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WASHINGTON — In addition to articles already covered by Native News Online, here is a roundup of other news released from Washington, D.C. that impacts Indian Country recently.

Sen. Warren Calls for Senate Action on Bill to Address Housing Crisis in Indian Country

During a Senate Committee on Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs hearing addressing the low-income housing on Wednesday, Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) asked Diane Yentel, president and CEO of the National Low Income Housing Coalition (NLIHC), if her organization has done any research on the state of housing in Indian Country.

Yentel responded:

"Families in tribal communities have some of the worst housing needs in the country. They are five times more likely to live in deep poverty and in poor housing conditions than the general population. They are five times more likely to live in homes that lack indoor plumbing. They're four times more likely to live in homes that lack a refrigerator, a sink or a stove. They're much more likely to have heating issues in their homes as well. And overcrowding and homelessness is also a significant challenge in tribal lands. About 16 percenty of tribal families, of families in tribal communities live in overcrowded housing, compared to about 2 percent in the general population."

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Sen. Warren said there is a need to build better housing in Indian Country to ensure that the federal government lives up to its trust and treaty responsibilities.

"One place we could start is by ensuring that Indian Country can access the full array of federal programs that support affordable development and preservation, particularly in rural areas. And that is why I am introducing a bill to guarantee that tribes receive at least 5% of the rural housing resources provided by the United States Department of Agriculture," Warren said. 

National Endowment for the Humanities Commits $4M to Partner with the Interior Dept. to Preserve Federal Indian Boarding School Oral History and Records

On Wednesday, the Department of the Interior and National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) announced a new inter-agency partnership to expand the Federal Indian Boarding School Initiative through the collection of oral histories and digitization of records documenting the experiences of survivors and descendants of federal Indian boarding school policies.

NEH has committed $4 million to support the digitization of records from the United States’ system of 408 federal Indian boarding schools and the creation of a permanent oral history collection, documenting the experiences of the generations of Indigenous students who passed through the federal boarding school system.

The Federal Indian Boarding School Initiative is an ongoing, comprehensive effort by the Interior Department to recognize the troubled legacy of federal Indian boarding school policies with the goal of addressing their intergenerational impact and shedding light on the traumas of the past.

“Federal Indian boarding school policies have touched every Indigenous person I know. Deeply ingrained in so many of us is the trauma that these policies and these places have inflicted. This is the first time in history that a U.S. Cabinet Secretary comes to the table with this shared trauma, and I’m determined to use my position to help communities heal,” Secretary Deb Haaland (Laguna Pueblo said).

“This is one step, among many, that we will take to strengthen and rebuild the bonds within Native communities that federal Indian boarding school policies set out to break.”

Legislation Introduced to Expand Tribal Lease Authority, Support Infrastructure, & Economic Development

U.S. Senator Brian Schatz (D-HI), chairman of the Senate Committee on Indian Affairs, and U.S. Senator Lisa Murkowski (R-AK), vice chairman of the Committee, on Thursday introduced the Unlocking Native Lands and Opportunities for Commerce and Key Economic Developments Act (UNLOCKED Act). The bill would authorize all federally recognized Tribes to issue leases of up to 99 years and affirm Tribal authority to issue rights-of-way to eliminate barriers to Tribal infrastructure and economic development projects.

“Congress provided the most funding ever for Tribal energy and infrastructure development through the Inflation Reduction Act and Bipartisan Infrastructure Law,” Schatz said. “But existing statutory barriers prevent Tribes from effectively using these historic resources. Our bill would remove those barriers and unlock the door to more Tribal economic development.”

“Our bill provides Tribes with the needed certainty to better plan and execute economic development projects. If enacted, Congress will no longer have to pass stand-alone legislation to allow for such long-term leasing as it has done 59 times since 1955 or wait for BIA to approve rights of way applications,” Murkowski said. “It is time we eliminate the red tape and allow for tribal self-determination so that we can fully implement the programs in the bipartisan infrastructure law without unnecessary delays.

President Biden Approves Disaster Declaration for the Hoopa Valley Tribe
President Joe Biden on Monday declared that a major disaster exists for the Hoopa Valley Tribe and ordered federal aid to supplement the Tribal Nation’s efforts in the areas affected by severe winter storms and mudslides from February 14 to March 5, 2023.
 
Federal funding is available to the Hoopa Valley Tribe and certain private nonprofit organizations on a cost-sharing basis for emergency work and the repair or replacement of facilities damaged by the severe winter storms and mudslides.
 
Federal funding is also available on a cost-sharing basis for hazard mitigation measures for the Hoopa Valley Tribe.
 
Mr. Benigno Bern Ruiz of the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) has been appointed to coordinate Federal recovery operations in the affected areas. 
 
Damage assessments are continuing in other areas, and additional forms of assistance may be designated after the assessments are fully completed.

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