U.S. Department of Education Announces $3 Million In Grants Available to Help Native Youth


The U.S. Department of Education today announced the availability of an estimated $3 million in grants to help Native American youth become college- and career-ready. Funding for the new Native Youth Community Projects is a key step toward implementing President Obama’s commitment to improving the lives of American Indian and Alaskan Native children. The new grants will support the President’s Generation Indigenous “Gen I” Initiative launched last year to help Native American youth.

“We know that tribes are in the best position to determine the needs and barriers that Native youth face,” said U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan.  “The Native Youth Community Projects will allow tribal communities to come together to improve outcomes for students.”

In a Federal Register notice, the Department said it would award five to seven demonstration grants ranging from $400,000 to $600,000 to tribal communities before Sept. 30. The new program is based on significant consultation with tribal communities and recognizes that these communities are best-positioned to:

·       Identify key barriers to improving educational and life outcomes for Native youth, and
·       Develop and implement locally produced strategies designed to address those barriers.

Each grant will support a coordinated, focused approach chosen by a community partnership that includes a tribe, local schools and other optional service providers or organizations. For example, the program allows tribes to identify ways to achieve college and career readiness specific to their own communities – whether it’s early learning, language immersion or mental health services.  Communities can tailor actions to address one or more of those issues. The success of these first projects will guide the work of future practices that improve the educational opportunities and achievement of preschool, elementary and secondary Indian students.

The President’s FY 2016 budget proposal calls for increased investments across Indian Country, including a total request of $20.8 billion for a range of federal programs that serve tribes – a $1.5 billion increase over the 2015-enacted level. The budget proposal includes $53 million for fiscal year 2016 – a $50 million increase from this year – to significantly expand the Native Youth Community Projects program.

For more on the Administration’s investment in Native American issues, visit https://www.whitehouse.gov/nativeamericans.

A Time to Veto

By Rhea Suh, President, NRDC,  Huffington Post


President Obama is poised to reject legislation meant to force the approval of the Keystone XL tar sands pipeline, in what would be his third veto since taking office six years ago.

Pipeline proponents, naturally, are howling.

Obama, though, is exercising his veto authority under the Constitution in precisely the way our founders intended: as a check on Congressional overreach at odds with the good of the country.

The president is the only public official elected to represent all the American people. That confers upon the president, uniquely, an obligation to act on behalf of the entire country, not simply a collection of congressional districts or states, in a way that reflects the common will and advances the national interest.

The Constitution enshrines the presidential veto as a vital tool for fulfilling that role, and leaders throughout our history have found it essential. Presidents stretching back to George Washington have used the veto 2,563 times to reject legislation passed by both houses of Congress.

Ronald Reagan used his veto power 78 times — the most of any president in modern times. Obama, at the other end of the scale, has vetoed just two bills so far — fewer than any other president in 160 years.

Rarely is the veto more clearly in order as now.

Under long-established procedure, the question of whether to approve a project like a pipeline that would cross a U.S. border hangs on a single criteria: is the project in the national interest? It is the president’s job — and properly so — to make that determination.

In assessing whether the Keystone XL tar sands pipeline meets the criteria, Obama has put the U.S. State Department in the lead, with expertise added from an array of other government agencies that oversee commerce, transportation, energy, environment and other important areas central to the national interest.

The Republican-led House gave final congressional approval today to a bill meant to force approval of the tar sands pipeline in a way that would usurp presidential authority, short-circuit the deliberative process of informed evaluation already underway and supersede the president’s obligation to determine whether the project is good for the country.

Those are three good reasons to veto the bill.

There is, though, one more, and it goes to the heart of our system of checks and balances.

The tar sands pipeline is not a project designed to help this country. It is a plan to pipe some of the dirtiest oil on the planet — tar sands crude mined from Canada’s boreal forest using some of the most destructive industrial practices ever devised — through the breadbasket of America to Gulf coast refineries where most of the fuel will be shipped overseas.

It would create 35 permanent American jobs, according to the Canadian company that wants to build the pipeline. And the tar sands crude would generate 17 percent more of the carbon pollution that is driving climate change than conventional crude oil produces.

It would put our heartland at grave and needless risk of the kind of pipeline accidents we’ve seen nearly 6,000 times over just the past two decades. It would cross more than 1,000 rivers, streams and other waterways and pass within a mile of some 3,000 underground wells that supply irrigation and drinking water to communities and farms across Montana, South Dakota and Nebraska. And it would deepen our addiction to the fossil fuels of the past when we need to be investing in the clean energy options of the future.

That is not a project that serves our national interest. It is, instead, a project that’s about big profits for big oil, big payoffs for industry allies on Capitol Hill and big pollution for the rest of us.

If that’s what the Republican leadership in Congress wants to drop on the president’s desk, here’s what’s going to happen. The president is going to do what other presidents going back to George Washington have done more than 2,500 times: stand up for what’s best for all Americans, and veto this terrible bill.

President Obama Wants $1 Billion for Indian Education

Associated PressPresident Barack Obama poses with Native America dancers during his visit to the Standing Rock Indian Reservation Friday, June 13, 2014, photo in Cannon Ball, North Dakota.
Associated Press
President Barack Obama poses with Native America dancers during his visit to the Standing Rock Indian Reservation Friday, June 13, 2014, photo in Cannon Ball, North Dakota.


Tanya H. Lee, Indian Country Today


President Barack Obama’s 2016 budget request includes $1 billion to transform American Indian education, a $138 million increase from the current funding level.

The transformation would change the Bureau of Indian Education into “an organization that serves as a capacity builder and service provider to support tribes in educating their youth and deliver a world-class and culturally appropriate education across Indian Country.”

The $138 million increase would include $58.7 million for school repairs and replacement; an initial $34.2 million to deliver broadband access to all BIE schools; an additional $20 million for operations and maintenance at Indian school facilities; $75 million (an increase of $12.9 million) to fully fund tribal costs for running their own education programs; an additional $10 million “to incentivize creative solutions to school transformation”; and $2.6 million to improve school administration.

The increased American Indian/Alaska Native education funding request is part of the launch of the president’s Generation Indigenou sinitiative intended to reduce barriers to success for Native American youth. The Gen I initiative also includes a small increase for scholarships and adult education, $3 million to support 60 new tribal youth projects in natural resources, a $15 million increase for the Tiwahe Initiative and $4 million to establish a One-Stop Tribal Support Center. Funding for Native Youth Community Projects would increase by a whopping $50 million (up from $3 million) to improve college and career readiness among Native youth.

Interior Secretary Sally Jewell; Assistant Secretary for Indian Affairs Kevin Washburn, Chickasaw; Education Secretary Arne Duncan; and Jodi Gillette, special assistant to the president for Native American affairs, held a teleconference on January 29 to begin to create public support for the education initiatives.

Jewell noted that the president’s recommendations would provide the highest level of funding for AI/AN education since the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009.

Duncan said, “The lack of opportunity [for Native American youth] is simply unacceptable… At every level, early childhood, K to 12, higher education, we have a lot of hard work ahead of us… Tribes need to play a meaningful leadership role in the education of their students. We know that tribes are best able to know their own students’ needs and best able to build upon their strengths.”

Asked what chance the AI/AN education proposals had to make it through the Congressional appropriations process, Jewell said, “There is strong bipartisan support for addressing the issues that we talked about and identified here today… There is no question that we are not serving Indian children well and I think there is a sense of appreciation that we are tackling these things head-on and we’re not just kicking the can down the road as has been done by both Democratic and Republican administrations for many years. I am quite optimistic that we will get support for this budget.”

U.S. Rep. Tom Cole, Chickasaw, a Republican representing Oklahoma’s 4th District, said in a statement: “Throughout President Obama’s tenure, Native American issues have proven to be a source of bipartisan cooperation, particularly on the House Appropriations Committee… In the days ahead, as my colleagues in the House and Senate seek to find common ground with the Administration, I remain hopeful that we can make significant progress in Indian country during this session of Congress.” Cole serves as chairman of the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Labor, Health and Human Services, Education and Related Agencies and on the House Budget Committee.

Congresswoman Betty McCollum, D-Minnesota, said in a statement: “The Bureau of Indian Education has long been underfunded and meeting our trust and treaty responsibility for educating Native American children will not happen overnight… President Obama and Secretary Jewell have taken a significant action to set us on a path towards ensuring that all children in Indian Country have access to a safe place to learn.” McCollum is the ranking Democratic member on the Interior Appropriations Subcommittee and the Democratic co-chair of the Native American Caucus.

In response to a question from ICTMN about whether other AI/AN programs would be cut in order to fund the education initiative, Washburn responded, “We have not made significant compromises” in developing the budget.

Jewell said the president’s commitment to the American Indian community, based in part on his June visit to the Standing Rock Sioux Reservation in North Dakota and December’s White House Tribal Nations Conference, was instrumental in developing the FY16 budget requests for AI/AN education. She noted that the administration would launch a Cabinet Native Youth Listening Tour next week to hear directly from AI/AN kids.


Read more at http://indiancountrytodaymedianetwork.com/2015/02/02/president-obama-wants-1-billion-indian-education-158971

Two Obama Cabinet members make visit to Passamaquoddy tribal school

The secretaries of education and the interior convened a study group last year to assess schools funded by the federal Bureau of Indian Affairs.

By The Associated Press

PERRY – U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan and Interior Secretary Sally Jewell took a firsthand look at a tribal school as they promoted President Obama’s goals for education reform.

The two members of Obama’s Cabinet on Monday visited the Beatrice Rafferty School, located on the Passamaquoddy Pleasant Point reservation, which serves more than 100 students. They were joined by Bureau of Indian Affairs Director Monty Roessel, along with Pleasant Point Chief Clayton Cleaves and Principal Mike Chadwick.

The two secretaries convened a study group last year to assess issues within Bureau of Indian Education-funded schools, which are among the lowest-performing schools in the country.

Last month, the study group issued a Blueprint for Reform. Goals for the 183 elementary and secondary schools and dormitories that are part of the Bureau of Indian Education include high-speed Internet, additional training for teachers and greater spending flexibility for tribal schools when it comes to meeting education goals.

The Beatrice Rafferty School, which was built in the 1970s, is due for replacement with federal funds. The funding was announced by Reps. Mike Michaud and Chellie Pingree earlier this year.

Secretary Jewell Commends President’s Intent to Nominate Jonodev Osceola Chaudhuri as Chair of National Indian Gaming Commission

Source: U.S. Department of the Interior

WASHINGTON – Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell today applauded President Obama’s intent to nominate Jonodev Osceola Chaudhuri to be the chair of the National Indian Gaming Commission, the federal agency tasked with collaborating with tribes and states to regulate Indian gaming.

“Jonodev brings a wealth of legal expertise and administrative and policy experience to this position, having served on the National Indian Gaming Commission, in tribal government and private practice Indian law,” said Jewell. “His broad perspective on American Indian affairs makes him a highly qualified candidate as commission chair where he will provide strong strategic leadership as the commission tackles the complex issues associated with supporting economic opportunities for Indian nations.”

The National Indian Gaming Commission is committed to the prompt and efficient regulation of the Indian gaming industry, which spans more than 420 gaming establishments, associated with nearly 240 tribes across 28 states. The Commission’s dedication to compliance with the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act ensures the integrity of the $27 billion Indian gaming industry. 

Jonodev Osceola Chaudhuri is currently Vice Chairman and Associate Commissioner of the National Indian Gaming Commission (NIGC), positions he has held since 2013. He also served as Acting Chairman of the NIGC from 2013 to April 2014. Prior to this position, Mr. Chaudhuri was Senior Counselor to the Assistant Secretary for Indian Affairs at the Department of the Interior from 2012 to 2013.  He served as an Associate Judge on the Puyallup Tribe of Nations Court from 2011 to 2012, an Appellate Judge on the San Manuel Mission Band of Indians Appeals Court from 2009 to 2012 and an Appellate Judge on the Muscogee (Creek) Nation Supreme Court from 2006 to 2012.  

Previously, he served as a Deputy Public Defender in the Maricopa County Public Defender’s Office from 2010 to 2011 and as Managing Attorney at the Chaudhuri Law Office, P.L.L.C. from 2006 to 2010.  Mr. Chaudhuri also held Appellate Judge Appointments on the Gila River Indian Community Court of Appeals from 2008 to 2010 and on the Yavapai-Apache Nation Court of Appeals from 2005 to 2009.  From 2001 to 2006, he served as an Associate at Snell & Wilmer, L.L.P.  Prior to this, he served as a judicial clerk for the Honorable Noel Fidel on the Arizona Court of Appeals from 2000 to 2001 and a Judicial Clerk for the Honorable James Ackerman on the Arizona Court of Appeals from 1999 to 2000.  Mr. Chaudhuri received a B.A. from Dartmouth College and a J.D. from Cornell Law School.

The NIGC was established by the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act of 1988 and comprises a chair and two commissioners, each of whom serves on a full-time basis for a three-year term.  By law, at least two of the three commissioners must be enrolled members of a federally recognized Indian tribe, and no more than two members may be of the same political party. The chair is appointed by the President and must be confirmed by the Senate. The Secretary of the Interior appoints the other two commissioners. The NIGC is authorized to conduct investigations; undertake enforcement actions, including the issuance of notices of violation, assessment of civil fines and/or issuance of closure orders; conduct background investigations; conduct audits; and review and approve tribal gaming ordinances. For more information, visit www.nigc.gov.

On the Heels of Historic Presidential Visit to Indian Country, Secretary Jewell Announces Interior Initiatives to Support Tribal-led Economic Development

Infrastructure easements, land leasing efficiency, and market improvements part of package to strengthen Tribal self-determination and create jobs 

Source: U.S. Department of the Interior

WASHINGTON, D.C. – As part of President Obama’s commitment to support tribal self-governance and self-determination, Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell today announced a package of regulatory initiatives intended to help tribal leaders spur investment opportunities and economic development in Indian Country.

Highlighted by the President during his historic visit to the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe last week, the Department’s actions will help remove regulatory barriers to infrastructure and energy development in Indian Country; increase tribal community access to expanded, high-speed Internet resources via broadband; eliminate leasing impediments to land development; and support the growth of new markets for Native American and Alaska Native businesses.

“Over the 14 months on the job, I’ve had the great privilege of visiting just as many tribal reservations,” said Secretary Jewell, who chairs the White House Council on Native American Affairs. “Last week, on the heels of the President’s visit to Indian Country, I joined Standing Rock Sioux Tribal Chairman David Archambault on a tour of his tribal lands.  As Secretary, I have seen first-hand both economic success stories and the dramatic challenges tribes still face to generate employment and develop infrastructure within Indian Country.”

Jewell further said, “While some tribes are experiencing economic progress in recent years, many others continue to face formidable economic hardship. Providing greater deference to tribes under the principles of self-determination and improving our federal regulations to meet the needs of the 21st century means we can help remove some of these barriers to economic development on tribal lands and lay a solid foundation for economic development as well as improve the quality of life for American Indians and Alaska Natives in their homelands.”

The package of Interior regulatory initiatives includes:

Facilitating Indian Country Infrastructure Development
The Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA) is proposing new regulations for issuing “right-of-way” approvals on Indian land for all purposes. The rule would modernize and streamline the process for obtaining BIA approval for infrastructure development, providing tribal leaders, private companies, utility firms and energy developers greater certainty when designing or implementing infrastructure, including expanded Internet capacity through broadband access, transmission lines, and water, road and energy projects.

The new regulations propose strict timelines for BIA approval of all requests; eliminate the need for BIA approval of pre-development surveys, and limit the situations in which BIA may disapprove a right-of-way, all in an effort to provide faster approvals of right-of-way applications, facilitating economic development and greater deference to tribal priorities.

Removing Barriers to Land Development through Increased Tribal Self-governance
The BIA will conduct a series of training sessions to help tribal leaders implement the Helping Expedite & Advance Responsible Tribal Homeownership (HEARTH) Act.  When a tribal business needs to build a factory or a family wants to purchase a new home on a reservation, the lease generally requires BIA approval.  Since 2012, however, the HEARTH Act provides tribes the opportunity to establish and enforce their own land leasing regulations in order to expedite the process for long-term leasing of tribal trust lands for residential, business, renewable energy and other purposes. Twenty-one tribes have submitted proposals to assume leasing responsibilities, and 12 have already received approvals for their regulations.  The new BIA training supports tribal self-governance by helping to increase the number of tribes able to control leases on their land without BIA approval.  This builds on Interior’s progress in strengthening tribal control over tribal resources.

Supporting the Growth of New Markets for Native American and Alaska Native Small Businesses 
Interior’s Indian Affairs bureaus and offices will increase federal procurement opportunities by issuing a new directive improving implementation of the Buy Indian Act and increasing Indian Affairs’ procurement purchases from Native American-owned small businesses by 10 percent. The Buy Indian Act authorizes the Secretary of the Interior to set aside certain qualifying acquisitions for American Indian-and Alaska Native-owned and controlled small businesses. These purchasing contracts issued by Indian Affairs offices and the Bureau of Indian Affairs and Bureau of Indian Education will help increase economic activity and provide greater employment opportunities in Indian Country.

“Underlying these initiatives is the Administration’s firm belief that tribal leaders must have a seat at the table,” said Assistant Secretary-Indian Affairs Kevin Washburn. “These initiatives we are announcing are part of a coordinated federal effort outlined by the President that builds on the significant progress this Administration has made in partnering with tribes on a nation-to-nation basis to promote prosperous and resilient communities.”

NCAI Applauds President Obama’s Historic Visit to Indian Country

Source: National Congress of American Indians
WASHINGTON, DC – The National Congress of American Indians (NCAI) applauds President Obama for upholding his ongoing commitment to tribal nations and Native peoples by travelling to the Standing Rock Sioux Reservation this Friday, June 13. Since taking office, President Obama has remained steadfast in honoring our nation-to-nation relationship. President Obama has kept his commitment to host the annual White House Tribal Nations Summit in Washington D.C. These summits have facilitated unprecedented engagement between tribal leaders and the President and members of his Cabinet.
At the 2013 White House Tribal Nations Summit, the President announced that he would visit Indian Country himself – a longtime priority of tribal leaders. Friday’s visit to Standing Rock fulfills that promise. This historic visit is the first by a sitting President in over 15 years and makes President Obama only the fourth President in history to ever visit Indian Country.
NCAI expects the President to address the economic development needs of tribal nations and the needs of Native youth.  While tribal youth are included in the Administration’s “My Brother’s Keeper” initiative, this Administration has always known that Native children have specific cultural and education needs that require focused attention.
For this reason, Indian Country has witnessed an unprecedented collaboration between the Secretary Jewell at the Department of the Interior and Secretary Duncan at the Department of Education, to study what is necessary to make sure that all of our Native students – in public schools, tribal schools, and Bureau of Indian Education schools have the tools they need to ensure a strong future for all Native children. In 2013, Secretary Jewell visited the Pueblo of Laguna to see first hand how a tribal education department was improving the quality of schools operations, performance and structure of BIE schools. She witnessed a nation that was engaged and excited to participate in efforts to improve educational outcomes in Indian Country.
It will take visits like this – the agencies working together with tribal governments and national organizations such as the NCAI and the National Indian Education Association to ensure that our students can be the future tribal leaders, teachers, health care workers, and entrepreneurs that our nations and the United States need to thrive for generations to come.
The President’s visit builds on ongoing efforts of his Administration to work closely with tribal nations on policy that affects their citizens. We trust the visit will be a catalyst for more policies that will not only succeed today, but cement the positive relationship between tribal governments and the federal government well into the future. President Obama has made annual summits between our nations in his words, “almost routine.” We trust this will be the continuation of his Administration’s engagement with our nations that makes visits to Indian Country by the President and his Cabinet routine too.
About The National Congress of American Indians:
Founded in 1944, the National Congress of American Indians is the oldest, largest and most representative American Indian and Alaska Native organization in the country. NCAI advocates on behalf of tribal governments and communities, promoting strong tribal-federal government-to-government policies, and promoting a better understanding among the general public regarding American Indian and Alaska Native governments, people and rights. For more information visit www.ncai.org

On My Upcoming Trip to Indian Country

President Barack Obama, June 5, 2014, Source: Indian Country Today

Six years ago, I made my first trip to Indian country. I visited the Crow Nation in Montana—an experience I’ll never forget. I left with a new Crow name, an adoptive Crow family, and an even stronger commitment to build a future that honors old traditions and welcomes every Native American into the American Dream.

Next week, I’ll return to Indian country, when Michelle and I visit the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe in Cannonball, North Dakota. We’re eager to visit this reservation, which holds a special place in American history as the home of Chief Sitting Bull. And while we’re there, I’ll announce the next steps my Administration will take to support jobs, education, and self-determination in Indian country.

As president, I’ve worked closely with tribal leaders, and I’ve benefited greatly from their knowledge and guidance. That’s why I created the White House Council on Native American Affairs—to make sure that kind of partnership is happening across the federal government. And every year, I host the White House Tribal Nations Conference, where leaders from every federally recognized tribe are invited to meet with members of my Administration. Today, honoring the nation-to-nation relationship with Indian country isn’t the exception; it’s the rule. And we have a lot to show for it.

Together, we’ve strengthened justice and tribal sovereignty. We reauthorized the Violence Against Women Act, giving tribes the power to prosecute people who commit domestic violence in Indian country, whether they’re Native American or not. I signed the Tribal Law and Order Act, which strengthened the power of tribal courts to hand down appropriate criminal sentences. And I signed changes to the Stafford Act to let tribes directly request disaster assistance, because when disasters strike, you shouldn’t have to wait for a middleman to get the help you need.

Together, we’ve resolved longstanding disputes. We settled a discrimination suit by Native American farmers and ranchers, and we’ve taken steps to make sure that all federal farm loan programs are fair to Native Americans from now on. And I signed into law the Claims Resolution Act, which included the historic Cobell settlement, making right years of neglect by the Department of the Interior and leading to the establishment of the Land Buy-Back Program to consolidate Indian lands and restore them to tribal trust lands.

Together, we’ve increased Native Americans’ access to quality, affordable health care. One of the reasons I fought so hard to pass the Affordable Care Act is that it permanently reauthorized the Indian Health Care Improvement Act, which provides care to many in tribal communities. And under the Affordable Care Act, Native Americans across the country now have access to comprehensive, affordable coverage, some for the first time.

Together, we’ve worked to expand opportunity. My Administration has built roads and high-speed internet to connect tribal communities to the broader economy. We’ve made major investments in job training and tribal colleges and universities. We’ve tripled oil and gas revenues on tribal lands, creating jobs and helping the United States become more energy independent. And we’re working with tribes to get more renewable energy projects up and running, so tribal lands can be a source of renewable energy and the good local jobs that come with it.

We can be proud of the progress we’ve made together. But we need to do more, especially on jobs and education. Native Americans face poverty rates far higher than the national average – nearly 60 percent in some places. And the dropout rate of Native American students is nearly twice the national rate. These numbers are a moral call to action. As long as I have the honor of serving as President, I’ll do everything I can to answer that call.

That’s what my trip next week is all about. I’m going to hear from as many people as possible—ranging from young people to tribal leaders—about the successes and challenges they face every day. And I’ll announce new initiatives to expand opportunity in Indian country by growing tribal economies and improving Indian education.

As I’ve said before, the history of the United States and tribal nations is filled with broken promises. But I believe that during my Administration, we’ve turned a corner together. We’re writing a new chapter in our history—one in which agreements are upheld, tribal sovereignty is respected, and every American Indian and Alaskan Native who works hard has the chance to get ahead. That’s the promise of the American Dream. And that’s what I’m working for every day—in every village, every city, every reservation—for every single American.


Read more at http://indiancountrytodaymedianetwork.com/2014/06/05/my-upcoming-trip-indian-country

NCAI celebrates anniversary of VAWA’s 2013 passage

By Cherokee Phoenix staff reports

WASHINGTON – The National Congress of American Indians marked the one-year anniversary of a great victory for tribal nations and Native women on March 7.

President Obama, joined by Vice President Biden, members of women’s organizations, law enforcement officials, tribal leaders, survivors, advocates and members of Congress, signs the Violence Against Women Act in March. (Manuel Balce Ceneta/Associated Press)
President Obama, joined by Vice President Biden, members of women’s organizations, law enforcement officials, tribal leaders, survivors, advocates and members of Congress, signs the Violence Against Women Act in March. (Manuel Balce Ceneta/Associated Press)

It was on that day in 2013 when President Obama signed the Violence Against Women Reauthorization Act. At the signing ceremony, the president underscored the “inherent right (of tribal governments) to protect their people.”

For the first time since the 1978 Oliphant decision, VAWA 2013 restored tribal authority to investigate, prosecute, convict and sentence non-Indians who assault their Indian spouses or partners in Indian Country. The law created a pilot project that enabled three tribes to recently begin exercising this authority.

“Today is a day to celebrate what we have achieved together and commit ourselves to ensure the ongoing success of this important law. It acknowledges that tribal nations are the best equipped to ensure public safety in our communities and provides the tools we need to protect Native women,” NCAI President Brian Cladoosby said.

The Pascua Yaqui Tribe of Arizona, the Tulalip Tribes of Washington and the Umatilla Tribes of Oregon–began exercising special criminal jurisdiction over certain crimes of domestic and dating violence, regardless of the defendant’s Indian or non-Indian status in February.

“VAWA 2013 is a tremendous victory. I am grateful to those who have stepped up to take the lead in the implementation phase,” Terri Henry, Tribal Councilor of the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians and co-chair of the NCAI Task Force on Violence Against Women, said. “I want to congratulate the three tribes participating in the pilot project and remind everyone, we still have work to do.”

However, VAWA does not mark the end of the NCAI’s efforts to combat domestic violence in Indian Country, NCAI Executive Director Jackie Pata said. “Tribal nations remain steadfast in the important work of protecting our Native women and securing our communities,” she said.

TCC convention speaker blasts governments’ treatment of Natives

By Jeff Richardson, Fairbanks Daily News-Miner

FAIRBANKS — A colonial attitude and lack of tribal sovereignty are contributing to an “unconscionable” record for Alaska Native justice, the head of the Indian Law and Order Commission told a Fairbanks audience on Tuesday.

Attendees watch on a television in the hallway as Keynote speaker Troy A. Eid, Chairman of the Indian Law and Order Commission, speaks at the Tanana Chiefs Conference Annual Delegate and Full Board of Directors Meeting Tuesday, March 11, 2014 at the Westmark Hotel.
Attendees watch on a television in the hallway as Keynote speaker Troy A. Eid, Chairman of the Indian Law and Order Commission, speaks at the Tanana Chiefs Conference Annual Delegate and Full Board of Directors Meeting Tuesday, March 11, 2014 at the Westmark Hotel.

In a fiery speech at the Tanana Chiefs Conference convention, Troy Eid blasted the state and federal governments for treating Alaska Natives like second-class citizens. The result, he said, has been an ineffective and unequal system for the state’s indigenous people.

“You are not stakeholders,” Eid told TCC delegates at the Westmark Hotel. “You are members of sovereign governments.”

Eid received a standing ovation following his remarks, which were the keynote speech for a conference with the theme “The time is now.” Eid’s independent commission was created in 2010 to review the justice system for American Indians and Alaska Natives and report its findings to President Obama and Congress.

The report, which was released last November, gave a dismal review of Alaska’s system. 

Eid, a former U.S Attorney for Colorado, called the status of Alaska Natives a “civil rights crisis.” A fourth of Alaska Native youth suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder, he said, the same rate as military veterans returning from Afghanistan. Suicide rates in Alaska rival those in Haiti, one of the poorest countries in the world.

Alaska has domestic violence rates 10 times higher than the national average, and 12 times higher against women, Eid said.

He said lawmakers in Juneau and Washington could help change that.

The first step, he said, is to stop excluding Alaska Natives from federal legislation that protects Native Americans in other parts of the country. Eid dismissed the argument that the Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act requires that Alaska Natives be treated differently than their counterparts in the Lower 48.

“They’re laws Congress made and Congress can revisit it. … It’s not as if these are immutable, unchangeable laws,” he said.

Eid also criticized the state for battling against tribes who want local courts and police, saying that local efforts to combat crime often prove more effective. Tribal courts are now limited to family issues, such as child custody and adoption.

“It is time for the state of Alaska to stop fighting against Alaska Natives,” he said.

Following the remarks, Fort Yukon Chief Steve Ginnis asked delegates to consider a resolution that would ask the federal government to treat Alaska Natives under the same civil rights legislation as other Native Americans.

President Jerry Isaac echoed the comments.

“It’s undoubtedly a long struggle with the tribes in Alaska to be recognized in a place that they deserve,” he said.

Sen. Lisa Murkowski, who spoke by videoconference with TCC delegates, was asked if she would pledge to support such a resolution. She said ANCSA has set up a system which creates a special distinction for Alaska Natives, and that identical legislation for Alaskans and those in the Lower 48 isn’t always possible.

However, Congress needs to make sure the end result shouldn’t be unequal treatment for Alaskans, she said.

“We need to be sure that Alaska Natives are treated justly and fairly, as are all Natives,” Murkowski said.