DOI Announces $3.2 Million in Grant Awards For 21 Tribal Energy and Mineral Development Projects

Montana reservations
Montana reservations

By Transmission & Distribution World Magazine

Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell has announced that $3.2 million has been awarded to 21 tribal projects to assist in developing energy and mineral resources, including $655,000 to the Crow Tribe to advance a hydroelectric project that will provide low-cost clean power to tribal members and encourage business on Crow lands.

Secretary Jewell, who serves as Chair of the White House Council on Native American Affairs, announced the grants during a visit to the Crow Reservation in southeastern Montana. Jewell was joined by Senator Jon Tester, the new chairman of the Senate Indian Affairs Committee, and Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary for Indian Affairs Larry Roberts.

Jewell is making a three-day visit to Montana, meeting with tribal and business leaders, ranchers, hunters and anglers and other stakeholder groups to discuss the economic value of public lands to local communities, the importance of the Land and Water Conservation Fund in expanding access to hunting and fishing areas, and public-private partnerships that protect public lands, such as the Blackfoot Challenge for the southern part of the Crown of the Continent ecosystem.

The $655,000 grant to the Crow Tribe will allow completion of all technical, environmental, engineering and economic analyses required for an 8 to 12 megawatt hydroelectric project at the Yellowtail Afterbay Dam on the Crow Reservation. This will allow the Tribe to seek power purchase agreements and financing to build the facility, which will provide electricity to its members and invite industry to the reservation with the certainty of reliable, sustainable and clean low-cost power. The project is also expected to improve the Big Horn River’s downstream fishery by reducing excessive nitrogen and oxygen levels.

In 2009, Senator Tester introduced and then successfully helped pass the Crow Tribe Water Settlement Act that authorized the Crow to develop hydropower at the dam.

As Chair of the White House Council on Native American Affairs, Secretary Jewell leads a comprehensive Federal initiative to work more collaboratively and effectively with Tribes to advance their economic and social priorities. Informed by consultation with the Tribes and reflective of tribal priorities, the Interior Department’s FY2015 budget requests $2.6 billion for Indian Affairs, $33.6 million above the 2014 enacted level, to sustain the President’s commitment and honor Interior’s trust responsibilities to the 566 federally recognized American Indian and Alaska Native Tribes.

Recognizing this commitment to tribal self-governance and self-determination, the budget fully funds contract support costs that Tribes incur as managers of the programs serving Native Americans.

A full list of the 21 projects receiving grant awards for energy and mineral development is available here and includes six for mineral extraction, two for oil and gas production and 13 for renewable energy, including wind, hydropower, geothermal and biomass proposals.

Funding for construction of the Crow hydropower project was authorized in the Crow Water Rights Settlement that President Obama signed on Dec. 8, 2010. In March 2011 Crow tribal members voted to ratify the Settlement legislation and the Crow Tribe-Montana Water Rights Compact. The Settlement legislation provided the Tribe with the authority to develop hydropower at Yellowtail Afterbay Dam along with some funding to assist in the development along with other energy development on the Reservation. The Grant announced today is an additional and needed boost to the Tribe as it works to develop hydropower.

Together, the Settlement Act and the Compact quantified the Tribe’s water rights and authorized funding of $131.8 million for the rehabilitation and improvement of the Crow Irrigation Project and $246.4 million for the design and construction of a Municipal, Rural and Industrial (MR&I) water system to serve numerous reservation communities.

The Crow Reservation is the largest of seven Indian reservations in Montana, encompassing 2.3 million acres and home to 13,000 enrolled Crow tribal members.

QIN: Advising the new White House Council on Native American Affairs


Washington, D.C. – The Quinault government issued a white paper to the recently formed White House Council on Native American Affairs during its inaugural session in Washington, D.C. Tuesday. The Quinault paper, issued by Quinault President Fawn Sharp, responds to President Barack Obama’s directives to the new Council that it must work to facilitate “efficient delivery of government services” to Indian communities, and engage Indian and Native Alaskan governments for a “true and lasting government-to-government relationship.”

The document stated that the Quinault government “welcomes this opportunity to offer concrete comments and recommendations … that will strengthen the nation-to-nation relationship” and offered seven specific suggestions for success. It referred to the economic disaster of the last five and-a-half years that has undermined many tribal businesses across the country, and the sequestration of federal funding resulting in an “economic disaster among many tribes creating a profound sense of desperation in Indian Country.”

Commenting on the “chronic underfunding of Indian Country from federal agencies” starting with the Ronald Reagan Administration the Quinault government urged the new White House Council to send representatives to each tribe and Rancheria in the country to “engage in intergovernmental meetings.

According to President Sharp, the economic disaster of the last five and-a-half years has profoundly undermined many tribal businesses across the country, and the sequestration of federal funding resulting from the federal Budget Control Act will result in an economic disaster among many tribes, creating profound desperation in Indian Country in 2014 and 2015.

The White House Council should meet with each tribal government in the country. The purpose of these meetings would be to establish a dialogue with each tribal government to resolve the “disconnect and disparity between federal efforts to meet the needs of Indian Country and the actual on-the-ground needs.”

The Quinault government further urged formulation of federal agency policies based on “understanding current population characteristics, population growth data and the tribal economic environment.” President Sharp specifically urged the White House Council to share census and economic findings with each tribal government to ensure that tribal officials receive information to ensure their “free, prior and informed consent” to decisions that are made.

President Sharp specifically urged establishing funding levels on the basis of “qualified and quantified actual need” through a process of interagency cooperation, intergovernmental cooperation between tribal, state and federal governments, incentives to encourage public-private partnerships and expansion of tribal self-determination. The White House Council should document and assess “tribal government and community needs in terms of types of community needs quantified in terms of financial requirements for the next year and for the next three years,” said Sharp.

To strengthen the government-to-government relationship the Quinault statement to the White House Council called for the designation of representatives from the Department of State, Department of the Interior and the Department of Commerce joined by President Obama’s Senior Policy Advisor for Native American Affairs and Associate Director of Intergovernmental Affairs to enter into a dialogue with a Tribal Government Contact Group to discuss and negotiate a “framework for intergovernmental relations between tribal and federal governments.” The White House Council was also urged to recommend to President Obama the designation of a Special Counsel with the “authority of the President” to negotiate settlement of intergovernmental disputes between Indian nations and the United States government.

Clearly, my government welcomes the opportunity to offer concrete comments and recommendations to the White House Council on Native American Affairs as we enter another milestone in President Barack Obama’s commitment to strengthen the government-to-government relationship with Tribal Nations, said Sharp.

The new White House Council was established in a June 26, 2013 executive order by President Obama to improve coordination of federal programs and the use of resources available to tribal communities. It is chaired by the Secretary of the Interior, Sally Jewell, and is comprised of the heads of numerous federal executive departments and agencies. The council conducted a nationwide conference call Tuesday to help determine its mission and future activities, intended to strengthen the nation-to-nation relationship and facilitate the efficient delivery of government services.

If this new White House Council follows the right path, gets out of Washington D.C., works with the tribal nations on a true government-to-government basis and follows through on the need to work with us to find true solutions to our economic crises, we can and will make progress toward a better tomorrow,” said Sharp.

Overdue White House Native Council Lacking Budget Control and Natives

Rob Capriccioso, Indian Country Today Media Network

President Barack Obama, following the lead of at least three presidents before him, established a White House Council on Native American Affairs on June 26.

The council is expected to oversee and coordinate the progress of federal agencies on tribal programs and consultation with tribes across the federal government.

“This policy is established as a means of promoting and sustaining prosperous and resilient tribal communities,” Obama said in his executive order announcing the Council. “Greater engagement and meaningful consultation with tribes is of paramount importance in developing any policies affecting tribal nations.” (Related story: Obama Establishes White House Council on Native American Affairs)

Jodi Gillette, Senior Policy Advisor for Native American Affairs with the White House Domestic Policy Council, was direct in describing the need for the Council during a press conference call on June 27. “We need to do more, and we need to do it better,” she said. “Tribal leaders have told us we aren’t talking to each other enough.”

The Council will have no financial powers—those still belong to the Office of Management and Budget, which will continue to control how much money is spent on Native programs throughout the federal government.

Secretary of the Department of the Interior Sally Jewell, who is designated chair of the Council by the president, told attendees of a meeting of the National Congress of American Indians in Nevada on June 27 that she would like to have the ability to curb cuts to Indian programs. During a speech there, she called sequestration “stupid,” and she noted that it has targeted tribal programs that are supposed to be protected under the federal-tribal trust relationship. She also wiped tears from her eyes when she said she realized the depth of her commitment to Indian issues over Memorial Day Weekend.

Despite this budgetary limitation, the president’s move is being applauded by tribal officials, including some involved with NCAI, who say that such a development is overdue under the Obama administration to better organize its response to Indian issues.

At the same time, some are concerned that this new Council is not currently scheduled to have tribal seats, although the administration has promised to consult with tribal leaders on issues the Council addresses.

Tex Hall, chairman of the Three Affiliated Tribes, has been pressing for the creation of a Native American White House council based on the model established under President Lyndon B. Johnson that would make tribes actual members of the council and give the council stronger powers (including OMB and budget powers).

Hall would especially like to see that model in place because OMB, earlier this year, decided to sequester Native programs, despite the federal trust responsibility to tribes. If the White House Native council had more budgetary power, this problem could have been averted.

Officials involved in past presidential Native American councils have also questioned why it took so long into Obama’s tenure to establish the Council since similar to ones that have proven to be useful under past administrations, including those of Presidents Johnson, Ronald Reagan, and Bill Clinton.

Mike Anderson, an Indian affairs lawyers and past leader with the Clinton Native-focused council, said that he suggested to White House officials and to Indian affairs officials with the Department of the Interior during Obama’s first term that a similar council be created as the one he successfully worked on during the Clinton administration.

“[I’m] glad they are finally doing it,” Anderson said, adding that this group could have pushed for the federal agencies complete tribal consultation policies in compliance with the president’s request from 2009 that went unheeded by some for years after his request.

Anderson said it would have also been helpful for the Treasury Department, in particular, to hear perspectives on Indians during the president’s first term, since that Department has had some recent tax dealings with tribes that continue to perplex tribal leaders and citizens.

Meanwhile, U.S. Rep. Don Young (R-Alaska), chair of the subcommittee on Indian and Alaska Native Affairs in the House, is expressing concern that the creation of the council is symbolic, and he fears it does not focus enough on helping poverty-stricken tribes.

“This announced council is symbolic and a gesture rather than concrete action,” said Young spokesman Michael Anderson (no relation to Indian affairs lawyer Mike Anderson). “This is the phenomenon of government people creating a ‘blue ribbon panel’ to buy time so they can figure out how…to improve Indian reservation economies.

“Indian country’s unemployment situation, from all appearances, has not improved since Obama took office,” Anderson added. “If it has, we wouldn’t know it because the Secretary of the Interior has failed to produce annually required tribal labor reports. There are precious few job-producing non-government projects the Obama administration has approved in Indian country.”

Sen. Maria Cantwell (D-Wash.), chair of the Senate Committee on Indian Affairs, is much less critical of the Council and the president’s efforts. “This council recognizes the unique government-to-government relationship that exists between tribal governments and the federal government, and can help federal agencies work more effectively with tribes all across the nation,” she told Indian Country Today Media Network. “I look forward to working with Interior Secretary Sally Jewell on innovative ways to strengthen tribal self-governance and self-determination.”

Some Obama administration officials say the creation of the Council is the next step in the evolution of the president’s strong commitment to Indian country.

“This announcement today is the next evolution of what is already a wonderful approach toward Indian tribes,” Assistant Secretary – Indian Affairs Kevin Washburn said in a press conference call on June 27. “I am confident that this will make the administration even more effective at working with tribes in the future.”

Administration officials have not addressed why tribal officials were not invited to hold positions on the Council, as has happened with past presidential councils, nor why one wasn’t created sooner.



Strengthening our Federal Partnership with Tribal Nations

By Sally Jewell, Secretary of the Interior,

This week represents another important step forward in the nation-to-nation relationship between Indian Country and this Administration.  Yesterday, President Obama signed an Executive Order establishing a White House Council on Native American Affairs, which will help to continue to strengthen our federal partnership with Tribal Nations.

As Secretary of the Interior, I am honored to chair this Council, which will bring together federal departments and offices on a regular basis to support tribes as they tackle pressing issues such as high unemployment, educational achievement and poverty rates.  By further improving interagency coordination and efficiency, the Council will help break down silos and expand existing efforts to leverage federal programs and resources available to tribal communities.

Throughout the year, the Council will work collaboratively toward advancing five priorities that mirror the issues tribal leaders have raised during previous White House Tribal Nations Conferences:

1) Promoting sustainable economic development;
2) Supporting greater access to and control over healthcare;
3) Improving the effectiveness and efficiency of tribal justice systems;
4) Expanding and improving educational opportunities for Native American youth; and
5) Protecting and supporting the sustainable management of Native lands, environments, and natural resources.

Identifying these priority areas was just one of the many beneficial outcomes of the White House Tribal Nation Conferences, which have been held each year since the President came into office. That is why it’s so important that yesterday’s Executive Order also takes the step of codifying the White House Tribal Nations Conferences as an annual event to ensure that the Executive Branch will continue to meet directly with federally recognized tribal leaders each year.

We know the power of these conferences to strengthen the nation-to-nation relationship between the United States government and tribes and want to ensure that they continue.

The federal government’s unique trust relationship with tribes, as well as distinct legal and treaty obligations, calls for a priority effort to promote the development of prosperous and resilient tribal communities. Yesterday’s Executive Order underscores this Administration’s promise to engage in truly collaborative partnerships and meaningful dialogue with tribal communities.

I’m pleased to play a role in the President’s historic action to further advance the policies of tribal self-determination and self-governance that will help tribes build and sustain their own communities.

Big News from the White House

Source: Quinault Nation

TAHOLAH, WA (6/26/13)–“This is an exciting development in advancing a new era of U.S.-Tribal relations,” exclaimed Fawn Sharp, President of the Quinault Indian Nation and the Affiliated Tribes of Northwest Indians regarding today’s establishment of the White House Council on Native American Affairs by President Barack Obama.

President Obama established the council in an executive order with the stated objective of promoting and sustaining “prosperous and resilient Native American tribal governments” and in recognition of a government-to-government relationship with tribes throughout the country. “This relationship is set forth in the Constitution of the United States, treaties, statutes, Executive Orders, administrative rules and regulations, and judicial decisions. Honoring these relationships and respecting the sovereignty of tribal nations is critical to advancing tribal self-determination and prosperity,” says the executive order.

“This executive order comes from a President who has taken the time to listen to the American Indian people. It is a document that recognizes our history and struggles and acknowledges our interests and objectives. On behalf of the Native people and the tribes I represent in my elected capacities, I thank him for his foresight and the intent of this very important decision,” said Sharp.          The White House Council on Native American Affairs is primarily coordination. But it could benefit Tribes by addressing the chronic problem of tribal government and tribal program underfunding which had ranged from 50 to 80 percent, said Sharp.

Sharp pointed out that the council is to coordinate its policy development through the Domestic Policy Council which tends to create yet another layer of a federal policy process and was more direct through inter-agency collaboration. There does not appear to be a mechanism for direct tribal government engagement with the Council on “tribal specific” policy and the establishment of effective inter-governmental negotiation mechanisms. The new Council appears to be solely concerned with federal funds, but may not address the conveyance of funds through states to Indian governments. Finally, President Sharp pointed out that the new council does not appear to be concerned with urban and rural Indians and Alaskan Natives and Hawaiian natives now constituting more than half of the total native population in the United States.

The Executive Order goes on to say, “As we work together to forge a brighter future for all Americans, we cannot ignore a history of mistreatment and destructive policies that have hurt tribal communities. The United States seeks to continue restoring and healing relations with Native Americans and to strengthen its partnership with tribal governments. Our more recent history demonstrates that tribal self-determination — the ability of tribal governments to determine how to build and sustain their own communities — is necessary for successful and prospering communities. We further recognize that restoring tribal lands through appropriate means helps foster tribal self-determination.”

The Executive Order establishes a national policy to ensure that the Federal Government engages in a true and lasting government-to-government relationship with federally recognized tribes in a more coordinated and effective manner, including by better carrying out its trust responsibilities. This policy is established as a means of promoting and sustaining prosperous and resilient tribal communities. “Greater engagement and meaningful consultation with tribes is of paramount importance in developing any policies affecting tribal nations,” it reads.

Among other policy direction, the order asserts that it is the policy of the United States to promote the development of prosperous and resilient tribal communities by promoting sustainable economic development, greater access to health care, improvement of tribal justice systems, greater educational opportunities and improved protection of tribal lands, natural resources and culture.

The chair of the new council will be the Secretary of Interior and members will include the heads of numerous federal executive departments, agencies and offices. The order lays out funding sources, meeting frequency, processes for making recommendations to the President and various other objectives. Interior Secretary Sally Jewell has stated she will announce further details related to council as soon as tomorrow.

The formation of a White House Council on Native American Affairs recalls the Johnson and Nixon Administrations’ Council on Indian Opportunity (1968-1974) which was chaired by the Vice President of the United States, said Sharp. Like the Johnson and Nixon Council the new White House Council is intended to coordinate federal programs and the use of resources to be delivered to tribal communities. Unlike the earlier Council, the new 31 member Council does not have representatives of tribal governments. Unlike the earlier National Council, the White House Council does not have actual broader policy powers since the earlier body actually conducted meetings around the country, had the Vice President as the Chair and included officials from both the US government and tribal governments.

“It is true that the tribes have struggled tremendously through the decades in this country. But from generation to generation we have also proved our resiliency. We have endured much, and even today there are many who fail to understand us. We do appreciate President Obama’s intents and actions. But as we proceed in the improvement of the federal/tribal government-to-government relationship, it is important that tribal leadership be included in the planning and implementation process at every opportunity,” said Sharp.

“The bottom line is that it is no small thing that the president is doing here, just as it is no small thing that he has embraced Indian Country*. Again, I thank him for his wisdom, his heart and his foresight,” said Sharp.

*In May 2008, Barack Obama became the first American presidential candidate to visit the reservation of the Crow Nation. During his trip he was adopted by Hartford (now deceased) and Mary Black Eagle as a member of the nation. Hartford chose the name “Awe Kooda Bilaxpak Kuxshish,” or ”One Who Helps People Throughout This Land” to formally give to Obama, and the President has had the wisdom and sensitivity to embrace his adopted name and family with dignity and respect.
White House Council on Native American Affairs Executive Order in full: