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

Chairman Melvin R. Sheldon: NMAI’s Meet Native America Series

Melvin R. Sheldon, Chairman, Board of Directors of the Tulalip Tribes, during the first White House Tribal Nations Conference, November 2009. Washington, D.C.
Melvin R. Sheldon, Chairman, Board of Directors of the Tulalip Tribes, during the first White House Tribal Nations Conference, November 2009. Washington, D.C.
Dennis Zotigh, ICTMN, 2/22/14


In the interview series Meet Native America, the Smithsonian National Museum of the American Indian invites tribal leaders, cultural figures, and other interesting and accomplished Native individuals to introduce themselves and say a little about their lives and work. Together, their responses illustrate the diversity of the indigenous communities of the Western Hemisphere, as well as their shared concerns, and offer insights beyond what’s in the news to the ideas and experiences of Native peoples today.

Please introduce yourself with your name and title.

Melvin R. Sheldon, Chairman of the Board of Directors of the Tulalip Tribes.

Where is your nation located?

Tulalip, Washington, is about 35 minutes north of Seattle, next to Interstate 5. The closest city outside the reservation is Marysville, Washington.

Where are your people originally from?

We are the successor of interest to Snohomish, Snoqualmie, Skykomish, and other allied tribes and bands signatory to the 1855 Treaty of Point Elliott. We lived from the mountains down to the salt waters of the Coast Salish Sea.

What is a significant point in history from the Tulalip Tribes that you would like to share?

Recently Northwest tribes remembered the Judge Boldt decision of 1974. This decision recognizing treaty fishing rights redefined and reconnected a way of life for Tulalip people. Our tribal men and women are proud to be salmon fishing people.

RELATED: 40 Years Later: Boldt Decision Celebrations With Some Caution

How is your national government set up?

We have a constitution and bylaws adopted in 1936. Our governing body is composed of a seven-member Board of Directors. The board is a legislative body that creates laws that govern our reservation.

Is there a functional, traditional entity of leadership in addition to your modern government system?

As in many tribes, our elders have a strong voice in tribal affairs. Their history and traditional values keep us grounded as we move forward and face the challenges of a growing tribe with outside competing values.

How are elected leaders chosen?

Each year board members are elected by popular vote. We have three-year terms on a staggered schedule. Each year at General Council, executive offices are chosen by those present; the chairman, vice chair, secretary, and treasurer are elected on that day for the next year.

How often does the Board of Directors meet?

The Tulalip board meets once a month to conduct official business as mandated by our constitution. We have committee meetings throughout the week as we oversee our business and service needs.

What responsibilities do you have as a leader?

As chairman I preside over monthly meetings and the General Council. Further duties include representing our tribe at meetings of all levels and being principal spokesperson.

How did your life experience prepare you to lead your tribe?

Learning to listen became a major foundation as I entered leadership. People don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care!

Who inspired you as a mentor?

Tulalip has been gifted with great leadership through the years. There are many of our past leaders who left behind a legacy, and they have become mentor examples. I thank them and raise my hands to our past leaders.

Approximately how many members are in the Tulalip Tribes?

Today we have just over 4,300 tribal members.

What are the criteria to become a member of Tulalip?

We have a residency requirement for membership.

Is your language still spoken on your homelands? If so, what percentage of your people would you estimate are fluent speakers?

Our language, Lushootseed, was almost lost, but through several key elders and tribal support we were able to revive our language. Today we teach our young ones Lushootseed.

What economic enterprises do the Tulalip Tribes own?

Tulalip Tribes were only the second Indian nation to establish a federally recognized city, Quil Ceda Village. Our business park and municipality form a bustling, growing commercial center. At the center is the Tulalip Resort Casino (TRC), with a hotel and conference center. Further tribal businesses include two gas stations, two liquor/cigarette stores, and Tulalip Data Service/Cablevision operation. Tulalip—which includes the tribal government, Quil Ceda Village, and the TRC—directly employs 4,500 team members.

To read the full interview, visit the NMAI series here.


Read more at http://indiancountrytodaymedianetwork.com/2014/02/22/chairman-melvin-r-sheldon-nmais-meet-native-america-series-153673?page=0%2C1


Federal Advisory Committee Examines Juvenile Courts and Justice System Programs for American Indian Children Exposed to Violence

Press Release, Washington, DC–(ENEWSPF)–February 11, 2014.

More than 30 tribal leaders, juvenile court judges, child advocates, juvenile justice system experts and community members from the Salt River Pima-Maricopa Indian Community testified today in the second public hearing of the Advisory Committee of the Attorney General’s Task Force on American Indian and Alaska Native Children Exposed to Violence.  The hearing focused on how juvenile courts and other programs within tribal juvenile justice systems address the impact of children’s exposure to violence.

“Too many native children encounter violence in their homes and communities that can disrupt a path to living healthy adult lives, and we must do all that we can to protect these young people,” said Associate Attorney General Tony West.  “By intervening early, we can help these children avoid a fate involving courts and the corrections system.”

During the hearing, experts explained how children entering tribal, state or federal justice systems are screened and treated for trauma from previous exposure to violence.   They also discussed a variety of issues facing Native children in juvenile justice systems, including the availability of legal representation, tribal court transfer of juvenile cases to adult courts, culturally sensitive programs and services that divert youth from entering the juvenile justice system.

“The long-term impact of a child’s exposure to violence depends heavily on how law enforcement officials, prosecutors, defenders, judges, and corrections professionals handle that child’s case,” said Assistant Attorney General of the Office of Justice Programs Karol V. Mason.  “Through the work of the task force, we hope to find ways to make the justice system a force for positive change in a young person’s life.”

The Attorney General’s Task Force on American Indian and Alaska Native Children exposed to violence is comprised of a federal working group that includes U.S. Attorneys and officials from the Departments of the Interior and Justice and an advisory committee of experts on American Indian studies, child health and trauma, victim services and child welfare and law.

The 13-member advisory committee is co-chaired by former U.S. Sen. Byron Dorgan and Iroquois composer and singer Joanne Shenandoah.  The advisory committee will draw upon research and information gathered through public hearings to draft a final report of policy recommendations that it will present to Attorney General Eric Holder by late 2014.

Attorney General  Holder created the task force in April 2013 as part of his Defending Childhood initiative to prevent and reduce children’s exposure to violence as victims and witnesses.  The task force is also a component of the Justice Department’s ongoing collaboration with leaders in American Indian and Alaska Native communities to improve public safety.

The advisory committee held its first public hearing Dec. 9, 2013, in Bismarck, N.D. and will hold additional public hearings, in Fort Lauderdale, Fla. and Anchorage, Alaska.

For more information about the advisory committee and public hearings, please visit www.justice.gov/defendingchildhood.

The Office of Justice Programs (OJP), headed by Assistant Attorney General Karol V. Mason, provides federal leadership in developing the nation’s capacity to prevent and control crime, administer justice and assist victims. OJP has six components: the Bureau of Justice Assistance; the Bureau of Justice Statistics; the National Institute of Justice; the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention; the Office for Victims of Crime and the Office of Sex Offender Sentencing, Monitoring, Apprehending, Registering and Tracking. More information about OJP can be found at www.ojp.gov.

Inherent Sovereignty Declaration Sets Tone for Fed. Rec. Conference

Gale Courey ToensingLeaders and representatives of 29 indigenous nations that are not acknowledged by the federal government participated in a pipe ceremony and signing of a Declaration on the Exercise of Inherent Sovereignty and Cooperation on the first day of a conference called Who Decides You're Real? Fixing the Federal Recognition Process at Arizona State University.

Gale Courey Toensing
Leaders and representatives of 29 indigenous nations that are not acknowledged by the federal government participated in a pipe ceremony and signing of a Declaration on the Exercise of Inherent Sovereignty and Cooperation on the first day of a conference called Who Decides You’re Real? Fixing the Federal Recognition Process at Arizona State University.
Gale Courey Toensing, ICTMN, 1/27/14

A unique direct action took place on the first morning of a recent conference on federal recognition: The panel discussions stopped for almost two hours while everyone participated in a ceremony for the signing and witnessing of a declaration asserting the inherent sovereignty of indigenous nations.

The conference, called “Who Decides You’re Real? Fixing the Federal Recognition Process,” was held January 16-17 at Arizona State University’s Sandra Day O’Connor College of Law. Close to 200 tribal leaders and representatives of both federally recognized and “unrecognized” indigenous nations, attorneys and consultants specializing in the Federal Acknowledgement Process (FAP), and federal officials attended. The discussion focused on the challenges faced by unrecognized tribes under what everyone agrees is a “broken” federal recognition process and ways to fix it.

RELATED: Federal Recognition Process: A Culture of Neglect

The conference took place in the midst of a reform effort by Assistant Secretary – Indian Affairs Kevin Washburn and other Bureau of Indian Affairs officials that has been called “the most dramatic, bold proposal made in the federal acknowledgment area in probably the last 20 years.”

Related: Washburn’s Bold Plan to Fix Interior’s Federal Recognition Process

“This conference is timely to talk about what those proposed changes are and also to help those people who are struggling through the system,” said Frank Ettawageshik, former chairman of the Little Traverse Band of Odawa Indians and co-chair of the conference with Rev. John Norwood, tribal councilman and Principal Justice of the Tribal Supreme Court of the Nanticoke Lenni-Lenape Tribal Nation.

Ettawageshik and Norwood conducted the pipe ceremony that accompanied the signing of five original copies of the Declaration on the Exercise of Inherent Sovereignty and Cooperation by 29 tribal leaders. The leaders brought with them resolutions from their councils authorizing the signing. Everyone else present then signed five copies of witness sheets.

The key idea, Ettawageshik said, is that federal recognition is about two sovereigns negotiating diplomatic relations. “The relationship between the federal government and an indigenous nation isn’t a one-way street. We need to recognize each other,’ he said. “But I’ve often pointed out that if we as tribes in the U.S. define ourselves as having to have federal recognition in order to be a member of this group then what we’ve done is abdicated our role as a sovereign, we’ve abdicated the role of deciding with whom we will have diplomatic relations. In other words, are we indigenous nations going to recognize each other? We need to be thinking that through. And one of the ways we do that is by signing accords or agreements or treaties with each other, which is acknowledging each other.”

That was the concept behind the Declaration on the Exercise of Inherent Sovereignty and Cooperation, which was Ettawageshik’s brainchild during conference planning sessions with Norwood and co-chairs Patty Ferguson-Bohnee, a citizen of the Pointe-au-Chien Indian Tribe and director of the Indian Legal Program at the College of Law and attorney Judy Shapiro.

“Conferences generally present a series of panels or talking heads one after the other talking about ideas. That’s an important exchange but there’s something to be said for talking about something and then doing it. That helps cement the ideas and gets you moving in their direction.”

The Declaration is written in the style of the Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples and other international documents with a series of statements “honoring,” “building,” “expressing,” “desiring,” and so on, to the final statement, which says, “[W]e pledge, affirm and proclaim: To work with each other to exercise our inherent sovereignty as governments, to protect individual and common human rights, and to seek social justice. The dust and spirits of our ancestors that make up our cultural and national roots are deep in the waters and soil of this land, nurtured by the gifts of Mother Earth. As we stand on this land, we drink together from the waters of knowledge, we breathe the air of freedom and wisdom, and we bask in the light of cooperation and compassion. We assert these for our children’s children and beyond. We carry many lessons from our ancestors, and we share in the collective wisdom and experiences that they have entrusted to us to provide for our coming generations.”

Special engraved pens were given to everyone to sign the Declaration and embossed copies of the document were distributed. The five original copies will be preserved in different parts of the country.

“We wanted to make a memorable event that people could participate in and remember,” Ettawageshik said. From all accounts, the organizers succeeded.


Read more at http://indiancountrytodaymedianetwork.com/2014/01/27/inherent-sovereignty-declaration-sets-tone-fed-rec-conference-153232

Video: Rain Delay No Way as Thousands Attend VA Governor Inauguration

Vincent SchillingGovernor Terence R. McAuliffe sworn in as Virginia's 72nd Governor
Vincent Schilling
Governor Terence R. McAuliffe sworn in as Virginia’s 72nd Governor

Despite hours of pouring rain and windy conditions in Richmond, Virginia this Saturday, tribal leaders representing Virginia Indian tribes, Bill and Hillary Clinton and thousands more attended the inauguration ceremonies of Virginia’s 72nd Governor Terence R. McAuliffe. The inaugural festivities complete with the formal event, Governor’s Mansion Open House and Parade reportedly cost copy.6 million.

In the midst of bleachers filled with umbrellas and blue plastic ponchos handed out by volunteer’s, McAuliffe was sworn in standing alongside his family. McAuliffe, dressed in a formal grey suit complete with a white rose boutineer, called the moment, “The highest honor of my life.”

McAuliffe is the first Democrat elected as the Virginia Governor since 1989. Considering McAuliffe’s Lieutenant Governor Ralph S. Northam and Attorney General Mark R. Herring also were sworn in, Saturday’s inauguration marks the first Democratic sweep of Virginia’s statewide offices in more than two decades.

After being sworn in, McAuliffe addressed the crowd as expected by protocol and soon touched on health care and diversifying the economy.

“Like the majority of other states, we need to act on the consensus of the business community and health care industry to accept funding that will expand health care coverage, save rural hospitals, and spur job creation,” he said.

“As the legislature and my administration work to diversify our economy, we need to remember that our sense of urgency is driven by those Virginians who struggle each and every day to get by – and whose dream is simply to give their children the opportunities that they may never have had.”

He also expressed his desire that such opportunities should be open to anyone, without discrimination.

“My administration will work tirelessly to ensure that those opportunities are equal for all of Virginia’s children. No matter if you’re a girl or a boy, no matter what part of the Commonwealth you live in, no matter your race or religion and no matter whom you love.

“We must work to ensure that the children of new immigrants to Virginia have equal educational opportunities, to ensure that someone can’t lose a job simply because they are gay and to ensure that every woman has the right to make her own personal health care decisions,” McAuliffe said.


Drum Group Performs During Gov. Terrance McAuliffe Inauguration Ceremony. (Vincent Schilling)
Drum Group Performs During Gov. Terrance McAuliffe Inauguration Ceremony. (Vincent Schilling)

Immediately following McAuliffe’s remarks, representative tribal members from the state’s 11 Indian tribes sang and danced to a blessing song to bless the Capitol grounds, to give best wishes for a successful administration and a wish for stronger ties to the Indian tribes of the Commonwealth of Virginia. The song was led by 11 year old Chickahominy tribal member Keenan Stewart.

“We are honored to be a part of history; this goes down in the history books. This is the first time the Nottoway Indian Tribe of Virginia has been invited to be here at the Inaugural events,” said Lynette Allston, tribal chief of the Nottoway, a tribe that had received state recognition in 2010.

Chief John Lightner said it was also the first time the Patawomeck were invited to the inaugural events as a state recognized tribe and he was also happy to be there.

After the inauguration, McAuliffe shook hands with the crowd and joined staff and attendees in watching the inaugural parade.


Read more at http://indiancountrytodaymedianetwork.com/2014/01/13/video-rain-delay-no-way-thousands-attend-va-governor-inauguration-153082

Government Shutdown Frustrates Tribal Leaders

Rob Capriccioso, ICTMN

The federal government has a trust responsibility to tribes and their citizens. It is a unique relationship, which means there will be unique – and painful – consequences as a result of the government’s current shutdown, tribal leaders say.

The shutdown, which began at 12:01 a.m. on October 1, occurred because U.S. House Republicans passed several short-term continuing resolution budgets that included provisions to delay and/or defund portions of the Affordable Care Act, widely known as Obamacare. Both the Democratic Senate and White House would not agree to those provisions, which set the stage for the first federal shutdown in 17 years.

Tribal leaders, widely tired of political games surrounding the federal budget – as well as the profound impacts of ongoing sequestration – are frustrated, to say the least.

“What is just partisan game playing in Washington, D.C. is a battle for survival in Indian country where many of us barely subsist,” said Edward Thomas, president of the Central Council of Tlingit and Haida Indian Tribes. “Many of our 28,000 tribal citizens live at the very edge of survival and depend upon our tribe’s ability, with federal funding, to provide critical human services.

“Any interruption in federal funding, especially for a self-governance tribe like ours without gaming or other substantial economic development, means we must borrow money – from an expensive line of credit we cannot afford – to meet our payroll obligations to child welfare workers, to job trainers, to housing workers, and to natural resource subsistence protection,” Thomas said.

Ron Allen, chairman of the Jamestown S’Klallam Tribe, said he was disappointed in Republican House tea party members for insisting on defunding Obamacare as part of the budget process. “’My way or the highway’ is not a way to run the federal government,” Allen said. “Tribal leaders have many frustrations with the federal government, but we try to find ways to make it work. That’s what Congress needs to be doing.”

Allen predicted that the shutdown would be “devastating” for over half of the tribes he estimates do not have gaming or other enterprises to fall back on for funding during a federal shutdown. “So many of us – the majority – of tribes are dependent on federal resources,” he said. “It’s going to be tough for the tribes.”

Dozens of tribal leaders have voiced similar concerns to officials with the Departments of the Interior, Health and Human Services, and other federal agencies that serve large amounts of American Indians, according to federal officials. The White House, heeding that concern, held a teleconference with some tribal leaders on September 30 during which administration officials blamed the House Republicans for the shutdown. Kevin Washburn, Assistant Secretary for Indian Affairs at Interior, also sent a letter to tribal leaders explaining the department’s contingency plan.

The House’s attempt to tie a suspension of Obamacare to a budget bill is unpopular with tribal leaders, as many tend to support the law, since it includes provisions to support the Indian Health Care Improvement Act. If Republicans had their way, a new way to support that Indian health-focused part of the law would be necessary unless lawmakers agreed they no longer wanted to focus on improving Indian health via that law. Republicans will not have their way, however, as Obamacare is the crown jewel of Barack Obama’s presidency to date, and Democrats have been trying to pass universal healthcare since Franklin D. Roosevelt in the 1930s.

The real impact on tribes will depend on how long the government is shuttered. It will stay closed until the House Republicans and Senate Democrats can agree on a plan to fund it.

Congress and the president will still be paid during the shutdown.

Public opinion to date is largely against the House Republican position, yet many tea party GOPers, over objections of more moderate Republicans, continue to favor a budget bill that ties Obamacare to it. They have made the case that Obamacare, which goes in effect October 1, is too costly, so they believe it is worth delaying. But Obamacare is intended to reduce health-care costs for individuals and the country, Democrats have countered. And even with the shutdown, Obamacare will still be implemented.

Ironically, the most recent continuing resolution that has passed both the House and Senate thus far – excluding the Obamacare portions – is good for Indian country in that it does not include provisions pushed by the White House Office of Management and Budget that would limit the federal government’s payment of contract support costs to tribes. “That’s encouraging,” Allen said, noting that the White House proposal to cap tribal contract support costs was originally included in the Senate continuing resolution, but faced with widespread tribal opposition, it was withdrawn by Senate leadership. “We have some key people who are supportive of keeping it out.”

RELATED: White House Trying to Cheat Tribes on Health Costs

Tribal advocates are widely hopeful that once a long-term budget is agreed on – however long that takes – funding for tribal contract support costs will be included without a cap, despite lingering White House opposition to paying its tribal bills.

Despite progress on the contract support cost front, the continuing resolution supported by the House, Senate and White House maintains funding for Indian country at a sequestered level, which means programs that support tribes continue to face dramatic cuts. A joint decision by Congress and the White House, first made in 2011 and carried out on March 1 of this year, allowed an across-the-board 9 percent cut to all non-exempt domestic federal programs (and a 13 percent cut for Defense accounts). This sequester has dramatically harmed Indian-focused funding, and tribal leaders across the nation have claimed it is a major violation of the trust responsibility relationship the federal government is supposed to have with American Indians, as called for in historic treaties, the U.S. Constitution and contemporary American policy.

“The tribes would rather their budgets be exempt from this stuff,” Allen said. “But the political ability for that to happen is next to nil. The new options that people are considering is pushing for two years or longer forward funding for Indian health programs and essential government services, like some programs for veterans.”

Tribal leaders have been pushing hard to get sequestration on Indian programs removed, Allen noted, but the White House has said that it is not going to protect any programs. When asked by tribal leaders if tribes could be exempted from sequestration given the Obama administration’s stated belief in federal-tribal trust responsibility, Charlie Galbraith, the Associate Director for Intergovernmental Affairs at the White House, said at a February gathering of the United South and Eastern Tribes, “That’s just not going to happen. We have the entire military machine, every lobbyist, every contractor, trying to exempt the military provision—the president is not going to cut this off piecemeal. We need a comprehensive solution that is going to address the real problem here.”

RELATED: A Miscalculation on the Sequester Has Already Harmed Indian Health

Beyond Obamacare, contract support costs and sequestration, the immediate impact of the shutdown will be on the federal workforce, and that impact will soon trickle to Indian country. Overall, approximately 800,000 non-essential government employees are expected to be furloughed.

At the U.S. Department of the Interior, 2,860 of 8,143 employees focused on Indian affairs will be laid off during this shutdown. At the Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA) alone, the following programs will cease, according to the DOI.gov/shutdown website: management and protection of trust assets such as lease compliance and real estate transactions; federal oversight on environmental assessments, archeological clearances, and endangered species compliance; management of oil and gas leasing and compliance; timber harvest and other natural resource management operations; tribal government related activities; payment of financial assistance to needy individuals, and to vendors providing foster care and residential care for children and adults; and disbursement of tribal funds for tribal operations including responding to tribal government request.

The situation is less dire at Interior for Indian affairs cutbacks than it had been during previous shutdowns in the 1990s, Interior officials said, because they have since implemented a forward-funding plan in the areas of education and transportation, which will keep the employees in those areas working. There is also a comparatively larger law enforcement staff that will remain on duty through the shutdown, and power and irrigation employees will be able to continue working to deliver power and water to tribal communities because their salaries are generated from collections, not appropriated funds.

Employees at the Indian Health Service (IHS), which provides direct health service to tribal citizens, will be largely unaffected by the shutdown. Under Department of Health and Service’s shutdown plan, IHS will continue to provide direct clinical health care services as well as referrals for contracted services that cannot be provided through IHS clinics. On the negative side, “IHS would be unable to provide funding to Tribes and Urban Indian health programs, and would not perform national policy development and issuance, oversight, and other functions, except those necessary to meet the immediate needs of the patients, medical staff, and medical facilities,” according to a plan released by the agency.

Chris Stearns, a Navajo lawyer with Hobbs Straus, said the current shutdown is another hit to the relationship between the federal government and tribes. “The trust responsibility, and the right to federal services, which Indian country has already paid for with its lands, will be diminished,” he said of the current situation. He should know, having worked on Capitol Hill during the government shutdowns of the mid-1990s, which saw thousands of BIA employees laid off, and lease payments to tribes and individuals delayed.

Now, like a bad dream, it’s happening all over again.

“Perhaps it might be fair, if during a shutdown, Indian tribes got to take back our lands in lieu of payments,” Stearns said.


Read more at http://indiancountrytodaymedianetwork.com/2013/10/01/government-shutdown-frustrates-tribal-leaders-151517