Sen. Jerry Moran sees support for re-election from American Indian tribes

U.S. Sen. Jerry Moran, Pete Marovich - Pete Marovich/MCT
U.S. Sen. Jerry Moran, Pete Marovich – Pete Marovich/MCT

By Bryan Lowry, The Wichita Eagle

U.S. Sen. Jerry Moran has nearly $30,000 from 12 different American Indian tribes since January in support of his re-election bid.

Moran, a Hays Republican who was first elected to the U.S. Senate in 2010, received $1.43 million from January through June for his re-election campaign, according to his most recent filing with the Federal Election Commission. So far $1,000 of that has come from Kansas’ Prairie Band Potawatomi Nation.

Moran has also received money from Oklahoma’s Chickasaw Nation; Louisiana’s Tunica-Biloxi Tribe; Washington State’s Puyallup Tribe of Indians, Snoqualmie Tribe and Lummi Indian Business Council; Arizona’s Gila River Indian Community; California’s Pechanga Band of Luiseno Indians, Yocha Dehe Wintun Nation and Shingle Springs Band Miwok Indians; Alabama’s Poarch Band of Creek Indians; and New York’s Seneca Nation of Indians.

The donations from the various tribes add up to $29,700.

The support from the tribes shouldn’t come as a surprise. Moran, a member of the Senate Committee on Indian Affairs, has championed legislation to strengthen the autonomy of tribal governments in recent years.

He co-sponsored the Tribal General Welfare Exclusion Act, which broadened tax exemptions for tribes and was signed into law in 2014. He has also sponsored and pushed for the Tribal Labor Sovereignty Act, which would have exempted tribal governments from the National Labor Relations Act.

“These Native American tribes are part of a diverse group of individuals and organizations who support Senator Moran – including Kansans in each of our state’s 105 counties,” Moran for Kansas spokeswoman Elizabeth Patton said in an e-mailed statement.

Moran has also received money from Kansas born billionaire Phillip Anschutz and his wife, Nancy, for $2,700 each. Anschutz, a native of Russell and alum of the University of Kansas, helped found Major League Soccer.

Charles Koch, CEO of Koch Industries, gave Moran $2,700. His son, Chase Koch, president of Koch Fertilizer, and Chase’s wife, Anna, also each gave Moran $2,700.

Moran’s most recent report also includes contributions from state Rep. Mark Hutton, R-Wichita, who gave $2,700, and Kansas Secretary of Wildlife, Parks and Tourism Robin Jennison, who gave $1,000.

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Lenni-Lenape tribe sue Christie, New Jersey over alleged civil rights violations

By Tyler R. Tynes, Press of Atlantic City

The Nanticoke Lenni-Lenape Tribal Nation, an American Indian tribe of 3,000 members, filed a civil-rights action lawsuit in federal court against the state and Gov. Chris Christie’s administration Monday.

The tribe alleges that between 1980 and 1982, the state officially recognized it and two other tribes in New Jersey as American Indian tribes, confirming that recognition through numerous actions and subsequent decades, but the Christie administration is attempting to rescind the state’s recognition.

The tribe also alleges in the lawsuit that the state is motivated by an irrational, stereotype-driven fear of an Indian casino. But the tribe’s charter and religious tenets expressly prohibit gaming.

State recognition plays no role in securing federal gaming rights, and the tribe has never sought such rights during 33 years of state recognition, according to the full complaint.

The lawsuit, filed by Washington, D.C., law firm Cultural Heritage Partners, PLLC and New Jersey law firm Barry, Corrado Grassi, PC, alleges that the state’s position regarding the tribe’s status is causing “extensive damage” to tribal members of all ages.

The suit say the tribe faces the imminent loss of dozens of jobs, withdrawal of federal economic development grants, college scholarships, and the revocation of its ability to label the arts and crafts produced by its 40 professional artisans as “American Indian made.”

“They are denying the way we exist,” said Mark Gould, tribal chairman and principal chief of the tribe. “Our people have been an integral part of this region for thousands of years.”

The Governor’s Office did not respond to calls for comment Monday evening.

The Lenape tribe are not recognized as a tribe by the federal government, only by the state. Taking away state recognition would cost health grants for the tribe, many of whose members battle diabetes, Gould said.

The loss of state recognition would also cost the Lenape nearly $260,000 yearly from items labeled “American Indian made,” $600,000 in health grants from the federal government, $650,000 per year in tribal employment, and about $7.8 million from their company, NLT Enterprises, since the company was formed a decade ago, the lawsuit says.

The tribe’s lawyer, Greg Werkheiser, said the withdrawal of recognition injures an already vulnerable community based on a racial stereotype that all tribes want casinos. Gaming has only been available to American tribes since October 1988, when the federal Indian Gaming Regulatory Act was enacted.

Werkheiser has filed eight counts against the state and Christie’s administration.

“They are saying they don’t exist. Imagine what that does economically — not only psychologically,” he said. “Without due process, (this) violates federal and state civil-rights laws. While the rest of the country is having an adult conversation about racial reconciliation, the administration in New Jersey is pretending select minorities out of existence.”

“We are entitled to fair and proper treatment by the state, and to confirmation of our long-held status as a state-recognized tribe,” Gould said.

In 2001, the tribe sued a private citizen who claimed to have his own, new constituted tribe, and the Lenape stopped him from implying association with them and pursuing gaming rights, the lawsuit says.

Since then, the tribe believed, the earliest attempt by the state officials to undermine the tribes’ state-recognized status was a letter written by the Division of Gaming Enforcement in 2001 during the pendency of the lawsuit by the private citizen against the state for a land claim.

The federal Indian Arts and Crafts Board sent its standard inquiry to the state Commission on American Indian Affairs asking for any additions to the state’s list of recognized tribes. Before the commission replied, the state’s Division of Gaming Enforcement intervened, asserting New Jersey has no state-recognized tribes.

The lawsuit says Christie’s admininstration stopped communicating with the tribe for months, and ultimately told the Lenape it would do nothing to resolve the matter.

Connecticut officials praise changes on tribal recognition

By Associated Press

HARTFORD, Conn. (AP) — Connecticut’s top elected leaders are declaring victory in their efforts to see that it does not become easier for local American Indian tribes to obtain federal recognition.

President Barack Obama‘s administration on Monday issued changes to regulations that have been criticized as cumbersome and lacking transparency. Proposed new rules that were first issued in draft form two years ago were seen by officials in Connecticut as clearing the way for three groups that previously had been denied federal recognition to win the prized status.

Gov. Dannel P. Malloy and Connecticut’s two U.S. senators, Richard Blumenthal and Chris Murphy, said at a news conference Monday afternoon that revisions in the final version will prevent those groups from winning recognition and pressing claims for surrounding lands.

“I would like to thank President Obama and Vice President Biden for heeding our concerns,” Malloy said.

He said the changes ensure that groups in Connecticut that already have fallen short of recognition will be blocked from another attempt.

Connecticut has two federally recognized tribes, the Mashantucket Pequot Tribal Nation and the Mohegan Tribe, which own the country’s two largest Indian-owned casinos in the Foxwoods Resort Casino and Mohegan Sun.

The changes that were initially proposed were seen as benefiting three other Connecticut tribes — the Schaghticokes of Kent, the Golden Hill Paugussetts of Trumbull and Colchester and the Eastern Pequots of North Stonington. Federal acknowledgment can bolster a tribe’s claims to surrounding land, eliminate regulatory barriers to commercial development and bring increased health and education benefits to members.

Connecticut’s congressional delegation said they were pleased the Bureau of Indian Affairs reversed course on a plan that would have given another chance to previously denied petitioners.

“That severely flawed proposal would have forced residents, communities and the state to re-litigate petitions already dismissed with substantial evidence and review — causing needless uncertainty for landowners whose properties may have been claimed as reservation land,” they said.

Leaders of the tribal groups that had been hoping for a new path to recognition did not respond to messages seeking comment.

Unofficial results show Principal Chief Bill John Baker re-elected to lead Cherokee Nation

By Allen Reed, Associated Press

The Cherokee Nation re-elected Principal Chief Bill John Baker on Sunday, according to preliminary results, calming concerns that a four-candidate field would result in another tumultuous election to lead one of the largest American Indian tribes.

The tribal election commission released the unofficial results early Sunday and later began processing about 700 contested ballots at the tribal capital of Tahlequah, about 75 miles east of Tulsa. If the results hold, Baker will have won a second term at the helm of the tribe, with about 320,000 citizens and 9,000 employees. He will control a budget nearing $1 billion and oversee the tribe’s lucrative casino and hotel businesses as well as managing the country’s largest tribal health care system.

Baker said the uncounted votes aren’t enough to change the outcome and fully expects to avoid the hostilities and recounts that marred the 2011 election.

“We believe it will stand,” Baker told the Associated Press on Sunday. “I don’t see any other plan other than to go forward and continue progress.”

Baker had about 53 percent of the vote against three challengers, placing him above the 50 percent threshold needed to win the election outright. The results show he beat former Cherokee Chief Chad Smith, state Rep. Will Fourkiller, and Charlie Soap, the widower of late Cherokee Chief Wilma Mankiller.

Smith led the tribe for a dozen years before squaring off twice with Baker in 2011, losing the race that dragged into the fall after a series of recounts. The latest contest was an extension of sorts of that election, but Smith said he likely won’t run again if the vote holds.

“I thank the Cherokee people for the opportunity to run and to share with them our vision,” Smith said.

An election administrator said the office was working to count ballots Sunday and commissioners would meet Monday morning to certify the vote count.

Still, Baker said he is ready to get back to work on his populist platform: improving health care, adding more families to the tribal payroll and building homes for their own people.

“We’re looking forward to four more years of growth and prosperity and continuation of the good things God has allowed us to be able to accomplish,” Baker said.

USDA Seeks Partner Proposals to Protect and Restore Critical Wetlands

Source: Press Release, United States Department of Agriculture

WASHINGTON, June 22, 2015 – Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack today announced the availability of $17.5 million in financial and technical assistance to help eligible conservation partners voluntarily protect, restore and enhance critical wetlands on private and tribal agricultural lands.

“USDA has leveraged partnerships to accomplish a great deal on America’s wetlands over the past two decades, Vilsack said. “This year’s funding will help strengthen these partnerships and achieve greater wetland acreage throughout the nation.”

Funding will be provided through the Wetland Reserve Enhancement Partnership (WREP), a special enrollment option under the Agricultural Conservation Easement Program’s Wetland Reserve Easement component. It is administered by the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS). Under WREP, states, local units of governments, non-governmental organizations and American Indian tribes collaborate with USDA through cooperative and partnership agreements. These partners work with willing tribal and private landowners who voluntarily enroll eligible land into easements to protect, restore and enhance wetlands on their properties. WREP was created through the 2014 Farm Bill and was formerly known as the Wetlands Reserve Enhancement Program.

Wetland reserve easements allow landowners to successfully enhance and protect habitat for wildlife on their lands, reduce impacts from flooding, recharge groundwater and provide outdoor recreational and educational opportunities. The voluntary nature of NRCS’ easement programs allows effective integration of wetland restoration on working landscapes, providing benefits to farmers and ranchers who enroll in the program, as well as benefits to the local and rural communities where the wetlands exist.

Proposals must be submitted to NRCS state offices by July 31, 2015. Projects can range from individual to watershed-wide to ecosystem-wide. Under a similar program in the 2008 Farm Bill, NRCS and its partners entered into 272 easements that enrolled more than 44,020 acres of wetlands from 2009 through 2013. Most of these agreements occurred through the Mississippi River Basin Healthy Watersheds Initiative (MRBI). Through partnerships, MRBI identifies high-priority watersheds where focused conservation on agricultural land can make the most gains in improving local, state and regional water quality. The new collaborative WREP will build on those successes by providing the financial and technical assistance necessary for states, non-governmental organizations and tribes to leverage resources to restore and protect wetlands and wildlife habitat.

Through WREP, NRCS will sign multi-year agreements with partners to leverage resources, including funding, to achieve maximum wetland restoration, protection and enhancement and to create optimum wildlife habitat on enrolled acres. WREP partners are required to contribute a funding match for financial or technical assistance. These partners work directly with eligible landowners interested in enrolling their agricultural land into conservation wetland easements.

Today’s announcement builds on the roughly $332 million USDA has announced this year to protect and restore agricultural working lands, grasslands and wetlands. Collectively, NRCS’s easement programs help productive farm, ranch and tribal lands remain in agriculture and protect the nation’s critical wetlands and grasslands, home to diverse wildlife and plant species. Under the former Wetlands Reserve Program, private landowners, tribes and entities such as land trusts and conservation organizations enrolled 2.7 million acres through 14,500 agreements for a total NRCS and partner investment of $4.3 billion in financial and technical assistance.

The funding announced today was authorized by the 2014 Farm Bill, which builds on historic economic gains in rural America over the past six years, while achieving meaningful reform and billions of dollars in savings for taxpayers. Since enactment, USDA has made significant progress to implement each provision of this critical legislation, including providing disaster relief to farmers and ranchers; strengthening risk management tools; expanding access to rural credit; funding critical research; establishing innovative public-private conservation partnerships; developing new markets for rural-made products; and investing in infrastructure, housing, and community facilities to help improve quality of life in rural America. For more information, visit

Visit NRCS’s ACEP webpage to learn more about NRCS’s wetland conservation options.

Approval given for gambling compacts with New Mexico tribes


ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (AP) — Gambling compacts negotiated by the state and a handful of American Indian tribes have cleared their final hurdle.

The U.S. Interior Department reviewed the compacts but took no action. Under federal law, the agreements are considered approved by the agency as long as they’re consistent with the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act.

The assistant secretary for Indian Affairs, Kevin Washburn, spelled out some concerns the department had with the compacts in a four-page letter sent Tuesday to Gov. Susana Martinez and tribal leaders.

Washburn pointed to an apparent increase in revenue sharing rates for some tribes, but he acknowledged that the agreements had the support of the tribes.

Under the compacts, the Navajo Nation, Jicarilla and Mescalero Apache nations and three pueblos can operate casinos for another two decades.

Maine American Indians, fishing for millennia, regroup as latest effort for state pact fades

By Patrick Whittle, Associated Press

BANGOR, Maine (AP) — Marie Harnois stands on the banks of the Penobscot River at dusk, swirling a dip net under the water, fishing for eels — something her ancestors in the Passamaquoddy tribe have done for thousands of years.

Fishing has been a way of life for Maine’s American Indians since time immemorial — “Passamaquoddy” is derived from a word that means “the people who spear pollock” — and Harnois thinks it’s past time the state government’s regulators came to the table to share management of fisheries with the tribes.

“I think the tribe should be able to set their standards however they want,” she said, alongside sisters Fawn and Eva, as she emptied wriggling baby eels into a bucket. “They’re perfectly capable of managing resources.”

Like Harnois, members of Maine’s four federally recognized American Indian tribes are regrouping just as a tribal effort to forge a fishery management pact with state regulators is faltering. The tribes proposed an ambitious bill that called for regulators and tribes to craft “memorandums of agreement” about managing marine resources.

The bill, which stemmed from recent squabbles the tribes have had with regulators about quotas and gear used in the lucrative baby eel fishery, was soundly rejected by a key state legislative committee in May, and it appears unlikely to pass if it reaches the full Legislature.

But former Passamaquoddy tribe legislative Representative Matthew Dana, who sponsored the bill and withdrew from his seat in protest last week, said he is hopeful the tribe and state can still reach agreement without passing a law. The tribes feel as though the state is preventing them from beginning an era of cooperation with a government regulatory structure with which they have frequently been at loggerheads, he said.

“I thought this was going to go somewhere, and obviously it did not,” Dana said. “We’re trying to keep the lines of communication open and hopefully meet before the start of the season next year.”

There are about 8,000 Maine residents of Native American descent, about 2,500 of whom are Passamaquoddies. The other recognized tribes are the Penobscot Nation, Aroostook band of Micmacs and the Houlton band of Maliseet Indians. They are descendants of the Algonquian-speaking Wabanaki peoples who lived in Maine before the time of the earliest European settlements. The tribes have harvested everything from lobsters to porpoises from Maine’s waters over the centuries.

In that time, their methods have changed. Oral traditions say Penobscots would fish for eels by poisoning the water with berries and plants. Today the tribes fish mostly with modern gear. The importance of fishing to the tribes’ culture, however, has never wavered, Dana said.

“We know the importance of maintaining the balance of nature and the natural systems,” he said in a presentation to a legislative committee earlier this year. “We take only what we need.”

Tribal-state relations have a long and frequently difficult history in states around the country, particularly in managing resources, but there have been recent breakthroughs. In Washington, Gov. Jay Inslee this month signed a bill into law that creates a method for tribes to enter into pacts with the government to sell marijuana.

Maine Marine Resources Commissioner Patrick Keliher is “open and committed to dialogue with the tribes,” a spokesman said. Keliher opposed the tribes’ plan for shared management of fisheries, and he and his department have sparred with Passamaquoddies in recent years.

Keliher criticized Passamaquoddy leadership last month about the tribe’s use of fyke nets to fish for baby eels. The eels, also called elvers, are a moneymaking species that is highly prized in Asian markets, sometimes selling for $2,000 per pound, and are subject to strict quotas. Both tribal and nontribal members fish for them in the state’s rivers and streams. Keliher said the tribe’s gear could cause the state to exceed the quota, but Passamaquoddy leaders have said the tribe plans to continue using the nets.

The Penobscot Nation and Passamaquoddy Tribe have also said recent actions by Gov. Paul LePage, such as the withdrawal of an executive order that sought to promote cooperation between the state and the tribes, have damaged relations. The two tribes and the Aroostook Band of Micmacs said in a joint document on Wednesday that they are no longer recognizing the authority of state officials, lawmakers and courts to interfere with their “self-governing rights.”

And a year ago, the tribe resisted the state’s effort to enforce quotas on individual tribal elver fishermen. The Passamaquoddies believe natural resources belong to all tribal members and not individuals, but they eventually agreed to the quotas.

Back in Bangor, Fawn Pirruccello, one of Harnois’ sisters, was having better luck with her elver catch than she had expected. All three sisters, in fact, were doing well for the breezy, cool conditions of a May evening. While she said she’s not a big fan of the quotas, for now, state laws leave her little choice.

“Like anyone else, I don’t like them,” she said. “But there’s not much you can do.”

Telehealth Project Aims To Improve Health Care Access for Inland Empire Tribes

By Lauren McSherry, California Healthline

A health care system serving nine American Indian tribes in the Inland Empire is using telehealth to reach patients in remote areas and address rising rates of diabetes, a particular problem among American Indians.

Riverside-San Bernardino County Indian Health serves nine tribes in the expansive Inland Empire region of Southern California. The region encompasses nearly 30,000 square miles, an area the size of Vermont and New Hampshire combined. Patients who live in rural parts of Riverside and San Bernardino counties must travel long distances for health care. Those who live near the Colorado River and in cities such as Needles and Blythe, which lie along the Arizona border, sometimes must travel several hours for specialty care.

“If you think about that vast expanse with an urban corner, it makes all the sense in the world to have all forms of telehealth,” said Mario Gutierrez, executive director of the Center for Connected Health Policy. “Telehealth has always been thought of as a rural tool.”

Indian Health is the largest tribally owned health care system in the state and one of the largest in the West, aside from the Navajo Nation and some tribally owned systems in the Northwest, said Bill Thomsen, chief operations officer. There are more than 50 health systems serving Indians in California, he said.

The health system exclusively serves Indians belonging to nine tribes in the Inland Empire and their eligible dependents. The health care system has seven health centers and 14,000 patients, Thomsen said.

In recent months, Indian Health has rolled out a telehealth project, which is initially focusing on endocrinology to combat high rates of diabetes among tribe members. In San Bernardino County, for example, 13% of American Indian adults suffer from diabetes, and nearly 80% are overweight or obese, according to Healthy San Bernardino County.

“Native Americans are the largest diabetic population in the world,” said Karen Davis, Riverside-San Bernardino County Indian Health’s clinical services director.

Overall, Indians face a scarcity of health care resources and unusually high rates of asthma, diabetes and heart disease. American Indians are 177% more likely to die from diabetes, according to Native American Aid.

Pulmonology, cardiology, gerontology and dermatology will be addressed in the project’s subsequent phases.

The project focuses on specialty care because 45% of the Indian health system’s patients don’t have health insurance, restricting their access to certain medical services, Davis said.

“The value that we have seen is increased access to care, which ultimately affects outcomes,” she said.

Gutierrez said that because of the region’s shortage of specialists, the endocrinology project can have a big impact because it is crucial to diagnose diabetes early and control it, he said.

“The earlier you intervene, the more likely you are to avoid debilitating effects — loss of limbs, eyesight, all those complications that can be prevented,” he said.

‘A Model for the Rest of the State’

Steven Viramontes, clinical applications and telemedicine coordinator for California through the federal Indian Health Service, said implementing telemedicine in rural areas is a “no brainer.” It addresses cultural considerations in providing medical care to American Indians and improves access for patients who would otherwise not be able to receive certain specialized medical and psychiatric services.

“They are taking this on in a stepwise fashion,” he said of the health system’s telehealth project. “And I think that can serve as a model for the rest of the state.”

Davis said cultural awareness is a particularly important component of the project. Patients prefer receiving care through the Indian Health system, rather than seeking specialized care outside of the system, she said. She added that building trust with patients is important.

“We want people who can interact with the patient in an appropriate and sensitive way,” she said.

Diabetes treatment must address cultural influences, such as diet and lifestyle, and providing treatment through a tribal health system ensures much better compliance and understanding among patients, Gutierrez said.

“It’s not just diagnostics,” he said. “It’s education.”

Coordination of Care

Davis said one of the reasons she has become such a proponent of telehealth has to do with improved efficiencies and savings through better coordinated care.

The health system is expanding its pilot project to include more clinics and specialists. The initial project linked three clinics with an endocrinologist who works for a separate Indian health system in Santa Barbara. Through the project, a primary care doctor or nurse and a patient can video conference with a specialist.

Primary care doctors can learn from the specialists by observing how they interact with certain health issues, and when they encounter a similar case, they can handle it more effectively, she said. The health system has found that costs drop because continuity of care is improved and duplication of services and tests is avoided, she said.

In addition to remote locations in the region, another challenge for the health system has been the Inland Empire’s shortage of primary care doctors and specialists, Davis said. Telehealth helps the health system circumvent that problem.

Gutierrez said this type of coordination of care is in step with the medical home model of care. Medical records can be kept in one place, and the primary care provider retains a full record of coordination with the specialist, he said.

Support Growing

While the implementation of telehealth has lagged for financial, regulatory and technological reasons, support for telehealth has been gaining momentum in recent months. Congressional backing for financial provisions for telehealth appears to be growing. In April, a number of senators expressed support for expanding telehealth. Also, an unprecedented number of telemedicine bills are awaiting action.

While California has not led the nation in telehealth implementation, it has remained in the middle of the pack. The American Telemedicine Association gave the state an overall “B” grade for its telehealth delivery and an “F” for its Medicaid coverage of telehealth rehabilitation and home health services, according to a report released May 4.

In California, one obstacle has been access to high-speed broadband in rural areas, Gutierrez said. Another has been cost. A lot of health centers don’t have the money to invest in technology and training, he said. However, he expects that health care reform will drive the adoption of telehealth as health systems move away from the fee-for-service model.

Viramontes sees telehealth as the future. He believes it can benefit Indian health systems across the state. Not only is telehealth a useful tool in rural areas, but it also brings people together to share skills and knowledge, he said.

“We see an opportunity here,” Viramontes said. “This is where we are headed.”

New initiative addresses tribal unemployment

Melissa Verdin (from left), Clarice Friloux and Bette Billiot use computers Tuesday at the United Houma Nation Vocational Rehabilitation Program in Houma.
Chris Heller/Staff

Melissa Verdin (from left), Clarice Friloux and Bette Billiot use computers Tuesday at the United Houma Nation Vocational Rehabilitation Program in Houma.
Chris Heller/Staff

By Maki Somosot, Houma Today

Local and state American Indian tribes are addressing unemployment among their members through a new program that helps applicants become technologically proficient during their job search.

It’s a cooperative effort by the United Houma Nation and Inter-Tribal Council of Louisiana.

Earlier this month, three Employment Skill computer labs in Houma, Marrero and Charenton opened up for use by individuals who wish to learn basic computing and job application skills, Inter-Tribal Council Executive Director Kevin Billiot said.

Applicants can also take advantage of walk-in services such as online job search assistance, resume development and interview practice.

“We’ve seen an increased demand for more complex skills in the workplace,” Houma Nation Program Director Lanor Curole said. “The whole idea is to ensure that our people have the skills necessary to succeed. Unfortunately, not everyone has the benefit of computers at home.”

Each lab consists of about 13 employees who are trained to provide job assistance and conduct monthly Microsoft Office classes. There is also a job developer who helps match applicants with job opportunities from the local oil, health-care and nonprofit industries.

Reducing unemployment is high on the council’s priority list, Billiot said.

A 2010 Houma Nation survey reported that approximately 15 percent of tribal heads of household were unemployed. Of the total unemployed tribal population, at least 28 percent were also disabled.

As tribal members move away from the traditional fishing profession of their forefathers, Billiot said, there is a need for them to stay competitive given the demands of today’s job market.

Currently, oilfield jobs are the most sought-after by tribes across southeast Louisiana, followed by nursing, business, office technology and cosmetology jobs, he added.

The decline of the tribal’s fishing profession has been well-noted over the last 10 years, Billiot said. While some commercial fishermen are still around, fewer members of the younger generation are inclined to go into the industry due to its instability.

The Inter-Tribal Council of Louisiana and United Houma Nation began discussions early last year to pool their resources and develop a comprehensive jobs program for all tribal members in the state.

The computers were already available for use, but officials did not have a structured training component, Curole added.

“It’s a response on on both of our parts to recognize the changing nature of employment and provide the resources our people need,” she said.

Since the program just started this month, officials have not yet come up with a target number of applicants. However, they do prioritize disabled and older clients who may not have access to job opportunities or technology.

Officials plan to expand the program to all of the tribes they work with. Currently, the focus is on Houma Nation members because of their number, but there is available money to expand to the Chitimacha tribe, Billiot said.

The main United Houma Nation office, 991 Grand Caillou Road, Bldg No. 2, Houma, has six available computers and is open from 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. weekdays. The Marrero branch at Suite C, 931 Westwood Drive, has four available stations and is open from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. Mondays through Thursdays.

The Chitimacha Tribal Fire Station, 215 Coushatta Drive, Charenton, has six stations and is open 24 hours.

Classes are held once a month and specific times are provided on the United Houma Nation’s website,

New Mexico lawmakers to take testimony on proposed gambling compacts for tribal casinos

By The Associated Press

ALBUQUERQUE, New Mexico — New Mexico lawmakers are facing a hard deadline as agreements that allow a handful of American Indian tribes to operate casinos approach their expiration date.

Gov. Susana Martinez’s office has spent the last three years working with tribes to craft a new gambling compact that supporters say would bring stability to New Mexico’s gaming industry, protect jobs and increase revenues to the state.

However, some lawmakers say New Mexico is veering off course.

Senate Finance Chairman John Arthur Smith suggests the state has deviated from its initial plan nearly two decades ago of trying to strike a balance among horse racing tracks, American Indian communities seeking economic development and the state lottery.

Tribes and the public will have a chance Saturday to testify on the proposed compact before the Legislature’s compact committee.