New program to study tribal water challenges

Staci Emm, left and Loretta Singletary have been named to a new team studying water management issues throughout the southwestern U.S.(Photo: Submitted photo)
Staci Emm, left and Loretta Singletary have been named to a new team studying water management issues throughout the southwestern U.S.(Photo: Submitted photo)

By Robert Perea, Reno- Gazette-Journal

Schurz native Staci Emm and University of Nevada, Reno professor and Interdisciplinary Outreach liaison Loretta Singletary, a former extension coordinator at the Yerington office of the UNR Cooperative Extension, have been named to a new team that has been formed to integrate research and Extension to help Great Basin and Southwestern tribal communities develop plans, policies and practices for sustainable agriculture and water management.

The program is part of a competitive, $4.5 million grant awarded by the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture.

The five-year program, Native Waters on Arid Lands, brings together faculty and students from three of the West’s 1862 land-grant institutions — University of Nevada, Reno, University of Arizona and Utah State University; First Americans (1994) Land-Grant Consortium (FALCON); Federally Recognized Tribal Extension Program instructors in Nevada and Arizona; Desert Research Institute; U.S. Geological Survey; and Ohio University. The program team includes tribal members from Nevada, Utah, Arizona and New Mexico.

“This is the stuff I love to do,” Emm said. I love working with people and doing programs that actually are on the ground. The program has challenges, and it has so much potential.”

American Indian farmers and ranchers provide an important economic base for the arid lands of the Great Basin Desert and American Southwest. Declining water supplies, urbanization, ecosystem change and federal Indian policies challenge American Indian agriculture for ceremonial practices, sustenance and trade.

Singletary said the group will be working with every tribe in Nevada, a couple in Utah, the Navajo and Hopi nations in Arizona and several small tribes in northern New Mexico.

“The foundation of the project is working with tribal communities through focus groups and tribal engagement about what their challenges are and what their ideas are for possible ways and strategies to use their water,” Singletary said.

Singletary said American Indian land tenures have presented challenges to tribes and impacted their ability to manage water and other natural resources well.

“Water is a precious natural resource and also has profound cultural and spiritual significance to tribal peoples,” John Phillips, executive director of FALCON, a professional association of 1994 land-grant administrators, faculty staff, said. “This program will help Native American communities in the Great Basin and southwest region carry on their historical role as strong environmental stewards for the Earth and its natural resources.”

“The Native Waters on Arid Lands program team will work directly with tribal members to identify challenges to agriculture from diverse and competing demands for water,” Maureen McCarthy, program director and director (interim) of the University of Nevada, Reno’s Academy for the Environment, said. “These issues are complex and transcend ecological and sociopolitical boundaries. Knowledge generated and shared through this program will build capacity among tribal and nontribal organizations to respond to a changing climate.”

Program elements include developing climate scenarios and water supply projections for tribal lands; testing the production efficiency of existing and future water systems; assessing the effects of Indian land tenure on water management and agriculture; considering the applicability of alternative water management policies; and integrating paleoecological data with tribal knowledge to understand the impacts of a changing climate.

Other senior members of the Native Waters integrated program team include Singletary, professor and interdisciplinary outreach liaison with University of Nevada Cooperative Extension, leading collaborative research and Extension outreach; Emm, associate professor and Extension educator with University of Nevada Cooperative Extension, leading outreach and coordinating the tribal advisory council and annual tribal summits; Michael Dettinger, senior hydrologist with the U.S. Geological Survey, leading climate research; Beverly Ramsey, executive director of Division of Earth and Ecosystem Sciences with Desert Research Institute, leading the traditional ecological knowledge research; Bonnie Colby, professor with the Department of Agriculture and Resource Economics with University of Arizona, leading water market economics research; Trent Teegerstrom, Arizona Federally Recognized Tribal Director and Extension specialist, coordinating tribal education and outreach in Arizona; Kynda Curtis, associate professor in the Department of Applied Economics at Utah State University, leading agricultural production economics research; Eric Edwards, assistant professor in the Department of Applied Economics at Utah State University, leading property rights economic research; Derek Kauneckis, associate professor with Ohio University’s Voinovich School of Leadership and Public Affairs and affiliate faculty member with the Desert Research Institute, leading water rights policy research.

Tribal members of the Native Waters on Arid Lands program team include Emm (Washoe and Paiute American Indian and Yerington Paiute tribal member); Ramsey (Eastern Band of the Cherokee Nation); Curtis, Cherokee descendant; Gerald Moore (Navajo) and Arizona Federally Recognized Tribal Extension Program for Arizona educator, coordinating tribal engagement with Navajo and Hopi tribes; Reggie Premo (Duck Valley Shoshone Paiute) coordinating tribal engagement with Nevada tribes; Vicki Hebb (Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe of South Dakota) organizing and facilitating the tribal summits; administrators, faculty, staff and students from the 1994 tribal land-grant colleges and universities; and American Indian water specialists, cultural advisors, agriculturalists and educators from the region.

“We look forward to working with communities throughout the Great Basin and American southwest to help manage water resources for our future generations,” Phillips said of the collaboration.

Native youth kick off Generation Indigenous challenge

By Susan Montoya Bryan, The Associated Press

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (AP) — Janay Jumping Eagle is on a mission to curb teen suicide in her hometown on South Dakota’s Pine Ridge Indian Reservation.

Dahkota Brown of the Wilton Band of Miwok Indians in California wants to keep American Indian and Alaska Native students on track toward graduation.

The teenagers are at the heart of Generation Indigenous, or Gen-I, a White House initiative that kicked off this week with a brainstorming session that happened to coincide with tens of thousands of indigenous people gathering in New Mexico for the Gathering of Nations, North America’s largest powwow.

The Generation Indigenous program stems from a visit last year by President Barack Obama to the Standing Rock Sioux Reservation in North Dakota. Meetings followed, the president called for his cabinet members to conduct listening tours, tribal youth were chosen as ambassadors and a national network was formed.

The goal is to remove barriers that stand in the way of tribal youth reaching their potential, said Lillian Sparks Robinson, a member of the Rosebud Sioux and an organizer of Thursday’s Gen-I meeting.

“This is a community-based, community-driven initiative. It is not something that’s coming from the top down. It’s organic,” she said.

The teens are coming up with their own ideas to combat problems in their respective communities.

For example, a string of seven suicides by teenagers in recent months has shaken Pine Ridge, and close to 1,000 suicide attempts were recorded on the reservation over a nearly 10-year period. Jumping Eagle, a high school sophomore, said her older cousin was one of them.

“That was really devastating. I just wanted to at least try to stop it from happening and I’m still trying,” she said, noting that a recent basketball tournament she organized as part of her Gen-I challenge to bring awareness and share resources with schoolmates was a success.

Brown, 16, said he sees Gen-I as a tool to “shine a light on the positive things that are happening in Indian country rather than all the other bad statistics that go along with being a Native teen.”

From New Mexico’s pueblos to tribal communities in the Midwest and beyond, federal statistics show nearly one-third of Native youth live in poverty, they have the highest suicide rates of any ethnicity in the U.S., and they have the lowest high school graduation rate of students across all schools. And for American Indians and Alaska Natives overall, alcoholism mortality is more than 500 percent higher than the general population.

Federal agencies are working with the Center for Native American Youth at the Aspen Institute to pull off Generation Indigenous, and the White House is planning a tribal youth gathering in July in Washington, D.C.

In one of her last tasks before passing on the Miss Indian World crown, Taylor Thomas spoke to Gen-I participants Thursday. She shared with them her tribe’s creation story, which centers on the idea that every animal, plant and person has a purpose. She encouraged the teens to be leaders.

“No matter the difficulties we have in our communities, we have so many bright lights shining from all over Indian country. And when I say that I’m talking about all of you,” she told the crowd of about 300.

New law makes Native Americans eligible for school choice program

By The White Mountain Independent

Gov. Doug Ducey has signed SB1332 into law, officially expanding the state’s innovate Empowerment Scholarship Account program offering unprecedented educational options to all students living on tribal lands, which includes 22 reservations in total.

“We are very thankful to Gov. Ducey and the bill sponsor, Sen. Carlyle Begay, for their commitment to addressing the long-standing education problems on the state’s reservations,” said Kevin Chavous, executive counsel for the American Federation for Children. “These children have been ignored long enough when it comes to providing them with quality educational options. Today Gov. Ducey did his part to right that wrong.”

According to the Arizona Department of Education, Native American students have the state’s lowest graduation rate at 61 percent making Native children less likely to graduate than any other ethnicity or group including students with special needs.

Arizona has the second largest Native American student population in the United States. Most of the 55,000 Native American students in Arizona attend school on or near their reservation. The new law gives these families on tribal lands, mostly in rural areas, the opportunity to customize their children’s education. Parents can choose how to use their state-funded education accounts and can pay for options like private school tuition, online classes, homeschooling or other education related expenses.

The bill was sponsored by Sen. Carlyle Begay, D- Ganado, who has made education in his district, including the Navajo Nation and eight other Tribal communities, a top priority.

“My gratitude goes out to Gov. Ducey … for signing a bill that means so much to families living in my district and throughout all of Arizona’s tribal communities,” Sen. Carlyle Begay, D-Ganado said. “Native American parents went from having almost no options to having a mechanism to build their child’s education around their child’s learning needs. It is an exciting first step toward fixing education on tribal lands!”

With the new law, ESA eligibility now includes students in D or F rated schools, students with special needs, students in adoptive care, students with an active-duty military parent, siblings of an ESA recipient, and students living within the boundaries of an Arizona reservation.

Assistant Secretary Washburn Announces Revised Guidelines to Ensure that Native Children and Families Receive the Full Protection of the Indian Child Welfare Act

Guidelines clarify tribal authority, responsibilities of state courts and agencies in Indian child custody proceedings to protect tribal children and their families

Indian Affairs – U.S. Department of the Interior
WASHINGTON, D.C. – In keeping with President Obama’s commitment to supporting Indian families and building resilient, thriving tribal communities, Assistant Secretary – Indian Affairs Kevin K. Washburn today announced action the Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA) has taken to help prevent the further dissolution of American Indian and Alaska Native families through the misapplication of the Indian Child Welfare Act (ICWA) of 1978 (Public Law 95-608).
“For too many years, some of Indian Country’s youngest and most vulnerable members have been removed from their families, their cultures, and their identities,” said Assistant Secretary Washburn. “Congress worked hard to address this problem by enacting the Indian Child Welfare Act.  Yet, today too many people are unaware of this important law and, unfortunately, there are some that work actively to undermine it.  Our updated guidelines for state courts will give families and tribal leaders comfort that the Obama Administration is working hard to provide better clarity so that the courts can carry out Congress’ intent to protect tribal families, preserve tribal communities, and promote tribal continuity now and into the future.”
In his address to the National Congress of American Indians at its winter session in Washington, DC, the Assistant Secretary announced that the BIA will publish this week its revised BIA Guidelines for State Courts and Agencies in Indian Child Custody Proceedings to support the full implementation and purpose of ICWA – the first such update since it was issued over 35 years ago.
Congress enacted ICWA after hearings which found that an alarmingly high percentage of Indian families had been broken up when public and private agencies subjected Indian children to unwarranted removal, most of whom were eventually placed in non-Indian homes.
ICWA set forth a federal preference for keeping American Indian and Alaska Native children with their families, including extended families, and deferring to tribal judgment on matters concerning the custody of tribal children.  In initially carrying out Congress’ intent, the BIA published on Nov. 26, 1979, Guidelines for State Courts; Indian Child Custody Proceedings to inform state courts and agencies of ICWA’s requirements in Indian child custody proceedings.   Until today, those guidelines had not been updated.
The guidelines will provide long-overdue guidance to state courts as they work daily to ensure full implementation of the law.  BIA’s updated guidelines build upon the good work of states like New Mexico and Wisconsin that are actively working to implement ICWA as Congress envisioned.  In Wisconsin, the state codified ICWA into state law to facilitate implementation.  New Mexico is working with tribes to review its implementation of, and compliance with, ICWA.  As part of this effort, the New Mexico Tribal-State Judicial Consortium developed an ICWA Judicial Bench Card that provides reference materials for tribal and state judges as they handle ICWA cases.  The BIA guidelines issued this week will serve as another resource for state and tribal courts and agencies.
Several long-term studies have been conducted of Native American adult adoptees.  Despite socioeconomic advantages that many of them received by virtue of their adoption, long term studies reflect that these adoptees experienced increased rates of depression, low self-esteem, and suicide.  In addition, many adult adoptees continue to struggle with their identities and have reported feelings of loneliness and isolation.  Today, the number of Native American children in foster care alone is still alarmingly high, and they are still more than twice as likely to be placed in foster care overall.
The United States Department of Justice is taking action in states like South Dakota to ensure that Native children and families receive the full protection of ICWA.  These guidelines will assist those efforts to ensure that states fully implement the federal law enacted to protect tribal communities.  In enacting ICWA, Congress recognized that this was not a tragedy only for American Indian and Alaska Native families and children, but also for tribes who have lost generations of future members and leaders.  In enacting ICWA, Congress sought to carry out the United States’ trust responsibility for protecting Indian children and the stability and security of American Indian and Alaska Native tribes and families.  Protecting Indian children reflects the highest ideals of the trust responsibility to Indian tribes and the guidelines issued today are a part of this Administration’s broader approach to ensuring compliance with ICWA.
In 2014, the Department of the Interior invited comments to determine whether to update its guidelines and what changes should be made.  The Department engaged in a process that included three listening sessions with tribes and two listening sessions with judicial organizations across the country to hear comments on how the guidelines should be updated.  The Department received comments from those at the listening sessions and also received written comments, including comments from individuals and organizations interested in Indian child welfare.  An overwhelming proportion of the commenters requested that Interior update its ICWA guidelines and many had suggestions for revisions that have been included.  The Department reviewed and considered each comment in developing these revised guidelines.
In his remarks, Assistant Secretary Washburn noted instances in which the ICWA law and BIA guidelines were not followed, preventing the goals of ICWA from being realized.  These circumstances continue to alarm tribal leaders, Indian families, and Indian child welfare advocates.
The updated guidelines will help ensure tribal children are not removed from their communities, cultures and extended families.  The guidelines clarify the procedures for determining whether a child is an Indian child, identifying the child’s tribe, and notifying its parent and tribe as early as possible before determining placement.  The updated guidelines also now provide comprehensive guidance on the application of active efforts to prevent the breakup of the Indian family.  They also provide clarification that ICWA’s provisions carry the presumption that ICWA’s placement preferences are in the best interests of Indian children.
The Assistant Secretary – Indian Affairs oversees the BIA, which is headed by a director who is responsible for managing day-to-day operations through four offices – Indian Services, Justice Services, Trust Services, and Field Operations.  These offices directly administer or fund tribally based infrastructure, economic development, law enforcement and justice, social services (including child welfare), tribal governance, and trust land and natural and energy resources management programs for the nation’s federally recognized American Indian and Alaska Native tribes through 12 regional offices and 81 agencies.
The Office of Indian Services Division of Human Services administers the BIA’s ICWA regulations at 25 CFR Part 23 and the Guidelines for State Courts.  For more information, visit

How to support tribal self-determination

Why today€’s congressional policies fail to empower tribes economically

By Dennis Worden, Al Jazeera America

Kristoffer Tripplaar / Getty Image
Kristoffer Tripplaar / Getty Image

Nearly 45 years ago, President Richard Nixon delivered a special message to Congress on Indian affairs.

One of his key recommendations was to empower tribes economically. The policy shift was intended to enable tribes to govern their own affairs rather than “terminating” them — a failed policy from the 1950s in which the United States attempted to end its relationships with tribal governments recognized as sovereign.

In the decades since Nixon’s message, there have been significant changes — mostly for the better — to embolden tribes in the areas of health, education and business development. But great needs remain because of widespread unemployment, housing shortages and high suicide rates. While progress has been made since 1970, challenges remain, and the potential to slide back toward de facto termination is real.

The good and the bad

As a result of Nixon’s policy, tribes are recognized as sovereign entities that have the right and responsibility to foster and grow their economies for their citizens. Tribes engage in business ventures on the basis of the needs of and resources available to their communities, and if tribes undertake ventures that utilize local resources and expertise, they are more likely (or at least better positioned) to succeed. Economic growth is essential because many tribal communities have suffered from chronically high unemployment.

This is the essence of self-determination: enabling tribes to decide for themselves what works best. Self-determination is critical because cookie-cutter programs lack the flexibility and nuance to acknowledge the diversity of resources and opportunities that might enable each tribe to create its own strong economy.

There are some examples of economic successes, such as Ho-Chunk Village, in Winnebago, Nebraska, which has garnered praise for its strong economic growth and has dropped unemployment to approximately 10 percent, down from more than 50 percent in 1994, primarily through government contracting. Its reinvestment of profits to create housing and job opportunities in the community has also drawn praise. But such successes are generally considered outliers in the public consciousness, which tends to view tribal communities as destitute, plagued by high unemployment or reliant solely on gaming ventures. Because of that, the public may not fully comprehend the degree of desperation — and potential for success — embedded in Indian Country today and Congress’ role in its continuance.

Though Nixon left other harmful legacies, the ideal of tribal self-determination remains just and powerful.

Recent congressional policies regarding Native American communities gravely erode the possibility for economic success through empowerment. Over the past several years, there have been efforts to restrict gaming and opportunities for government contracting as well as strong resistance to the resolution of legal issues regarding Indian land that deters outside investment.

There are two distinct problems with Congress’ approach to considering and enacting legislation that affects tribal economic development.

First, Congress has largely acted on tribal economic legislation in piecemeal fashion; one hand does not know what the other hand is doing. Instead, Congress and Indian Country need to use a more holistic approach by building consensus around policies that promote continued economic growth in tribal communities rather than tackling individual issues. And legislators need to understand communities’ capital, educational, regulatory and other needs as an entity in order to provide the best chance for success.

Second, in recent years, there have been more deliberate efforts to restrict programs or authorities that facilitate various economic opportunities for tribes. As tribal enterprises grow, so does congressional attention to tribal businesses and, increasingly, proposed policies have emerged that would hinder growth.

For instance, efforts to restrict tribal gaming — particularly off-reservation gaming — have been obstacles for at least a decade. In addition, efforts to take away provisions in federal contracting programs that provide unique participation of businesses owned by entire tribal communities would undermine Native American communities that do not have significant gaming resources and thus must find other economic ventures.

The proposed changes would treat Native American community-owned businesses (providing for hundreds or thousands of people) the same as individually owned businesses for purposes of qualifying for federal small business programs. But these programs work well. Gaming and federal contracting programs account for more than $35 billion in revenue to tribal communities, which is a large sum, though nowhere near enough to meet the needs of 566 communities across the country.

Third, the Prevent All Cigarette Trafficking Act significantly diminished tribal tobacco manufacturing and distribution on reservations. The law prohibits tobacco distribution through the U.S. Postal Service, making it extremely difficult to process tobacco sales made through the Internet, a niche in the market where tribes and individual Native Americans were particularly successful. When it took effect in 2010, the Seneca Nation anticipated the law would result in 1,000 jobs lost on its territory alone.

Land trusts

Perhaps most significant, Congress has not been able to address the devastating 2009 Supreme Court decision Carcieri v. Salazar, which limited the ability of the federal government to take land into trust for tribes. This has had wide-ranging effects on tribal economic development.

The case turned on the court’s interpretation of a key law passed in 1934 that allows the government to take land into trust only for tribes that are “now under federal jurisdiction.”

The court determined Congress meant only tribes recognized by the government in 1934, not a tribe that is currently under federal jurisdiction.

Land trusts facilitate housing, commercial construction and other tribal projects. Trust status ensures the land cannot be alienated and eliminates state and local taxation of that land. With the status of tribal trust land in question, external investors and businesses are wary of investing in tribal communities. Congress’ inability to enact a positive resolution results in lost economic opportunity for tribes.

Critical health

The interstate commerce clause of the Constitution states that Congress has the power to regulate commerce among the states and among the Indian tribes. Now is the time for Congress to reinvigorate this clause and the origins of self-determination in order to empower tribes, create jobs and honor the responsibilities of the United States toward Indian tribes.

As midterm elections loom and politicians on both sides of the aisle fret over unemployment of 6 to 7 percent, unemployment on tribal reservations is nearing 19 percent. In some communities it climbs higher than 60 or 70 percent. The need for economic development in Indian Country is critical to the health of the entire country because tribal communities are part of rural America, and when tribes succeed, surrounding communities succeed too. It means more people are employed, that more capital is circulating in local economies and that the government has to provide less financial assistance to individuals to meet basic needs.

Today we should recall that Nixon urged Congress to “support and encourage efforts [that] help Indians develop their own economic infrastructure.” Though Nixon left other harmful legacies, this ideal of self-determination remains just and powerful. Congress must recommit to the ideals of self-determination by enacting comprehensive legislation to further empower tribes economically.

Dennis Worden is a fellow with the Center for Global Policy Solutions Greenhouse through the OpEd Project. He is a member of the Coeur d’Alene Tribe and the legislative director for the Native American Contractors Association.

The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect Al Jazeera America’s editorial policy.

Bakken: $3M in grants to address violence against women in rural, tribal communities

A Whiting Petroleum Co. pump jack pulls crude oil from the Bakken region of the Northern Plains near Bainville, Mont., on Nov. 6, 2013. (AP Photo/Matthew Brown)
A Whiting Petroleum Co. pump jack pulls crude oil from the Bakken region of the Northern Plains near Bainville, Mont., on Nov. 6, 2013. (AP Photo/Matthew Brown)

By  Associated Press

FARGO, N.D. — Federal authorities have named recipients of $3 million in grants to address violence against women in rural and tribal communities in the oil patch of North Dakota and Montana.

The money from the Office on Violence Against Women will be used to help provide services to victims of sexual assault, domestic violence and stalking in the Bakken region, which has seen an increase in population and crime because of the oil boom.

Victims in a “vast rural region like the Bakken” have trouble accessing life-saving services, Associate Attorney General Tony West said.

“With this new, targeting funding, tribes and local communities will be better equipped to respond to the increased need for mental health services, legal assistance, housing and training,” West said.

The grants will be divided among the First Nations Women’s Alliance and Three Affiliated Tribes in North Dakota, the Fort Peck Assiniboine and Sioux Tribes in Montana, the North Dakota Council on Abused Women’s Services, and the Montana Coalition Against Domestic and Sexual Violence.

“The organizations that will receive funding through this project play a critical role in addressing violence against women in the Bakken region,” said U.S. Sen. Heidi Heitkamp, who organized visits to the oil patch by two of the nation’s drug czars. “By bringing top administration officials to North Dakota to hear firsthand about the emerging challenges, great strides have been made to make sure local law enforcement and organizations receive needed support to address these challenges and help our state maintain our treasured quality of life.”

Department of Justice officials also announced that the Fort Beck and Fort Berthold reservations will each receive three-year, $450,000 grants to pay for tribal prosecutors who will be cross-designated as special U.S. attorneys.

DOJ’s ‘Operation Choke Point’ Infringes on Tribal Trust

By Barry Brandon, American Banker

Tribal sovereignty is the most valuable of all American Indian assets. Tribal governments’ inherent rights of self-government and self-determination are the foundation of tribal communities and tribal identity.

Tribal governments have worked hard to strengthen our partnerships with the federal government through self-determined economic development and the co-creation of new institutions, including the National Indian Gaming Commission, housed within the Department of Interior.

The relationship between tribal governments and the federal government goes beyond the DOI, however, to include Congress and the White House, which has a long-running formal policy of consultation with tribal governments. These complex and interdependent relationships, enshrined in the U.S. Constitution, are summarized as the “trust relationship” or even “trust responsibility,” so named because it captures the special fiduciary responsibility by the federal government towards tribes.

Recently, however, the relationship between some tribal governments and a particular division of the federal government, located in the Department of Justice, has been severely damaged by an internal campaign known within the DOJ as “Operation Choke Point.”

This behind-the-scenes attempt to shut down legal tribal businesses has disrupted our long-held tribal-federal partnership. It represents a total departure from more than a century of respect for, and engagement with, tribal governments as partners and co-regulators on issues ranging from law enforcement to economic development to education.

At issue in the short term are the legal, licensed and regulated e-commerce lending services that many tribes have established. What is at stake, however, is the long-term viability of the trust relationship itself.

In other economic ventures such as gaming, tribal governments have found strong opposition from state governments who see us as a competitor or, worse yet, as a willful violator of state regulations. It thus disturbs tribal governments that, in the case of legal online lending, the DOJ – our supposed federal partner – continues to attack and undermine our legal businesses.

As a member of the “federal family,” the DOJ has a mandate to exercise their trust responsibility to tribal governments. They have a responsibility to do this in a way that protects tribal businesses engaging in honest business practices, as ours do.

Like gaming enterprises operated by tribal governments, our online lending businesses are legally owned, operated and regulated under tribal regulatory authority. They are created pursuant to tribal law and our authority to create them is acknowledged in the Dodd-Frank Act. As with gaming, we have created partnerships with the federal government and federal regulatory bodies to ensure that consumers across the country have access to the services they need in a way that also drives economic growth on reservations.

Thus, we support and echo the concerns of House Oversight Committee Chairman Darrell Issa, as reported in American Banker, that the Justice Department’s dragnet does appear to be an effort to stomp out all short-term lending, including legal tribal government-owned enterprises.

In light of the fact that the Dodd-Frank Act treats tribes as states in the context of financial services, tribal governments have created the Native American Financial Services Association to collectively establish a model for self-regulation, and we have sought meaningful consultation with federal regulatory bodies to strengthen and operationalize our relationship as co-regulators.

In an election year, however, the successful negotiation of a co-regulatory environment is not deemed as newsworthy as “choking off” legal tribal businesses. It is this abandonment of the federal-tribal trust relationship that has allowed “Operation Choke Point” to run amok and allowed legislators to blindly prop it up.

In the wake of this abandonment, rather than focusing on the true bad actors in the industry, “Operation Choke Point” is having the opposite effect. As the DOJ’s blanket actions continue to choke the illegal businesses, they also drown the legal ones, like ours, leaving consumers further underserved and tribal communities further isolated. At NAFSA, we will continue fighting to strengthen our tribal laws and regulations, work with our federal partners and educate state governments about our legal right to offer these businesses.

We can only hope that the DOJ, as a member of the “federal family,” will abide by their obligation to consult with us before taking unilateral actions, especially those that do not consider our special “trust” relationship and damage the fragile economic strides we are seeking on isolated reservation lands.

President’s Indian Affairs Budget Request Promotes Strong Tribal Economies, Communities and Families

Press release, U.S. Department of the Interior

Proposal for Fiscal Year 2015 fully funds contract support costs, launches the “Tiwahe Initiative” to address family welfare and poverty issues, invests in education, economic development, and sustainable stewardship of natural resources, and advances a strategy to reduce incarceration in Indian Country.
WASHINGTON, D.C. – President Obama’s Fiscal Year 2015 budget request for Indian Affairs, which includes the Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA) and the Bureau of Indian Education (BIE), is $2.6 billion – a $33.6 million increase above the FY 2014 enacted level.  The request maintains the President’s commitment to meet the Federal government’s responsibilities to the 566 federally recognized American Indian and Alaska Native Tribes by promoting stronger tribal economies, communities and families.
On June 26, 2013, President Obama appointed Interior Secretary Sally Jewell as the Chair of the White House Council on Native American Affairs.  To underscore the President’s commitment to effective partnerships with American Indian and Alaska Native communities, the Council was established by Executive Order to enable Federal agencies to work more collaboratively and effectively with federally recognized Tribes to advance their economic and social priorities.  The White House Council is a comprehensive multi-year effort to improve conditions for American Indians and Alaska Natives throughout Indian Country.  Informed by consultation with the Tribes and reflective of tribal priorities, Interior’s 2015 budget continues the initiative’s focus on improved self-determination for tribal nations, safety of Indian communities, trust resource management, and post-secondary, elementary, and secondary education.
“The President’s Fiscal Year 2015 budget request continues to support Indian Affairs’ efforts to advance tribal self-governance and self-determination,” said Assistant Secretary – Indian Affairs Kevin K. Washburn.  “In a budgetary climate that remains challenging, President Obama has made Indian tribes a priority, providing for the prudent management of tribal energy and natural  resources, building stronger tribal economies, stabilizing families and creating safer tribal communities, expanding educational opportunities and increasing student achievement, restoring tribal homelands, and protecting tribal treaty rights.”
Among the major highlights, the budget proposal fully funds contract support costs that Tribes incur as managers of programs serving Native Americans and proposes a new Tiwahe Initiative, which integrates social services and job training programs to address the interrelated issues of poverty and child and family welfare.  The President’s Opportunity, Growth, and Security Initiative would further invest in economic development and education in Indian Country to promote strong, resilient tribal economies and dramatically improve educational opportunities.
The Strengthening Tribal Nations Initiative
The Strengthening Tribal Nations Initiative is one of the Department of the Interior’s key priorities, involving a comprehensive effort to advance the President’s commitments to American Indians and Alaska Natives to improve conditions throughout Indian Country.  The FY 2015 request includes $26.5 million in program increases for four areas: Advancing Nation-to-Nation Relationships, Supporting Indian Families and Protecting Indian Country, Supporting Sustainable Stewardship of Trust Resources, and Advancing Indian Education.
The request also proposes a total of $922.6 million in Tribal Priority Allocations, an increase of $19.3 million over the FY 2014 enacted level.
Advancing Nation-to-Nation Relationships
The FY 2015 budget request for Contract Support, including the Indian Self-Determination Fund, is $251.0 million, a $4.0 million increase over the FY 2014 enacted level.  The FY 2015 budget request fully funds estimated 2015 contract support costs. 
Public Law 93-638, the Indian Self-determination and Education Assistance Act, allows federally recognized Tribes to operate Federal programs themselves under contract with the United States.  Known as 638 contracts, they are an expression of the Federal government’s policy to support tribal self-determination and self-governance.  Tribes rely on contract support funds to pay the costs of administering and managing contracted programs.  The availability of contract support cost funding is a key factor in a Tribe’s decision and ability to assume responsibility for operating Federal programs.
To facilitate tribal 638 contracting, the request includes an additional $1.2 million to increase services provided by the Department’s Office of Indirect Cost Negotiations, which negotiates indirect cost rates with non-Federal entities, including tribal governments, that contract with Interior in accordance with Federal regulations.
Indian Affairs, in conjunction with the Indian Health Service, will hold a tribal consultation session on March 11, 2014 in Washington, D.C., to identify long-term solutions for streamlining and funding contract support costs.
To further enhance the Nation-to-Nation relationship, Indian Affairs is continuing its comprehensive look at Federal acknowledgment regulations, with the intent of publishing a proposed rule in 2014.  The FY 2015 budget also proposes language to clarify the Secretary of the Interior’s authority to take land into trust and to amend the Indian Reorganization Act of 1934 to reduce significant delays in processing fee-to-trust applications.
Supporting Indian Families and Protecting Indian Country
The FY 2015 budget proposes an $11.6 million increase for the Tiwahe Initiative to carry out the President’s commitment to protect and promote prosperous tribal communities.  Tiwahe is Lakota for “family.”  The Initiative provides a comprehensive and integrated approach to address the interrelated problems of poverty, violence, and substance abuse in American Indian communities.  Through this Initiative, social services and job training programs will be integrated and expanded to address child and family welfare, job training, and incarceration issues, with the goal of promoting family stability and strengthening tribal communities.
The Initiative includes:
·         An increase of $10.0 million to build on BIA’s social services and Indian child welfare programs with the goal of empowering American Indian and Alaska Native individuals and families in health and family stability, thereby strengthening tribal communities as a whole,
·         $1.0 million to develop and institutionalize a program to effectively target funding and evaluate outcomes in meeting social service needs in Indian Country, and
·         A program increase of $550,000 to expand job placement and training programs.
The BIA’s Housing Improvement Program will continue to provide services which result in more functional dwellings and institute changes to alleviate overcrowding in Indian homes.
To promote public safety and community resilience in tribal communities, the FY 2015 budget request includes resources to build on BIA Law Enforcement’s recent successes in reducing violent crime by setting a new Priority Performance Goal to lower repeat incarcerations in Indian Country.  A pilot program will be implemented to lower repeat incarceration rates in tribally operated jails on three reservations – Red Lake in Minnesota, Ute Mountain in Colorado and Duck Valley in Nevada – by a total of three percent by September 30, 2015.
The BIA’s Alternatives to Incarceration Strategy will seek to address underlying causes of repeat offenses, such as substance abuse and lack of adequate social service support, by utilizing alternative courts, increased treatment opportunities, probation programs, and interagency and intergovernmental partnerships with tribal, State and Federal stakeholders.
Supporting Sustainable Stewardship of Trust Resources
Taking land into trust is one of the most important functions Interior undertakes on behalf of federally recognized American Indian and Alaska Native Tribes, whose homelands are essential to their peoples’ health, safety and economic well-being.  The BIA’s trust programs assist Tribes and individual Indian landowners in the management, development and protection of trust lands and natural resource assets totaling about 55 million surface acres and 57 million acres of subsurface mineral estates.
The FY 2015 budget request includes increases totaling $3.6 million to provide support for the sustainable stewardship of natural resources in Indian Country, and continues support for the protection and restoration of ecosystems and important landscapes, the sustainable stewardship of land, water, ocean and energy resources, and for building tribal resilience to climate change.  This includes:
·         An increase of $2.0 million, for the development of natural resource information tools to advance landscape-scale resource management in coordination with DOI’s and other Federal efforts, and
·         An increase of $1.6 million, for deferred maintenance on Indian irrigation projects to bring drought relief to affected tribal lands.
The FY 2015 budget affirms the Administration’s commitment to address tribal water rights and needs in Indian Country, and includes $12.3 million in increases for the implementation of Indian land and water rights settlements across DOI.  The FY 2015 budget request for Indian Land and Water Claim Settlements funded through the BIA is $35.7 million, equal with the FY 2014 enacted level, and includes:
·         $4.0 million for the Navajo Water Resources Development Trust Fund, a reduction of $2.0 million, reflecting projected need;
·         An increase of $6.6 million over 2014 for the Taos Pueblo Water Settlement to include indexing requirements;
·         An increase of $1.2 million for the Navajo-Gallup Water Supply Project to meet projected 2015 funding needs; and
·         $6.2 million for first-year funding of the Aamodt Settlement enacted as part of the Claims Resolution Act of 2010.
Since funding for the Duck Valley Water Rights Settlement was completed in 2014, no funding is requested for FY 2015.
Advancing Indian Education
The FY 2015 budget request of $794.4 million for BIE is a $5.6 million increase over the FY 2014 enacted level and advances the Department’s continuing commitment to American Indian Education.  The 2015 budget proposes increases totaling $3.8 million for elementary and secondary school education activities funded by the BIE and for education construction:
·         A program increase of $500,000 for Johnson-O’Malley (JOM) education grants to support a new student count in 2015 and to provide funding for a projected increase in the number of students eligible for grants;
·         $1.0 million to support ongoing evaluation of the BIE school system to enable improvements in educational outcomes, organizational management, and program performance; and
·         An increase of $2.3 million to fund site development at the Beatrice Rafferty School, a BIE-funded K-8 contract day school operated by the Passamaquoddy Tribe-Pleasant Point in Perry, ME, for which design funding was provided in the FY 2014 budget.
Tribal colleges and universities provide the tribal communities where they are located with the facilities and resources to overcome barriers to higher education and to teach community members skills they need for success.  The FY 2015 budget request for Indian post-secondary education includes increases totaling $2.3 million for BIE-funded post-secondary programs;
·         An increase of $300,000 to meet the needs of growing enrollment at BIE-funded tribal technical colleges; and
·         Program increases of $1.7 million for fellowship and training opportunities for post-graduate study in the sciences and $250,000 for summer pre-law preparatory program scholarships.
Achieving Better Results at Lower Costs
Over the last few years, Indian Affairs has taken significant steps to reduce  administrative costs associated with the wide range of services it delivers, including cost-saving measures such as standardization of information technology, consolidation of infrastructure, and streamlining of operations.
Indian Affairs’ responsibility to the federally recognized American Indian and Alaska Native tribes is rooted in Article I, Section 8 of the United States Constitution and subsequently defined in treaties, acts of Congress, executive orders and actions, Federal court decisions, and Federal policies and regulations.  Through the Bureau of Indian Affairs, it is responsible for the management, development and protection of Indian trust land and natural and energy resources, providing for public safety, welfare and justice in tribal communities, and promoting tribal self-determination and self-governance.  Through the Bureau of Indian Education, it funds 183 elementary and secondary day and boarding schools, of which two-thirds are tribally operated, located on 64 reservations in 23 States and serving approximately 41,000 students.  It also funds 27 tribal colleges and universities and two tribal technical colleges, operates two post-secondary institutions of higher learning and provides higher education scholarships.

NWIC to offer bachelor’s degree at Tulalip

The B.A. in Tribal Governance and Business Management will be offered starting fall quarter

Northwest Indian College’s (NWIC) evolution from the Lummi Indian School of Aquaculture to a college that now offers more diverse educational opportunities mirrors a growing nationwide demand for post-secondary education in tribal communities. Now, as NWIC celebrates 30 years of serving both regional and other tribes, the college continues to evolve and grow to meet new demands in Indian Country.

One of NWIC’s focuses in recent years has been on expanding its reach to more tribal communities and on providing students with the option to obtain culturally relevant four-year degrees without leaving their communities.

This fall quarter, NWIC’s growth will continue – that’s when the college will begin offering a bachelor’s degree at its Tulalip campus location. NWIC was approved to offer the Bachelor of Arts in Tribal Governance and Business Management degree in February by the Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities, which oversees regional accreditation for 162 institutions.

“This is another important step in our evolution and growth as a four-year degree granting institution,” NWIC President Justin Guillory said. “All of our new bachelor degrees, like the Tribal Governance and Business Management degree, are intended to meet the needs of tribal communities, and to equip our students with the knowledge and skills needed to become leaders in their communities and obtain family-wage jobs.”

NWIC began offering program classes – both face-to-face and videoconferencing – at the college’s main campus on the Lummi Reservation in spring quarter 2013. Now, NWIC has expanded the degree offering to three of its regional extended campuses: Tulalip, Muckleshoot and Nez Perce.

There is high demand at the three NWIC sites for the Tribal Governance and Business Management degree program, said Bernice Portervint, NWIC’s dean of academics and distance learning.

“Members of the tribes we serve really want to help their communities develop and they really want to be involved with tribal nation building,” Portervint said. “ I really think this is a degree that promotes the skills, values and knowledge they can utilize for the betterment of their communities.”

The new bachelor’s degree was developed in response to a community needs survey that identified it as a degree that would be most beneficial to tribal communities, said NWIC’s Public and Tribal Administration Coordinator Laural Ballew, who co-developed the program and its curriculum with NWIC business instructor Steve Zawoysky.

“Our focus on a degree in tribal governance resulted from collaboration with tribal leaders, managers, scholars and students who recognize the importance of preparing the future leaders of tribal communities,” Ballew said.

Ballew, who is Swinomish, said she is excited and honored to be able to offer the Tribal Governance and Business Management baccalaureate degree program at NWIC.

“This signifies a momentous opportunity not only for NWIC, but for all the tribal nations we serve,” Ballew said. “It represents the vision of educational opportunities our elders and tribal leaders have strived to provide for tribal members. Offering this degree is a natural extension of our efforts to promote indigenous self-determination and knowledge through the teaching of tribal sovereignty and leadership, sound decision making and business practices based on cultural values.”

The Tribal Governance and Business Management program will offer students the fundamental knowledge and experience necessary to succeed in the areas of leadership, sovereignty, economic development, entrepreneurship and management, Ballew said.

The degree will include courses in: principles of sovereignty; Native nation building; tribal and public administration; business management; economic development; and leadership.

NWIC was approved as a baccalaureate degree granting institution in 2010 and, in addition to the Tribal Governance and Business Management degree, currently offers a Bachelor of Science in Native Environmental Science and a Bachelor of Arts in Native Studies Leadership. The college is also developing a bachelor’s degree in human services, which is expected to be completed by the 2013-2014 academic year.


Energy Department Announces $7 Million to Promote Clean Energy in Tribal Communities

Source: US Department of Energy

The Energy Department today announced up to $7 million to deploy clean energy projects in tribal communities, reducing reliance on fossil fuels and promoting economic development on tribal lands. The Energy Department’s Tribal Energy Program, in cooperation with the Office of Indian Energy, will help Native American communities, tribal energy resource development organizations, and tribal consortia to install community- or facility-scale clean energy projects.

Tribal lands comprise nearly 2% of U.S. land, but contain about 5% of the country’s renewable energy resources. With more than 9 million megawatts of potential installed renewable energy capacity on tribal lands, these communities are well positioned to capitalize on our domestic renewable energy resources—thereby enhancing U.S. energy security and protecting our air and water.

Through the “Community-Scale Clean Energy Projects in Indian Country” funding opportunity, the Energy Department will make up to $4.5 million available, subject to congressional appropriations, for projects installing clean energy systems that reduce fossil fuel use by at least 15% in either new or existing tribal buildings. Renewable energy systems for power generation only must be a minimum of 50 kilowatts and use commercial-warrantied equipment.

Through the “Tribal Renewable Energy and Energy Efficiency Deployment Assistance” funding opportunity, the Department will make up to $2.5 million available, subject to congressional appropriations, for projects installing renewable energy and energy efficiency that reduce fossil fuel use in existing tribal buildings by at least 30%. These projects must use commercial-warrantied equipment with renewable energy systems for power generation only of at least 10 kilowatts. Leveraging state or utility incentive programs is encouraged.

The full funding announcements are also available through the Department’s Tribal Energy Program website.

The Energy Department’s Office of Indian Energy and the Tribal Energy Program promote tribal energy sufficiency and foster economic development and employment on tribal lands through the development of renewable energy and energy efficiency technologies.

The Department has invested $41.8 million in 175 tribal clean energy projects over the years, and provides financial and technical assistance to tribes for the evaluation and development of their renewable energy resources, implementation of energy efficiency to reduce energy use, and education and training to help build the knowledge and skills essential for sustainable energy projects.