Deb Haaland wears moccasins to historic swearing-in ceremony as U.S. interior secretary

Deb Haaland, one of the first Native-American women elected to Congress, wore moccasins — appreciation for her Pueblo of Laguna tribe — to be sworn in as Secretary of the Department of the Interior.

On Thursday, before the Washington, D.C.-based ceremony with Vice President Kamala Harris, a video of Haaland wearing a colorful ribbon skirt and wrapping her legs was shared on Twitter.

Twitter joyfully noted Haaland's cultural touches. "This is my spiritual lift for the day," tweeted one person. "Absolutely gorgeous," wrote someone else. "Work of art," added another. "Ribbon skirt, moccasins, hair down — Deb Haaland inviting all the ancestors to her swearing-in ceremony," tweeted a user.


Haaland's moccasins come with a single piece of deer hide that requires them to be wrapped around the lower leg and are one style worn by Pueblo women, colloquially known as “wraps," a spokesperson from the National Museum of the American Indian tells Yahoo Life. Her dress is made by clothing brand Reecreeations which noted on Instagram, "The ribbon skirt reminds us of the matriarchal power we carry as Indigenous women. They carry stories of survival, resilience, adaption, and sacredness. As survivors of genocide we wear our ribbon skirts to stay grounded in our teachings, to stay connected to the earth and our ancestors."

On March 18, Deb Haaland was sworn in as US Interior Secretary by Vice President Kamala Harris. (Photo: JIM WATSON/AFP via Getty Images)
On March 18, Deb Haaland was sworn in as US Interior Secretary by Vice President Kamala Harris. (Photo: JIM WATSON/AFP via Getty Images) (JIM WATSON via Getty Images)

In December, Haaland acknowledged her historical role. "A voice like mine has never been a Cabinet secretary or at the head of the Department of Interior," she tweeted. "Growing up in my mother’s Pueblo household made me fierce. I’ll be fierce for all of us, our planet, and all of our protected land. I am honored and ready to serve." According to her official bio, as a single mother, Haaland once relied on food stamps and at 28, enrolled at the University of New Mexico, where she earned her Bachelor's degree in English. Her child graduated from the same school and both are still paying off their student loans.

Haaland, the first Native American to lead a cabinet department, also wore her moccasins in November during Native American Heritage Month. "Mocs on the Capitol floor," she tweeted. "This photo says a lot about how far we’ve come as a country. How are you rocking your mocs this week?" Her #RockYourMocs hashtag inspired others to share snapshots of their own moccasins and the CIA even tweeted the hashtag.

According to the Rock Your Mocs Facebook page, a woman named Jessica "Jaylyn" Atsye launched the movement in 2011 to encourage Indigenous people to celebrate their culture.

And in 2019, Haaland wore moccasins to be sworn in as a new member of Congress writing on Facebook, "As a kid, I never could have imagined today. I will leave the ladder down behind me so girls of color know they can be anything they want to be."

Congresswoman Sharice Davids of Kansas, who was sworn in that year alongside Haaland, offered her scarf for Haaland to wipe away tears of joy. "My scarf is your scarf," tweeted Davids, a member of the Ho-Chunk nation and and the first openly gay Kansan elected to Congress. "Today’s history is our history. So grateful to be a part of this moment — this movement — with you."

"History is being made yet again," Harris later said in footage of the moment.

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