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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 last week.

Senate Committee on indian Affairs Pass Native-Led Tourism Bill

The Senate Committee on Indian Affairs on Wednesday passed  S. 385, a bill to amend the Native American Tourism and Improving Visitor Experience Act to authorize grants to Indian Tribes, Tribal organizations, and Native Hawaiian organizations, and for other purposes

 The bill was introduced by Sen. Brian Schatz (D-HI), chairman of the Committee and Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-AK), vice chair of the Committee.

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“Tourism can empower Native communities across the country to share their own stories, cultures, and traditions with visitors,” said Chairman Sen.  Schatz. “Our bill would strengthen existing federal resources in the NATIVE Act and ensure a whole-of-government approach to supporting Native-led tourism opportunities.”

“The Indian Affairs Committee reported three bipartisan bills to the full Senate that will help simplify the complexities of tribal homeownership, further tribal self-determination and increase economic development opportunities in Native communities. I am especially excited about the NATIVE Act Amendments. Tourism in Alaska is a growing sector of our economy. This legislation will provide the investments needed to further expand Native-run tourism and highlight the vibrancy and resiliency of Native cultures and traditions in Native communities,” said Vice Chair Murkowski. “I am hopeful we can move these bills quickly through the Senate and House this year and see them signed into law by the President.”

The Committee also passed S. 70, the Tribal Trust Land Homeownership Act of 2023, and S. 277, a bill to take certain land located in San Diego County, California, into trust for the benefit of the Pala Band of Mission Indians, and for other purposes.

The full video of the business meeting is available here.

Department of the Interior is Seeking Input from Tribes on DOI Operations

The Department of the Interior is seeking input from federally recognized tribes, Alaska Native Corporations, and The Native Hawaiian Community on developing a policy to respect, and equitably promote the inclusion of, Indigenous Knowledge in the DOI’s decision making, program implementation, and other activities. This policy will guide the Department’s Bureaus and Offices. 

When: February 23, 2:00 pm EST

To register, click here.

Native Farm Bill Coalition to Host 2023 Farm Bill Fly-Ins for Tribal Leaders

The Native Farm Bill Coalition is holding a series of fly-ins to Washington, D.C. for Tribal leaders and Native producers to meet directly with members of Congress, their staff, and the Biden Administration. 

The dates for 2023 Farm Bill fly-ins are as follows: 

February 28-March 2 – Great Plains and Rocky Mountain Region Tribes (confirmed)

March 7-9 – Western and Pacific Tribes (confirmed)

March 21-23 – Midwest Tribes (confirmed)

April 18-20 – Northwest Tribes (tentative)

April 25-27 – Eastern Tribes (tentative)

May 9-10 – Indian Country in conjunction with the Native American Food Fair (tentative) 

May 16-18 – Southwest Tribes and Navajo Region (tentative)

June 20-22 – Alaska Tribes (tentative)

FCC Seeking Comments From Eligible Tribal Applicants

The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) on Thursday adopted a proposal seeking comments on steps to encourage greater participation by eligible Tribal applicants in the E-Rate program, which provides high-speed internet to schools and libraries.  

Established in 1996, the E-Rate program has provided support for connectivity to and within schools and libraries, allowing students and library patrons to obtain access to essential communications and broadband services.

The Notice of Proposed Rulemaking seeks comment on how to make the E-Rate program easier for eligible Tribal applicants to encourage greater program participation, including:

  •       Simplifying E-Rate forms and cost-allocation requirements;
  •       Providing an additional competitive bidding exemption for low-cost services and equipment for Tribal applicants;
  •       Increasing the maximum discount rate for Category Two services from 85% to 90% for Tribal applicants;
  •       Allowing Tribal college libraries that serve a dual role by also serving as the Tribal community’s public library to be eligible for E-Rate support;
  •       Providing an extended or separate application filing window for Tribal libraries to align with their Tribal procurement requirements and approval processes;
  •       Increasing the Category Two $25,000 funding floor for Tribal applicants;
  •       Adding a Tribal representative to the Universal Service Administrative Company’s Board of Directors, which administers the program for the FCC; and
  •       Considering other potential reforms to encourage greater participation by Tribal or similarly situated small or rural applicants, particularly if they face barriers that impede equitable access to the E-Rate program.

 

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