On Thursday, all the newly elected members of Congress took their oaths of office to kick off the 116th US Congress. Among the number of women history-makers joining Congress this year is New Mexican and member of the Pueblo of Laguna tribe Deb Haaland, a 58-year-old progressive who today became one of the first two Native American woman elected to Congress (the other, Sharice Davids, is also the first openly LGBTQ+ congressperson from Kansas).

Haaland, whose campaign focused on issues including climate change and reproductive rights, wore traditional Pueblo regalia to the meet-and-greet hosted in each new Congressional member’s offices today.

When Brit + Cointerviewed Haaland about her campaign and how her experience as a Native American factored into her work in August, she focused on the struggles she has shared in common with other New Mexicans.

“I’m a single mom, I know what it’s like to be on food stamps, to have student loans. It’s a struggle out there. I’ve gone, at one time, a year without being able to find a job. So I feel like, equally important as my ethnic background is understanding how New Mexicans struggle. And maybe my experiences from sharing those struggles, and my perspective, can help more families to succeed,” Haaland told us.

Haaland has also spoken frequently about her Native American identity, and in particular how important it is to her that Native women are represented in politics. “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,” Haaland said to a crowd of supporters when she won her race in November.

As one of a number of progressive women take their Congressional oaths of office, Haaland represented not only herself, but also her tribe, her home state, and her family by opting for traditional garments. Many are hopeful that Haaland and other progressive women who joined Congress today will be able to turn the tide and bring positive changes to their states and the country, and time will tell what they’re able to accomplish together.

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(Photo via Deb Haaland)