A member of Pueblo of Laguna, the 60 year-old Haaland would become the first descendant of the original people to populate North America to run the Interior Department. It marks a turning point for a 171-year-old institution that has often had a fraught relationship with 574 federally recognized tribes.

The first-term House member, who hails from a top oil- and gas-producing state, has pledged to transform the department from a champion of fossil fuel development into a promoter of renewable energy and policies to mitigate climate change.

Interior, which manages roughly one-fifth of land in the United States, will play a critical role in delivering on Biden’s vow to combat global warming. The former vice president has pledged to halt all new oil and gas drilling on public lands and waters, a daunting task that faces both legal and political obstacles. The extraction of oil, gas and coal in these areas account for nearly a quarter of the nation’s annual carbon output.