Mary Toya
Mary Toya is seen at a celebration in honor of her daughter Deb Haaland being sworn in as one of the first two Native women in Congress in Washington, D.C., on January 3, 2019. Photo by Indianz.Com (CC BY-NC-SA 4.0)
Mary Toya, mother of Secretary Deb Haaland, passes on
Monday, October 18, 2021
Indianz.Com

Mary E. Toya, the mother of Secretary Deb Haaland, passed away last week, the Department of the Interior announced.

Toya was from the Pueblo of Laguna and the Pueblo of Jemez, tribal nations based in New Mexico. She was a veteran of the U.S. Navy who worked for the Bureau of Indian Affairs for 25 years.

“The Department of the Interior mourns with Secretary Deb Haaland as she and her family grieve the loss of her mother,” the agency said in a statement on Saturday.

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

“We ask that media respect the privacy of the family,” the department said.

Mary Toya and Family
Mary Toya is seen with members of her family, including Deb Haaland, in the office of then-Congresswoman Haaland at the U.S. Capitol in Washington, D.C, on January 3, 2019. Photo by Indianz.Com (CC BY-NC-SA 4.0)

Haaland, who is the first Native person in a presidential cabinet, was due to travel to Montana to speak at the grand opening of the American Indian Hall at Montana State University on Saturday. Her appearance was canceled “due to a family emergency,” MSU announced on Thursday.

“As the daughter of a Pueblo woman, I was taught to value hard work,” Haaland said at her confirmation hearing to be Secretary of the Interior on February 23. “My mother is a Navy veteran, was a civil servant at the Bureau of Indian Education for 25 years, and she raised four kids as a military wife.”

Haaland’s father, David D. Haaland, was a veteran of the U.S. Marine Corps. He passed away in 2005, shortly before the age of 69. He is buried at Arlington National Cemetery.

According to the Pueblo Action Alliance, Toya was born in Winslow, Arizona, in 1935, where her parents were living at the time. Her father was from Jemez. Her mother was from Laguna.

“Mary was born and raised in a boxcar, played softball, played the snare drum in the Santa Fe Indian Band, and traveled to Washington, DC to play at President Eisenhower’s inauguration,” a #MatriarchMonday social media post in honor of Toya stated. Toya’s granddaughter, Somáh, is part of the Pueblo Action Alliance.

Toya was living in New Mexico at the time of her passing.

Mary Toya
Mary Toya is seen at a celebration in honor of her daughter Deb Haaland being sworn in as one of the first two Native women in Congress in Washington, D.C., on January 3, 2019. Photo by Indianz.Com (CC BY-NC-SA 4.0)