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WASHINGTON — In addition to news already covered during the previous week, each Sunday Native News Online provides an overview of activity in Washington, D.C. that impacts Indian Country during the past week.

Senators Urge Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen to Establish an Office of Tribal Affairs

Tribal Business News reported a group of U.S. senators has written a letter to Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen urging her to quickly establish an Office of Tribal Affairs at the U.S. Department of the Treasury.

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“The recent tribal consultations and interactions between Treasury and tribal nations underscore the need for sufficient, dedicated, in-house expertise at Treasury on tribal policy matters,” five senators wrote in a Sept. 29 letter. “The establishment of such an office has support from Indian Country and would improve Treasury’s ability to fulfill its trust responsibilities to respect the nation-to-nation relationship between the federal government and tribal nations.” 

Read More in Tribal Business News

President Biden Signs Bill that Extends Native Children’s Commission

The Alyce Spotted Bear and Walter Soboleff Commission on Native Children Act (S. 325) has been officially signed into law by President Joe Biden, Introduced by U.S. Senator Lisa Murkowski (R-AK), Vice Chairman of the U.S. Senate Committee on Indian Affairs (SCIA) in February 2021, this law now amends the Alyce Spotted Bear and Walter Soboleff Commission on Native Children Act in order to extend the previously set deadline for the report this Act enacted. 

The report is a comprehensive study of federal, tribal, state and local programs that serve Native children. In order to get the highest quality report, the deadline was extended due to slow down of work associated with the completion of the report during the Covid-19 pandemic.

This report will be sent to Congress and the President’s Administration once completed.   

Federal Communications Commission Proposes Update to E-Rate Rules to Promote Participation of Tribal Libraries

The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) on Thursday proposed revisions to the definition of library in their E-Rate program rules. This change would clarify that Tribal libraries are eligible to participate in this program. 

This program was established in 1996 and provides discounts on broadband service to schools and libraries, and some Tribal libraries did not receive these services because of the outdated definition. The Commission is also seeking comments on their proposed change and on whether or not they should consider making any other changes.  

BIA Announces Indian Child Welfare Act Title II Grant Awards that Total Approximately $2 Million

The Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA) on Wednesday announced approximately $2 million was awarded for grants to various Indian organizations. These grants will help support off-reservation child and family service programs under Title II of the Indian Child Welfare Act. 

These programs help stabilize American Indian and Alaska Native families and Tribes and in turn ensure that the last resort is the permanent removal of an AI/AN child from their home. 

“The safety and well-being of our children is of the upmost importance, and I am very pleased to provide this funding to support organizations in this crucial work,” Darryl LaCounte, director of the Bureau of Indian Affairs said in a press release. “The BIA is committed to the protection of Indian children, the future of sovereignty and self-determination in Indian Country.”

The awardees of the ICWA off-reservation grants are:

  • Alaska Native Justice Center ($150,000) – To expand its current foster care program and case management services.
  • American Indian Child Resource Center ($160,023) – To expand its services through its Foster Family Agency by counseling, peer mentorship, community outreach and training.
  • American Indian Community Center ($141,015) – To expand its current foster care program and case management activities.
  • Denver Indian Family and Resource Center ($200,000) – To provide legal advocacy services to promote ICWA compliance for two of the largest counties in Colorado.
  • ICWA Law Center ($200,000) – To expand its Legal Advocacy and Family Preservation Center to families impacted by the Minnesota child welfare system.
  • Ileihno Bopachemihn, Inc. ($200,000) – To develop new foster care services in two counties in California.
  • Indian Child and Family Preservation Program I ($194,672) – To acquire new software to collect ICWA data for foster care recruitment and to conduct fingerprinting training.
  • Minneapolis American Indian Center ($200,000) – To expand its Tribal Liaison Project for out-of-state Tribes to create and maintain child welfare connections.
  • Rhode Island Council ($200,000) – To establish kinship program and provide families with legal advocacy services.
  • Rocky Mountain Tribal Leaders Council ($200,000) – To establish a web-based Indian Child Welfare Resource Center for Alternate Caregivers.
  • Wabanaki Public Health and Wellness ($143,520) – To employ a caseworker that will coordinate and serve as a liaison to bridge the gaps in ICWA services in Maine.
Sen. Murkowski Introduces Resolution to Designate Sept. 30 as a National Day of Remembrance for Native Children Who Attended Boarding Schools

Sen. Murkowski introduced Senate Concurrent Resolution, supporting the designation of September 30, as a National Day of Remembrance for the Native American children who died while attending a United States Indian boarding school, and to recognize, honor, and support the survivors of Indian boarding schools and their families.

In a movement that began in Canada in 2013 and has moved into the United States in Indian Country, September 30 has been observed as Orange Shirt Day that commemorates Indian residential and boarding school children.

Senators Brian Schatz (D-HI), Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), and Mike Rounds (R-SD) are also co-sponsors to the resolution. A companion House Concurrent Resolution was also introduced by Congressman Don Young (R-AK) along with Representatives Tom Cole (R-OK), Sharice Davids (D-KS), Tom O’Halleran (D-AZ), Dusty Johnson (R-SD), Ed Case (D-HI), Kaiali’i Kahele (D-HI), David Joyce (R-OH), and Markwayne Mullin (R-OK).

Natural Resources Committee is Holding Live Stream Event to Discuss Tribal and Hawaiian Legislation

The Subcommittee for Indigenous Peoples of the United States of the House Natural Resources Committee is conducting an oversight committee hearing that will be live streamed on Tuesday, October 5, 2021.

The Subcommittee, led by Chair Teresa Leger Fernández (D-N.M.), will hold a legislative hearing on the following bills:

  • H.J.Res.55 (Kahele), Prince Jonah Kūhiō Kalaniana‘ole Protecting Family Legacies Act.
  • H.R. 441 (Young), To provide for the conveyance of certain property to the Tanana Tribal Council located in Tanana, Alaska, and for other purposes.
  • H.R. 2402 (Fortenberry), To transfer administrative jurisdiction of certain Federal lands from the Army Corps of Engineers to the Bureau of Indian Affairs, to take such lands into trust for the Winnebago Tribe of Nebraska, and for other purposes. Winnebago Land Transfer Act of 2021.
  • H.R. 4881 (Grijalva), Old Pascua Community Land Acquisition Act.
  • H.R. 5221 (Grijalva), To amend the Indian Health Care Improvement Act to establish an urban Indian organization confer policy for the Department of Health and Human Services. Urban Indian Health Confer Act.

Witnesses

Panel I: Congressional Panel

  • Rep. Raúl M. Grijalva, Arizona, 3rd District
  • Rep. Don Young, Alaska, At-Large
  • Rep. Kaiali'i Kahele, Hawaii, 2nd District
  • Rep. Jeff Fortenberry, Nebraska, 1st District

Panel II: Administration Panel

  • Mr. P. Benjamin Smith (H.R. 441, H.R. 5221), Deputy Director for Intergovernmental Affairs, Indian Health Service, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services
  • Mr. Darryl LaCounte (H.J.Res.55, H.R. 2402, H.R. 4881), Director, Bureau of Indian Affairs, U.S. Department of the Interior

Panel III: Expert Witness Panel

  • The Honorable Peter Yucupicio (H.R. 4881), Chairman, Pascua Yaqui Tribe
  • The Honorable William J. Ailā, Jr. (H.J.Res.55), Chairman, Hawaiian Homes Commission, Department of Hawaiian Home Lands
  • The Honorable Lois Huntington (H.R. 441), First Chief, Tanana Tribal Council, Native Village of Tanana
  • The Honorable Victoria Kitcheyan (H.R. 2402), Chairwoman, Winnebago Tribe of Nebraska
  • Mr. Walter Murillo (H.R. 5221), President, National Council of Urban Indian Health

When: 12:00 p.m. Eastern time

Watch Livehttps://www.google.com/url?q=https://youtu.be/6s4oX3KOSy4&source=gmail&ust=1633370985262000&usg=AFQjCNES1DnDRZkuMG0yDTTE48omCRIsbw">https://youtu.be/6s4oX3KOSy4

Neely Bardwell (descendant of the Little Traverse Bay Bands of Odawa Indians), a Michigan State University student who is interning with Native News Online, contributed to these briefs.

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