Vice President Harris swears in Deb Haaland as Interior Secretary. "History is being made yet again," Harris said after Haaland took the oath. (WH photo / Peter Velz) pic.twitter.com/70YqbDbFwp
— Geoff Bennett (@GeoffRBennett) March 18, 2021
Bella Abzug (may her shadow never grow less) started wearing a hat as a young lawyer in the 1950s, so that people wouldn’t assume she a secretary. The hats became her trademark, because “When I got to Congress, they made a big thing of it. So I was watching. Did they want me to wear it or not? They didn’t want me to wear it, so I did.”
Nobody is going to mistake Secretary Haaland for any other legislator, either:
… Standing in the Eisenhower Executive Office Building next to Vice President Kamala Harris to take the oath of office, Ms. Haaland wore a dark jacket over a sky blue, rainbow-trimmed ribbon skirt embroidered with imagery of butterflies, stars and corn; moccasin boots; a turquoise and silver belt and necklace; and dragonfly earrings.
Against the flags and dark wood, the former Democratic congresswoman from New Mexico stood out, her clothes telegraphing a statement of celebration and of self at a ceremonial moment that will be preserved for the record. It was symbolic in more ways than one.
According to an Instagram post from Reecreeations, that company that made the skirt for Ms. Haaland’s swearing-in, the ribbon skirt is a reminder of “matriarchal power”: “Wearing it in this day and age is an act of self empowerment and reclamation of who we are and that gives us the opportunity to proudly make bold statements in front of others who sometimes refuse to see us. It allows us to be our authentic selves unapologetically.”…
Wearing traditional dress has become something of a signature for Ms. Haaland during big public moments. In 2016, she wore a classic Pueblo dress and jewelry to the Democratic National Convention; in 2019, when she was sworn in as one of the first Native American members of Congress, she did the same, including a red woven belt that was more than a century old. And in January, at President Biden’s inauguration, she also wore a ribbon skirt, one in sunshine yellow, with a burgundy top and boots.
As she told Emily’s List on her first day in Congress: “I just felt like I should represent my people. I thought it would just make some folks proud out there.”
Indeed, when Ms. Haaland posted a photo of herself at the inauguration on her Instagram feed (she has 124,000 followers), it was liked more than 45,000 times, with many comments applauding her attire. Not in order to diminish her achievements, the charge often leveled at commentary on a female politician’s wardrobe choices, but to underscore them…
Deb Haaland is putting her Moccasins on, ready to be sworn in by VP Harris! pic.twitter.com/tTsyxTMwlM
— Madam Vice President Harris is GOAT! (@flywithkamala) March 18, 2021
Deb Haaland: America’s first Native cabinet secretary https://t.co/UTMBkELsl3
— BBC News (World) (@BBCWorld) March 16, 2021
Well-written article, including a tidbit I had not run across earlier:
… Her father, a Norwegian American from Minnesota, served in the Marine Corps for three decades and her mother, a Native woman, was in the Navy. Ms Haaland was born in a small railroad town in Arizona, then bounced from school to school with each new posting her parents received, before they finally settled in New Mexico’s biggest city, Albuquerque…
Norskamerikanere representation! (… doesn’t matter anywhere near as much, of course, especially in a generally matrilineal society. Besides, as my Norwegian-born mother-in-law always said, the truly fierce *successful* Vikings left Norway back in the Middle Ages…)