Deb Haaland, who made history as one of the first Native American women to serve in Congress, and again when she became the first Native American cabinet secretary in U.S. history, will be the keynote speaker at The University of New Mexico spring commencement on May 11 at The Pit.

Throughout her career in public service, Haaland has broken barriers and opened the doors of opportunity for future generations.

Haaland, currently serving as the U.S. Secretary of the Interior, received a Bachelor of Arts in English in 1994 and earned her Juris Doctor in Indian law from UNM School of Law in 2006.

Haaland grew up in a military family: Her father was a 30-year combat Marine who was awarded the Silver Star Medal for saving six lives in Vietnam, and her mother was a Navy veteran who served as a federal employee for 25 years at the Bureau of Indian Affairs. She is a member of the Pueblo of Laguna and a 35th-generation New Mexican.

At the age of 28, Haaland enrolled at UNM. As a single mother, Haaland volunteered at her child's preschool to afford early childhood education. Like many parents, she had to rely on food stamps at times as a single parent, lived paycheck to paycheck, and struggled to put herself through college. Her child is now also a UNM alum.

Haaland ran her small business producing and canning salsa, served as a tribal administrator at San Felipe Pueblo, and became the first woman elected to the Laguna Development Corporation Board of Directors.

After running for New Mexico lieutenant governor in 2014, Haaland became the first Native American woman elected to lead a state political party. She ran for U.S. Congress in 2018 and won. Wearing a traditional Pueblo dress, Haaland was sworn in as a representative for New Mexico in 2019. In Congress, she focused on environmental justice, climate change, missing and murdered Indigenous women, and family-friendly policies.