Interior secretary’s mother, a longtime civil servant, dies

U.S. Interior Secretary Deb Haaland’s mother, Mary Toya, a longtime civil servant and U.S. Navy veteran, has died.

Officials with the Interior Department confirmed Toya’s passing Saturday but didn’t immediately release her age or cause of death.

“We celebrate Mary Toya’s long life and are grateful for her 25 years of service to Native students as a member of the Interior team within Indian Affairs,” department spokeswoman Melissa Schwartz said in a statement.

Haaland testified during her confirmation hearing earlier this year that her mother served in the Navy, worked at the Bureau of Indian Education and raised four children as a military wife. Haaland’s father, who is also deceased, was a career Marine who served in Vietnam and received the Silver Star.

“Mary spoke Keres, raised her children in a Pueblo household and passed traditional wisdom down to her children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren,” Schwartz said. “Her legacy will live on in Secretary Haaland, all of her relatives and the countless Native people she inspired.”

Haaland became the first Native American to serve as a Cabinet secretary when she took office in March. She is a member of the Pueblo of Laguna and a 35th generation New Mexican. She attended 13 public schools as a military child before graduating from Highland High School in Albuquerque.

Haaland, a Democrat, served as chair of the New Mexico Democratic Party from 2015 to 2017 and as U.S. representative for New Mexico’s 1st congressional district from 2019 to 2021 before becoming Interior secretary.

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