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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.

Shelly C. Lowe (Navajo) Confirmed by the U.S. Senate to Serve as Chair of the National Endowment for the Humanities

The United States Senate on Tuesday voted to confirm Shelly C. Lowe as the chair of the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH). The White House is expected to make the official appointment in the coming days and Lowe will begin her appointment shortly thereafter.

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Lowe is a citizen of the Navajo Nation and grew up on the Navajo Reservation in Ganado, Arizona. From 2015 to 2021 she served as a member of the National Council on the Humanities, the 26-member advisory body to NEH, an appointment she received from President Obama.

Lowe issued the following statement after her Senate confirmation:

“I am honored and privileged to serve the nation as Chair of the National Endowment for the Humanities and am grateful for the bipartisan support of the Senate and of President Biden and Vice President Harris.

“Having grown up in a small rural Navajo community in Northeast Arizona, I have personally seen how the humanities can help sustain and strengthen individuals, communities, and institutions, yet I am alert to the fact that access to humanities resources remains unevenly distributed across our country. I look forward to working with NEH staff and the network of state and jurisdictional humanities councils to expand opportunities for all Americans to participate in and benefit from humanities-centered research, education, and public programs.”

FCC Partners with the Institute of Museum and Library Services

The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) is now partnering with the Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS) in order to expand broadband connectivity to tribal libraries.

These agencies working together will address digital divides on tribal lands by making broadband accessible to a greater number of people. 

This partnership will also bring awareness to the E-Rate program among Tribal libraries and organizations who can use these funds to increase broadband access in their communities. 

The partnership was met with gratitude by Senate Committee on Indian Affairs Chairman, Sen. Brian Schatz (D-Hawai’i).

“Native communities face unique challenges in accessing high-speed internet and bridging the digital divide,” Schatz said. “The FCC’s recent E-Rate order and partnership with IMLS will help Native communities get faster, more reliable internet services.”

The E-Rate program was established in 1996 as a universal service support mechanism to ensure that schools and libraries can obtain affordable broadband service. But E-Rate program rules long limited Tribal libraries’ participation in the program. The FCC order paves the way for Tribal libraries to apply for the E-Rate program application filing window that opened on January 12, 2022 and closes on March 22, 2022.

Upon the announcement of this partnership on Wednesday, all 574 tribal leaders have been reached out to in order to provide information about the E-Rate program and the opportunities this provides. 

For more information about the FCC’s Order expanding opportunities for Tribal libraries to apply for E-Rate support, please visit: https://www.fcc.gov/document/fcc-connecting-tribal-libraries-through-e-rate-program-0.  For information about how Tribal libraries can apply for E-Rate support, visit:  https://www.usac.org/e-rate/.

The House of Representatives passes the COMPETES Act with Tribal Provision

The House of Representatives on Friday passed the COMPETES Act This bill is a major step in closing some of the education inequality gaps that were highlighted by the pandemic. Included in the Act is an amendment by Rep. Grijalva that will create the Office of Education Technology in the Bureau of Indian Education. 

Overall, the Act will supercharge the production of semiconductor chips, strengthen U.S. supply chains, expand renewable energy, protect oceans, crack down on illegal wildlife and fishing practices, strengthen manufacturing, and advance scientific research. 

It will also advance American scientific research that will diversify America’s STEM workforce and support technological innovation. 

Rep. Sharice Davids (D-KS), who is a tribal citizen of the Ho-Chunk Nation, voted in favor of the ACT.

“For years, we have been too reliant on goods made in other countries. The pandemic has exacerbated and exposed that reality, with shortages from personal protective equipment to ventilators to semiconductor chips. Those supply chain weaknesses continue to contribute to rising prices and inflation,” Davids said.

Sen. Alex Padilla Calls on Biden-Harris Administration to Create an Urban Indian Interagency Work Group

U.S. Senator Alex Padilla (D-Calif.) led 13 of his Senate colleagues in a letter to the Biden-Harris Administration calling for the creation of an Urban Indian Interagency Work Group that would identify the needs of urban American Indians and Alaska Natives (AI/AN) and implement strategies to support Native Americans living in urban settings.

The intention is see how the federal government can better serve the approximately 70 percent of AI/AN people who live in urban cities as a direct result of the federal government’s assimilation policies as well as the efforts of tribal members seeking out education and employment opportunities in urban areas. However, urban AI/AN populations continue to be left out of many federal initiatives. 

“In light of the goals you outlined in the Biden-Harris Plan for Tribal Nations, specifically to ensure that urban AI/ANs receive ‘quality health care, culturally relevant education, adequate and affordable housing, and other needed resources,’ we urge the administration to form an Urban Indian Interagency Work Group to identify the critical needs of urban AI/AN populations and develop strategies to implement real change that uplifts urban AI/ANs,” wrote the Senators.

The letter led by Senator Padilla is also signed by Senators Catherine Cortez Masto (D-NV), Tina Smith (D-MN), Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), Ed Markey (D-MA), Mark Kelly (D-AZ), Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), Patty Murray (D-WA), Tammy Baldwin (D-WI), Chris Van Hollen (D-MD), Jacky Rosen (D-NV), Jeff Merkley (D-OR), and Jon Tester (D-MT).

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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