finally going to look like the country it governs.