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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.

Indian Affairs Approves Three Tribal Nations’ HEARTH Act Regulations

The U.S. Dept. of the Interior’s Indian Affairs on Friday announced that land leasing regulations submitted by three federally recognized Tribal Nations have been approved under the Helping Expedite and Advance Responsible Tribal Home Ownership (HEARTH) Act of 2012.

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The regulations were submitted by the Kootenai Tribe of Idaho and by the Santa Rosa Band of Cahuilla Indians and Table Mountain Rancheria in California.

The action restores the Tribes’ authority to govern and manage the leasing of their Indian trust and restricted fee lands for certain purposes authorized under the Act without having such leases undergo additional review by the Secretary of the Department of the Interior.

“More than 70 Tribal nations are benefitting from having their authority over the leasing of their lands restored to them under the HEARTH Act,” said Assistant Secretary-Indian Affairs Bryan Newland. “Under the HEARTH Act, Tribes are using their own leasing processes, thereby reducing the amount of time it takes to initiate development where it’s most needed. In this way, the HEARTH Act continues to make a positive impact for Tribal communities throughout Indian Country.”

The types of approved leasing regulations announced are:

  • Kootenai Tribe of Idaho: Business lease approval act
  • Santa Rosa Band of Cahuilla Indians, California: Leasing ordinance
  • Table Mountain Rancheria, California: Business leasing ordinance

Given the types of leases authorized under the HEARTH Act, some Tribes have more than one set of approved regulations or have ones waiting for approval. Those announced today are among the 73 Tribal Nations that have received Secretarial approval for their leasing regulations, with another 16 awaiting action. Of the latter, six already have other approved HEARTH regulations. The list of Tribes with approved regulations can be found on the BIA’s HEARTH Act web page.

Emergency Broadband Benefit Program is Transitioning to Affordable Connectivity Program

On Tuesday, March 1, 2022, most households previously enrolled in the Emergency Broadband Benefit program should automatically be transitioned to the Affordable Connectivity Program. 

However, there are some households that may need to take action to remain enrolled in the ACP. These households should have already been contacted by the Universal Service Administrative Company, the program administrator, or their personal provider. 

As stated in the FCC email, households that may need to take action include:

  • Consumers for whom the transition from EBB’s $50 per month subsidy to ACP’s $30 per month subsidy will result in additional out-of-pocket costs.
    • Action required:  Contact your provider.  Consumers may have to opt-in to the program to ensure that they are comfortable with assuming additional out-of-pocket costs for their broadband bill.
  • Consumers who originally qualified for EBB by suffering job loss as of February 29, 2020 or were eligible based on participating in their carrier’s COVID-19 program.
    • Action required:  Contact USAC to reapply for the ACP, if eligible.  Consumers will have to requalify/reapply for the ACP program.

Households that are located on qualifying Tribal lands will continue to receive a $75 monthly benefit. These households will not need to take any action to continue receiving benefits.

After the transition period is over, the monthly discount for all legacy EBB participants not located on qualifying Tribal lands will be reduced to $30. 

DOJ to Hold Tribal Consultations on Public Safety and Missing and Murdered Indigenous Persons

On March 16 and 17, 2022, the U.S. Dept. of Justice (DOJ) will hold government-to-government consultations to discuss the DOJ’s efforts to address the unacceptably high rate of violent crime in Native communities. This includes the high rates of missing and murdered Indigenous women. 

The first session will be Wednesday, March 16, 2022, 3:00-4:30 pm Eastern Time. The link to register can be found here.

The second session will be Thursday, March 17, 2022, 3:00-4:30 pm Eastern Time. The link to register can be found here.

To register, you will be asked to provide your name, Tribal affiliation, and email. Written comments can be emailed to [email protected]

Chair Grijalva and Rules Committee Chair McGovern Examine Indigenous Food Insecurity, Request GAO Inquiry

Chair Raúl M. Grijalva (D-AZ) of the House Natural Resources Committee and Chair James P. McGovern (D-MA) of the House Rules Committee today examined the ongoing injustice of food insecurity among Indigenous communities in the U.S. at a joint roundtable discussion titled Ending Hunger in America: Indigenous Nutrition and Food Systems. The issue prompted the lawmakers, together with Rules Committee Ranking Member Tom Cole (R-Okla.), to send an inquiry request to the Government Accountability Office (GAO) earlier this week. 

In their request to GAO, the lawmakers explained that high levels of food insecurity and hunger in Indian Country results in greater reliance on federal nutrition programs administered by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), including the Food Distribution Program on Indian Reservations and the National School Lunch Program. The request asks GAO to assess USDA’s implementation of these programs in tribal communities and whether there are opportunities for more effective tribal administration of these programs. 

During the roundtable discussion, Grijalva, McGovern, and other members renewed their call on President Biden to convene a national White House Conference on Food, Nutrition, Hunger, and Health. The conference would bring together food banks, hospitals, government agencies, nonprofit organizations, educators, farmers and ranchers, people with lived experiences, and more to initiate a whole-of-government plan for ending hunger and reducing nutrition insecurity.

Grijalva and McGovern also called on Congress and federal agencies to learn from and be a better partner with Indigenous Peoples in addressing food insecurity and hunger.

“As members of Congress, it’s time to listen to Indigenous Peoples, the original cultivators of this land,” Grijalva said in his opening remarks. “We must understand that sustainable food creates a strong community. As the Committee looks forward to promoting… and providing leadership on issues important to Indian Country, such as co-management, issues of consultation, and the traditional [Indigenous] ecological contributions that tribes can make to land use and water use—so too can that [Indigenous] ecological tradition and knowledge be applied to the issues of nutrition and food.”

Before the COVID-19 pandemic, food security affected nearly one out of four Indigenous Peoples. Destructive federal policies, the remote and rural locations of many Indigenous communities, and the impacts of climate change are all major contributing factors.

A recording of the roundtable discussion livestream, which was held Feb. 18, 2022 at 12:00 p.m. Eastern can be viewed here.

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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