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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 recently.

USDA to Establish a Tribal Advisory Committee. Seeking Membership Nominations Until Aug. 14th

The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) has announced it will establish a Tribal Advisory Committee and is requesting nominations for membership. The notice is among USDA’s efforts to remove barriers to service for tribal governments, citizens, and tribal nations       

USDA encourages nominations from federally recognized tribes, Alaska Native Corporations, tribal organizations that are arms and instrumentalities of tribes or democratically elected by their community, or national or regional organizations with expertise in tribal food and agriculture issues.

The nomination period will be open through August 14, 2023. Specific information and nomination instructions are available in the Federal Register.

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Reclamation Awards Tribes $4 Million for Water Infrastructure Development & Technology Projects

The Bureau of Reclamation announced on Thursday that 11 Tribes in nine Western states will receive $4 million to bolster opportunities to develop, manage, and protect their water and related resources. This funding will support Tribal water infrastructure development and technology projects and is made available through Reclamation’s Native American Affairs Technical Assistance Program.   

The 11 Tribes to receive technical assistance funding in Fiscal Year 2023 include:  

Fort McDowell Yavapai Nation (Arizona), $398,730, for the replacement of irrigation wells, lift station pumps, and motors to secure water access and improve system-wide efficiency and productivity.  
Quechan Indian Tribe (Arizona), $400,000, for irrigation infrastructure construction including pump station, pipeline, structures, solar panel installation for a system power supply to provide increased water accessibility and reliability.  

Big Pine Paiute Tribe (California), $367,249 to replace deteriorated structures integral to irrigation water distribution systems for gardens, pastures, yards, and stock watering.  

Santa Ynez Band of Chumash Indians (California), $358,411, to guide restoration for hydrologic functions within riparian corridors and evaluate groundwater production capacity to support future housing.  
Shoshone-Paiute Tribes of the Duck Valley (Idaho), $262,992, to rehabilitate stock-ponds structures, replanting of native plant stocks and improving the riparian habitat in the surrounding areas to benefit livestock and wildlife.  

Fort Belknap Indian Community (Montana), $382,838, to drill stock water wells on Tribal range land to secure a source of fresh water and prioritize water quality.  

Winnemucca Indian Colony (Nevada), $400,000, for technical assistance to guide future planning for agriculture and economic development, housing community facilities, tourism, and recreation.  

Pueblo of Isleta (New Mexico), $399,773, for surveying and engineering design for irrigation infrastructure and practical improvements to maximize water efficiency and availability.  
Osage Nation (Oklahoma), $399,302, for the replacement and installation of fire hydrants to provide reliable firefighting infrastructure in the Hominy Indian Village.  
Rosebud Sioux Tribe (South Dakota), $398,895, for the implementation of climate-smart irrigation technology on the Rosebud Reservation and to conduct in-depth monitoring of water usage, soil moisture, and crop health.  

Confederated Tribes and Bands of the Yakama Nation (Washington), $293,643, for hydrologic modeling to inform and improve groundwater recharge and flood control activities in Toppenish Creek Watershed.  

USDA Announces $21 Million Investment to Help Lower Energy Costs for Farmers and Rural Business Owners

The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) announced $21.25 million in technical assistance grants available through the Rural Energy for America Program (REAP) to help agricultural producers and rural small businesses access federal funds for renewable energy and energy efficiency improvements.

Tribal leaders and organizations have consistently said that there are barriers that prevent Tribal nations from competing with larger organizations or even accessing federal funding made available through USDA and other Federal government departments.

This investment in the form of a technical assistance grant, will see organizations, agencies, and both for-profit and non-profit groups be able to help communities in accessing funding that’s available to further needed projects and improvements. Eligible recipients for the grants include state, 

Tribal or local government; colleges and universities; electric cooperatives and utility companies; and for-profit and nonprofit organizations.

Legislation Introduced to Allow Alaska Native Communities in Southeast Alaska to Form Urban Corporations

Rep. Mary Peltola (D-Alaska), the first Alaska Native ever elected to Congress, and Rep. Pete Stauber (R-Minnesota), today issued statements on H.R. 4748, legislation that would allow the Alaska Native communities of Haines, Ketchikan, Wrangell, Petersburg, and Tenakee to form urban corporations and receive land entitlements under the Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act of 1971 (ANCSA).

The bill, entitled the Unrecognized Southeast Alaska Native Communities Recognition and Compensation Act, would amend ANCSA to provide these five communities with the right to form an Alaska Native Urban Corporation and receive 23,040 acres, or one township, of federal land—just as ANCSA granted to other Southeast Native communities over 50 years ago.

Alaska Senators Murkowski and Sullivan originally filed the measure as S.1889 in the Senate, and Peltola and Stauber partnered to introduce this companion legislation in the House.

“The Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act was intended to recognize and address traditional land claims, enabling selection of lands to be used for the benefit of Alaska Natives,”  Peltola said. “But for these Southeast Alaska Native communities, in Haines, Ketchikan, Petersburg, Tenakee, and Wrangell, this never happened. It is past time that we correct this unjust error."

The Unrecognized Southeast Alaska Native Communities Recognition and Compensation Act would make each landless community eligible for 23,040 acres of federal land, providing new opportunities for economic growth and self-determination. 

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