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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.

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 USDA Announces a $13 Million Investment to Rural and Tribal Communities

The USDA announced a $13 million investment from the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law to ensure that people living in rural areas and Tribal lands have equitable access to the infrastructure and economic opportunities they deserve by expanding access to rural water infrastructure. More details about the announcement itself can be found here.
The funding will benefit more than 19,000 people in six states. It will help build and improve water and wastewater infrastructure for people living in rural and tribal lands, including:
  • North Dakota’s Standing Rock Sioux Tribe: the tribe is receiving a $3 million Water and Waste Disposal tribal grant to install a water main from Kenel, South Dakota, to the North Dakota border to extend rural water service to about 250 people on the reservation.

  • Painted Desert Demonstration Projects Incorporated: this investment will be used to make water system improvements for a nonprofit organization, Painted Desert Demonstration Projects Inc., that serves Tribal residents in northern Arizona. This project will provide treated, monitored water so that residents of the Navajo Nation and Hopi Tribes have access to point-of-service watering stations that provide safe, clean drinking water.
House Appropriations Committee Advances Federal Funding to Help Build New Affordable Housing for Two Washington State Tribal Communities

The House Appropriations Committee advanced new funding that has been championed by U.S. Rep. Derek Kilmer (D-WA) to support two affordable housing projects for Tribes in Western Washington.

The Enetai Project will receive more than $1.6 million in funding to help create new affordable housing townhomes on the Suquamish Tribe’s Port Madison Indian Reservation. The project aims to help remedy the local housing crisis.

The T3ba'das Infrastructure Project will receive $2.2 million in funding to support the construction of roads, sidewalks, utilities, and other infrastructure needs for the Skokomish Tribe to complete the development of approximately 20 acres of tribal trust land into buildable lots for new housing.

“Across our region, we need more affordable housing – including for Native communities,” said Rep. Kilmer. “That’s why I’m thrilled that the House Appropriations Committee has advanced new federal funding to build new affordable housing in our region. These projects will not only help ensure more Tribal members can return to their ancestral homelands, but also help ease housing challenges for non-Tribal citizens that live nearby these reservations. These investments are win-wins for our region. I’ll keep working to get this funding signed into law.”

“The Suquamish Tribe sincerely appreciates Representative Kilmer’s work to include our Enetai Project in the bill. This project will help address the housing crisis on and surrounding our Reservation by creating affordable housing opportunities. Our tribal citizens deserve and should be able to live on their ancestral homelands,” said Leonard Forsman, Tribal Chairman of the Suquamish Tribe.

The Suquamish People continue to live in the place of their ancestors and practice their traditional life ways on the Port Madison Indian Reservation. Over the last 20 years, the Suquamish Tribe has experienced a cultural resurgence, devoting time and resources to the creation of a series of culturally significant buildings on the Port Madison Indian Reservation. The revitalization has led to growth in the number of Tribal citizens who desire to live on their ancestral homelands – and over time, the number of Tribal Members trying to secure affordable housing on the Reservation has risen to approximately 80 to 100 families.

The Enetai Project, which is receiving the Community Project Funding, calls for the construction of a new housing complex on the Suquamish Tribe’s Reservation. Approximately 20 affordable townhomes would be constructed on a parcel of land referred to as the ‘Suquamish Shores,’ an area which has recently returned into Tribal hands. Development of the Enetai Project aims to further enhance the progress being made toward rebuilding the original center of the Suquamish Tribe, as well as improve infrastructure in accordance with the Tribal Master Plan. In addition to providing opportunities for Tribal citizens to return home, the Enetai Project will help ease the housing challenges for the non-Tribal citizens that live in and around the boundaries of the Reservation.

The Community Project Funding for the T3ba'das Infrastructure Project will provide funding to construct the roads, sidewalks, utilities and other infrastructure needed to complete the development of approximately 20 acres of Skokomish tribal trust land into buildable lots for new housing. Providing affordable housing opportunities for tribal members aims to help ensure members can live on the reservation – and ease the affordable housing crisis in the region.

Rep. Raúl M. Grijalva (D-Ariz.) Pushes Back on Supreme Court Decision Involving Oklahoma

Natural Resources Committee Chair Raúl M. Grijalva (D-Ariz.) issued the following statement on Wednesday’s U.S. Supreme Court’s decision in Castro-Huerta v. Oklahoma. The Court ruled 5-to-4, with Justices Stephen Breyer, Sonia Sotomayor, Elena Kagan, and Neil Gorsuch dissenting:

“The majority decision in Castro-Huerta v. Oklahoma is outright colonialism. It brazenly overwrites foundational Federal Indian law that has consistently reinforced tribal governments’ inherent right to self-governance. The ruling contends that tribes cannot be trusted to exercise their sovereign authorities over criminal matters, an offensive argument that reeks of paternalism.

“We cannot let this politically extremist version of the Court simply topple the pillars of tribal judicial systems with one fell swoop. I urge my colleagues on both sides of the aisle to stand with me against this decision and heed Justice Gorsuch’s urging to ‘honor this nation’s promises’ to tribes. Upholding the federal government’s obligations to Indian Country is one of our highest, most solemn duties and I intend to use every means in my power to do it.”

In his dissent, Justice Gorsuch remarked, “One can only hope the political branches and future courts will do their duty to honor this nation's promises even as we have failed today to do our own."

Interior Sec. Deb Haaland Announces the 2022 Native Language Summit 

Secretary Haaland announced the 2022 Native Language Summit will be held on Tuesday, Oct. 4, 2022, in Oklahoma City. The summit will be hosted by the Bureau of Indian Education with the support of other MOA leads including the Departments of Agriculture, Health and Human Services, and Education. Details regarding the summit will be shared on the WHCNAA website when available.

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