WASHINGTON — August is typically a slow month in Washington, D.C. This year is different because the Senate is still in session working towards approving a comprehensive infrastructure bill that will bring a project $12 billion to Indian Country.
In other news that impacts Indian Country, a joint commission is being established as the next step to implement the “Not Invisible Act”; the Senate Committee on Indian Affairs voted to advance Native language bills to the Senate for consideration and other bills that impact Indian Country were introduced. Read more …
The Interior and Justice Department announced the next steps in the implementation of “Not Invisible Act”
On August 4, 2021, the Departments of the Interior and Justice announced their next steps in implementing the “Not Invisible Act” which was passed October 2020 and mandated the creation of a Joint Commission.
The commission would comprised of at least 28 individuals that include representatives from tribal, state and local law enforcement, tribal judges, health care and mental health workers with experience working with Native survivors of trafficking and sexual assault, and also urban Indian organizations focused on violence against women and children.
It also requires that Native survivors of human trafficking, or families of, be included on this commission.
Their next steps include the publication of a nomination form for non-federal members to be a part of this commission.
One goal of the commission will be to reduce violent crimes against Native people and will work to address the persistent missing and murdered Indigenous person crisis.
The Department of the Interior and the Department of Justice are working on nation-to-nation consultations with tribal leaders related to the Commission and implementation of this Act.
“The Interior and Justice Departments have a unique opportunity to marshal our resources to finally address the crisis of violence against Indigenous peoples,” Interior Sec. Deb Haaland says about the Act. She further emphasizes the need for Indigenous input on this commission.
“Doing this successfully means seeking active and ongoing engagement from experts both inside and outside of the government. Incorporating Indigenous knowledge, tribal consultation and the commission that reflects members who know first-hand the needs of their people will be critical as we address this epidemic in Native American and Alaska Native communities,” Sec. Haaland said.
Attorney General Merrick B. Garland affirms the commission's commitment to addressing and solving violence against Native people by saying: “The Justice Department is committed to working with the Interior Department to address the persistent violence endured by Native American families and communities across the country.”
More information is available at the Not Invisible Act website.
Senate Committee on Indian Affairs Advances Native Language Bills
The Senate Committee on Indian Affairs voted to advance two bills, S. 989, the Native American Language Resource Center Act of 2021, and S. 1402, the Durbin Feeling Native American Languages Act of 2021.
The bills makes the federal government more accountable by setting clear goals and asking for direct input from Native communities about how federal resources can be more effectively used to support and revitalize Native languages.
These bipartisan Native languages bills will improve federal support for culturally-based Native language instruction and ensure Native American language use continues to grow,” Chairman Bryan Schatz said.
“When the Committee held a hearing in May on these bills, we heard that there is an effort that we all want to continue—preserving and revitalizing Native languages as they are critical to sustaining Native culture and philosophy. In Alaska, of the more than 20 Alaska Native languages, only one can be considered stable, two of them are no longer spoken, and over half of them have fewer than 20 remaining speakers. I look forward to working with Chairman Schatz, and the rest of the Committee, to get both of these bills enacted into law,” Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-AK), the Committee’s vice chair said.
New Bills Introduced in the Senate and House to Conserve Nature and Wildlife.
Recently, Senators Martin Heinrich (D-NM) and Roy Blunt (R-MO) introduced a bipartisan bill (S.2372) named “Recovering America’s Wildlife Act”. A similar bill, H.R.2773, was also introduced in the House in April by Rep. Debbie Dingell (D-MI) and Rep. Fortenberry (R-NE).
These two bills would help fund locally-led efforts to help prevent extinctions and help other wildlife thrive throughout the nation. To do this, this bill would give $1.4 billion a year to locally-led wildlife restoration efforts around the nation. Out of that amount, this bill would also allow $28 million to Montana each year. Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks will use this money to help protect and recover 217 species that are currently a concern and are in danger of extinction. Some of these species include: Westslope Cutthroat Trout, Canada Lynx, and Greater Sage-Grouse. Various Tribal Nations will also receive funds for wildlife conservation efforts on the tens of millions of acres that are under Tribal management. Specifically, the Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes, the Blackfeet Nation, and the Crow Tribe would all be allocated $97.5 million to share.
Eric Clewis, the Western Montana Field Coordinator for the Montana Wildlife Federation said this about the bill: “Montana’s diverse wildlife populations have reached a critical threshold, we either act now or stand to lose some of our most iconic species. This bipartisan bill gives us a chance to take the bull by the horns and get ahead of the problems facing our wildlife in a collaborative manner”.
Collin O’Mara, president and CEO of the National Wildlife Federation, also commented on the bill saying: “The historic, bipartisan Recovering America’s Wildlife Act is by far the most important piece of wildlife legislation in the past half-century."
Senate Passes Amendments to an Infrastructure Package to Include the Padilla-Moran-Lankford Urban Indian Health Amendment.
On Monday, the U.S. Senate voted to pass amendments to the bipartisan infrastructure package that includes the Padilla-Moran-Lankford Urban Indian Health Amendment.
This amendment would allow already existing resources to be used to fund infrastructure projects within the Indian Health System. This amendment would bolster the funding Urban Indian Health Organizations get, so these organizations can properly serve Natives who live off their tribal reservations.
“Urban Indian Organizations are a lifeline to Native Americans living in urban areas across California, yet UIO’s are prohibited from using Indian Health Service funding for facilities, maintenance, equipment, and other necessary construction upgrades. During the pandemic, many UIOs couldn’t get approval for ventilation upgrades, heaters, generators, and weatherization equipment. Removing this unjust burden on UIOs is a commonsense fix and would allow them to improve the quality of the culturally competent care that they provide,” Sen. Alex Padilla (D-CA) said about the importance of this amendment.
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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