Indian Affairs Begins Disbursement of $900 Million in American Rescue Plan Funding to Indian Country

Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary – Indian Affairs Bryan Newland announced Friday that the Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA) has begun disbursing $900 million to federally recognized tribes under the American Rescue Plan (ARP) Act. ARP was signed by President Biden on March 11, 2021, and the funds will aid tribes as they address the COVID-19 pandemic and its damaging impacts on Indian Country.

The BIA’s $900 million disbursement plan addresses all of the program activities stipulated by Congress in the ARP Act:

  • Potable Water Delivery - $20 million
  • Housing Improvement - $100 million
  • Tribal payments and direct service for Tribal Government, Social Services, Public Safety and Justice, Indian Child Welfare, and other related expenses - $772.5 million. These funds will be allocated as follows:
    • $700 million through the Aid to Tribal Government funding line, thereby allowing tribes to reprogram across Tribal Priority Allocation (TPA) lines as necessary. Funding will be allocated to tribes listed in the BIA’s Federal Register notice. Allocations will be based on tribal enrollment data, using a distribution approach that groups tribes by enrollment size.
    • $30 million for law enforcement and detentions funding.
    • $30 million for tribes in Public Law 83-280, also known as P.L. 280, states through the Social Services line. The majority of tribes in these states do not receive law enforcement support from the BIA. To address their unique needs, these funds can be used for tribal safety needs that fall outside of a formal law enforcement program. The tribe can determine whether to reprogram them as necessary to other areas like tribal courts. In addition, tribes can provide funding to BIA regional or agency offices for direct support services, if necessary.
    • $12.5 million will be held centrally to allocate for unexpected exigencies as necessary.
  • Administrative and Oversight Costs - $7.5 million: These funds will be managed centrally to support maintaining public health capabilities to have an informed Indian Affairs response to COVID-19, IT surge needs, adaptations for COVID safety requirements, Personal Protective Equipment (PPE), staff surge needs, and project management.

Senate Committee on Indian Affairs Hears Testimony on Covid-19 Impact on Native Education

The Senate Committee on Indian Affairs held an oversight hearing on Wednesday, “Examining the COVID-19 Response in Native Communities: Native Education Systems One Year Later.”

The committee heard from the Government Accountability Office’s (GAO’s) Education-Workforce-Income Security Director Melissa Emrey-Arras, Bureau of Indian Education (BIE) Director Tony Dearman, Schurz Elementary School Principal and Pyramid Lake Junior/Senior High School Board of Education Vice President Lance West, Ke Kula ʻO Nāwahīokalaniʻōpuʻu Principal Kauanoe Kamanā, and Belcourt School District Superintendent Michelle Thomas.

In his opening statement, Schatz highlighted the American Rescue Plan’s critical role in mitigating federal shortcomings that left Native students and schools exposed to severe COVID-19 impacts.

“For many Native leaders, educators, and school officials, critical federal resources have been difficult to access, or even nonexistent. That is unacceptable, especially during a pandemic,” said Chairman Schatz. “The United States must fulfill its trust responsibility to support Native-serving schools and provide comprehensive educational opportunities to American Indians, Alaska Natives, and Native Hawaiians. That’s why this Committee worked to ensure President Biden’s American Rescue Plan contained more than $2.5 billion dollars for Native students, including the first dedicated funding for Native Hawaiian and Alaska Native education organizations, to address their COVID-related needs.”

To view the full video of the hearing, click here.

Inaugural Cohort of Remembering Our Sisters Fellowship Named by the Center for Native American Youth


TheCenter for Native American Youth (CNAY) at the Aspen Institute announced the inaugural cohort of the Remembering Our Sisters Fellowship. The cohort is comprised of six incredible young Indigenous women and femme-identifying leaders from across Indian Country.

The Remembering Our Sisters Fellowship is a storytelling and digital arts program by the Center for Native American Youth that aims to empower young Indigenous women and femme-identifying leaders (ages 18-24) to raise awareness, to honor our sisters and families affected, and to push for better policies that will address the crisis.

Throughout the six-month fellowship, CNAY will work closely with the fellows to develop and enhance the necessary skills and knowledge needed to create a series of MMIWG2S+-focused digital art and storytelling projects.

Lawrence (Larry) Roberts (Oneida) Becomes Frist American Indian Chief of Staff

The U.S. Dept. of the Interior announced on Friday, Lawrence (Larry Roberts), a tribal citizen of the Oneida Nation, will become as its chief of staff.

Larry Roberts

Robert previously served as former President Obama’s acting assistant secretary for Indian Affairs and principal deputy secretary for Indian Affairs. Roberts has also worked for the Environmental Protection Agency and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.

The department announced Roberts’s new role along with several other new appointments, including Heidi Todacheene, a citizen of the Navajo Nation who previously served as Secretary Deb Haaland’s legislative council in Congress.

Bipartisan Bill to Support Native American Languages Introduced

U.S. Senator Brian Schatz (D-Hawai‘i), chairman of the Senate Committee on Indian Affairs, and U.S. Senator Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska), vice chairman of the Committee, introduced the Durbin Feeling Native American Languages Act of 2021.

This bipartisan legislation marks the 30th anniversary of the Native American Languages Act by ensuring federal efforts meet the goal of respecting and supporting the use of Native languages.

The bill, named after Durbin Feeling, a renowned Cherokee linguist and Vietnam veteran who passed away on August 19, 2020, would review and make recommendations to improve federal agencies’ coordination in support of Native American languages. It would also authorize a federal survey of Native language use and programmatic needs every five years. These surveys will serve as “health checks” to allow Native communities and Congress to target federal resources for Native American languages more effectively.

The bill is supported by the Joint National Committee for Languages – National Council for Languages and International Studies, National Congress of American Indians, National Indian Education Association, National Coalition of Native American Language Schools and Programs, and the Cherokee Nation.

Miami Tribal Citizen Nominated by President Biden to Serve on National Council on the Humanities

Daryl W. Baldwin (Kinwalaniihsia), a citizen of the Miami Tribe of Oklahoma, was nominated by President Joe Biden to be a member of the National Council on the Humanities for a term expiring January 26, 2026.

Baldwin serves as the executive director of the Myaamia Center at Miami University in Oxford, Ohio. He serves as co-director of the National Breath of Life Archival Institute for Indigenous Languages.

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