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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 during the past week.

Washington Congressional Delegation Calls for Federal Assistance for Tribal Small Businesses

On Wednesday, U.S. Senator Maria Cantwell (D-WA), Rep. Derek Kilmer (D-WA), and Rep. Suzan DelBene (D-WA) led a letter to the U.S. Small Business Administration to help ensure that small businesses and fisheries from federally recognized tribal communities can equitably benefit from resources.

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The COVID-19 pandemic brought to light many of the ways Native businesses were receiving benefits not equitable to other businesses.

In the letter, the lawmakers expressed their support for the SBA’s recent announcement of their new Tribal Consultation Policy. 

In the letter, they write: 

“Most recently, barriers to SBA products and assistance were highlighted when tribal small businesses in our home state could not access critical relief funds provided by the SBA during the coronavirus pandemic, including the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP), Economic Injury Disaster Loan (EIDL) program, and the EIDL Targeted Advances. The inability for these small Tribal businesses, including thousands of Lummi Nation and the Quinault Indian Nation Treaty fishers, to access SBA programs harmed Tribes and Tribal members during a time of economic need.

We ask that you work with us to address these unique challenges for Tribal small businesses so that they can access SBA products now and in the future.”

The full letter can be found HERE.   

Other lawmakers from the Washington state signed onto the letter including U.S. Senator Patty Murray and U.S. Representatives Rick Larsen, Marilyn Strickland, Pramila Jayapal, Kim Schrier, M.D., and Adam Smith.

HHS is Seeking Nominations for the Secretary's Tribal Advisory Committee - Deadline Wednesday, February 16

The Secretary’s Tribal Advisory Committee (STAC) advises the Secretary of HHS on policies and the administration of HHS programs on evolving tribal issues and barriers to access for Native Americans.

Established in 2010 by HHS in an effort to create a coordinated, Department-wide strategy to incorporate tribal guidance on HHS priorities, policies, and budget. The STAC’s tribal representation is comprised of seventeen positions: one delegate (and one alternate) from each of the twelve Indian Health Service (IHS) areas and one delegate (and one alternate) for the five National At-Large Members positions. 

STAC Nomination Requirements

All nominees must either be elected or appointed Tribal officials acting in their official capacity as elected officials of their tribes, or be designated by an elected tribal official with the designee having authority to act on behalf of the Tribal official. Nominations must be made by an elected or appointed official from a federally recognized Tribe acting in his or her official capacity.

Those interested applying must do so by Wednesday, Feb. 16.

Please submit nominations to [email protected]. More information about the STAC can be found here or in the January 11 Dear Tribal Leader Letter.

Interior Dept. Concludes Klamath Basin Stakeholder Engagement Sessions

This past week, the U.S. Dept. of the interior concluded a series of engagement sessions this week focused on addressing the drought crisis in the Klamath Basin. The President’s Bipartisan Infrastructure Law invests $162 million to restoring the Klamath Basin ecosystem and identifies significant additional opportunities to support water resilience and infrastructure.

Over the past 20 years, the Klamath Basin has met unprecedented challenges due to ongoing drought conditions, limited water supply and diverse needs. The Bureau of Reclamation and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service have diligently sought collaborative solutions for water availability with partners and those intimately connected to land and water conditions. Through this recent series of engagement sessions, the Department demonstrated its commitment to transparency and ongoing review of best practices as we continue to address climate change and work towards long term solutions in the Klamath Basin for current and future generations. 

“The transformative investments in the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, collaboration with states, Tribes, and local governments, and the input from every impacted community will help us innovate in the face of adversity and restore balance to this river system,” said Secretary Deb Haaland said.

Interior’s U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (the Service), Bureau of Reclamation and Bureau of Indian Affairs have critical roles to play in the management of resources in the Klamath region and the implementation of the transformational investments from the Infrastructure Law.  

Between Jan. 24 and Feb. 4, the Service held virtual nation-to-nation consultations with six Tribes within the basin: the Yurok Tribe, Resighini Rancheria, Klamath Tribes, Karuk Tribe, Quartz Valley Tribe and Hoopa Valley Tribe. The consultations are part of Interior’s broader coordination with Tribes on restoration activities established by the Infrastructure Law. 

On Feb. 1 and Feb. 10, the Department hosted interactive meetings with federal and state officials, Tribes and local stakeholders of the Klamath Basin. The sessions included focused discussions on critical path issues for the basin, including dam removal, Klamath Power and Facilities Agreement implementation, hydrology issues, and project and National Wildlife Refuge water supply. The discussions also focused on an overview and alignment regarding funding of aquatic habitat and water quality priorities, and water supply reliability in the Klamath Basin.  

The Infrastructure Law investments will work to reinforce the efforts of the Interagency Drought Relief Working Group co-chaired by the Departments of the Interior and Agriculture. The Working Group is actively working to identify and disburse immediate financial and technical assistance for impacted irrigators and Tribes. It is also developing longer-term measures to respond to climate change and build climate resiliency. 

Senate Committee on Indian Affairs Leaders Introduce VAWA Reauthorization Legislation

U.S. Sen. Brian Schatz (D-Hawai‘i), chairman of the Senate Committee on Indian Affairs, and U.S. Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska), vice chairman of the Committee, released the following statements on introduction of their bipartisan Violence Against Women Reauthorization Act of 2022 (VAWA) in the Senate.
The legislation includes strong tribal provisions to keep Native women, children, and families safe.

“Nearly a decade ago, the Violence Against Women Reauthorization Act of 2013 restored tribal jurisdiction over domestic violence crimes, recognizing tribes’ right to exercise their authority and giving them resources to go after criminals,” said Chairman Schatz. 

“This bipartisan legislation will build on VAWA 2013 by closing gaps in the law to protect Native people. It also includes an Alaska pilot program which provides a targeted solution to empower tribal courts in a way that recognizes the unique and complex jurisdictional landscape in my state. I am proud to have partnered with Chairman Schatz to respond to tribal leaders in developing the tribal title included in the VAWA. This legislation will have a transformational impact in Native communities across the country,” said Vice Chairman Murkowski.

The Violence Against Women Reauthorization Act of 2022 reflects years of input on public safety from stakeholders in tribal, Alaska Native, and Native Hawaiian communities and will increase access to federal resources and data for Native communities. The bipartisan bill contains a Tribal title based on a Committee discussion draft Schatz and Murkowski released in December, which:

  • Maintains tribal jurisdiction over crimes of dating violence, domestic violence, and violations of tribal civil protection orders first put in place by the 2013 VAWA reauthorization; 
  • Restores tribal jurisdiction over crimes of child violence, sexual violence, sex trafficking, stalking, obstruction of justice, and assault of tribal justice personnel committed by non-Indians offenders;
  • Ensures all tribes, including those in Alaska and Maine, can exercise these same important jurisdictional tools to keep their communities safe; and
  • Provides tribes with improved access to critical VAWA implementation resources by—
    • increasing the authorization level of the VAWA Special Tribal Criminal Jurisdiction implementation grant program,
    • expanding the VAWA Special Tribal Criminal Jurisdiction implementation grant program to cover Tribes’ reimbursements costs,
    • reestablishing the Bureau of Prisons Tribal Prisoner Program, and
    • codifying the Department of Justice’s Tribal Access Program to provide Tribes with access to national criminal information databases.

A section-by-section of the VAWA Tribal title is available here.

Rep.Tom Cole Reintroduces the Bipartisan Social Security Commission Act

Congressman Tom Cole (R-OK), a citizen of the Chickasaw Nation and one of the four Native Americans in Congress, reintroduced the bipartisan bill that will address long-term solvency of Social Security. For five consecutive Congresses, Cole has been a lead sponsor of this bill. 

The Social Security and Medicare Boards of Trustees 2021 Annual Report estimates that Social Security’s combines trust funds will be exhausted in 2034. Cole’s legislation would create a bicameral and bipartisan commission to ensure that Social Security is fully funded for decades to come. This will help ensure that no Americans will be cheated out of Social Security once it is time to receive it.

As stated in Tom Cole’s press release, the legislation would provide the following:

  • A 13-member commission, the Commission on Long Term Social Security Solvency, with 12 members appointed by leadership from both parties in the House and Senate (three appointees from each party’s leader in each chamber). Two of the congressional appointees must be non-elected experts. 
  • The commission is chaired by the 13th appointee, named by the president. The president’s appointee means that the president’s party would appoint seven members, the other party appointing six.
  • Within one year of its first meeting, the commission must report to Congress on the 75-year health of Social Security and provide recommendations for how to improve the program.
  • The commission’s report must have a minimum of nine votes, guaranteeing bipartisan consensus.
  • The legislation based on the commission’s plan would then receive expedited consideration in Congress for an up or down vote.

The official bill text can be found ​​here.  

Intertribal Agriculture Council Executive Director Named to USDA Subcommittee

Kari Jo Lawrence (Mandan, Hidatsa, Arikara Nation), executive director of the Intertribal Agriculture Council, was appointed to U.S. Deaprtment of Agriculture (USDA) Equity Commission subcommittee. Kari Jo expressed her excitement and gratitude in a statement: 

 “I am excited and honored to serve on the USDA Equity Commission, Agriculture Subcommittee. I look forward to continuing my conversations with all producers who work in the field across the country and communicating the solutions so we can strengthen our entire food system.  I see this role as an opportunity to uplift the voices of producers across the country, and to bring their issues and solutions to this Subcommittee."

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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