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WASHINGTON — A big moment for Indian Country came on Tuesday, duirng Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson's confirmation hearing to become an Associate Justice of the U.S. Supreme Court before the U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee. Sen. Alex Padilla (D-CA)  questioned Judge Jackson about her knowledge of tribal sovereignty. 

"It is established in the law, the Supreme Court has established, that there is a special trust relationship between Indian tribes and the federal government,” Judge Jackson responded.

In addition to this reporting by Native News Online, a roundup of other news released from Washington, D.C. that impacts Indian Country follows. 

U.S. Passes Resolution Recognizing Native Women Achievements & Contributions

On Tuesday, the U.S. Senate unanimously passed S.Res.555 honoring the achievements of Native women throughout American history. The resolution was led by Sen. Brian Schatz (D-HI), chairman of the Senate Committee on Indian Affairs and Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-AK), vice chair of the Committee.

“Each year during March, the Senate celebrates National Women’s History Month and acknowledges the important contributions made by women. Women’s History Month also provides a continuing opportunity for us to recognize Alaska Native, American Indian, and Native Hawaiian women, the wealth of contributions they have made to the United States and to reflect on Native culture, traditions and experiences that have shaped history,” Vice Chair Murkowski said.

The resolution honored Native women who have made contributions in the fields of business, education, arts, law, and sciences, or efforts made in protecting traditional ways of life.

“As we celebrate the historic Tribal provisions in the Violence Against Women Act reauthorization, I’m proud to partner with Vice Chairman Murkowski on this important resolution during this year’s Women’s History month that honors the continuing impact Native women have on our shared American history,” Chairman Schatz said.

U.S. Dept. of Energy Awards $9 Million to Tribal Communities for Energy Projects

The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) on Monday announced nearly $9 million in funding to 13 American Indian and Alaska Native communities for 14 projects that will harness their vast undeveloped solar, hydro and geothermal energy resources, reduce or stabilize energy costs, and increase energy security and resilience on tribal lands. The projects will provide communities with clean electricity, power residential buildings that lack electricity, install microgrids and increase workforce training opportunities.

“Tribal communities are imbued with knowledge and ingenuity around sustainable energy infrastructure and they are poised to help lead the country as we make an equitable transition to clean,” U.S. Secretary of Energy Jennifer M. Granholm said. “With this investment, DOE is continuing its work with American Indian and Alaska Native communities to build stronger, more resilient tribal nations.”  

Collectively, the 14 selected projects awarded to 13 American Indian and Alaska Native communities are estimated to result in 3.3 megawatts of new clean energy generation, and over 3.6 megawatt-hours of battery storage, serve over 1,200 tribal buildings and provide a combined $48.5 million in savings over the life of the systems to these communities. 

The selected applications are: 

  • The Coeur d’Alene Tribe (Plummer, ID) will install solar photovoltaic (PV) on a new youth recreation center. (Award Amount: $68,129
  • Colusa Indian Community Council (Colusa, CA) will expand existing medium-voltage distribution to seven homes within their new development to supply the new homes with highly reliable power using the Tribe’s existing co-generation power plant and microgrid. (Award Amount: $517,200
  • The Karuk Tribe (Happy Camp, CA) will install solar PV for their Casino and newly constructed Wellness Center, saving an estimated $9.8 million over the life of the systems. (Award Amount: $1,390,680) 
  • The Karuk Tribe (Happy Camp, CA) will install solar PV and battery storage on 39 elder's homes to power critical loads during grid outages. (Award Amount: $426,757
  • Kawerak, Inc. (Nome, AK) will install an Organic Rankine Cycle system using local geothermal resources at Pilgrim Hot Springs to electrify and heat 18 existing tribal buildings, a water well, a water pump house, and two bathing pools, allowing economic development of this historic site located 60 miles north of Nome, Alaska. (Award Amount: $1,524,376
  • The La Jolla Band of Luiseno Indians (Pauma Valley, CA) will install solar PV and battery storage to supply electrical power to the La Jolla Trading Post, the only store and gas station on the La Jolla Indian Reservation, saving over $1.3 million over the life of the system and providing hands-on training for tribal members. (Award Amount: $511,610
  • The Leech Lake Band of Ojibwe (Cass Lake, MN) will install solar PV to power nine existing and currently being constructed tribally buildings, saving over $2.5 million over the life of the systems. (Award Amount: $729,049
  • The Lummi Nation (Bellingham, WA) will install solar PV on a new 50,000 square foot facility health and dental facility, saving money and providing training for seven tribal members. (Award Amount: $158,019
  • The Metlakatla Indian Community (Metlakatla, AK) will rebuild and install key components of two hydropower turbines and replace an aging battery to increase turbine energy production by 20 percent and reducing use of diesel-powered generators. (Award Amount: $967,258
  • The Muckleshoot Indian Tribe (Auburn, WA) will install solar PV on three tribal buildings and providing training for tribal members. (Award Amount: $248,448
  • The Paskenta Band of Nomlaki Indians (Corning, CA) will install solar PV on three buildings at the Paskenta Band of Nomlaki Indians Rolling Hills Clinic, reducing electrical costs by 94 percent and saving $36,470 annually. (Award Amount: $203,866
  • The Pueblo of Laguna (Laguna, NM) will install solar PV on community buildings in three villages and saving 70% in electricity costs. (Award Amount: $174,765
  • The Puvurnaq Power Company (Kongiganak, AK), a tribally owned village utility, will purchase, install, and integrate a solar PV into an existing wind diesel battery power system in the Village of Kongiganak, allowing the diesel engines to be turned off 56% of the year and save over 48,000 gallons of fuel annually. (Award Amount: $674,330
  • The Navajo Nation Tribal Government-Kayenta Chapter (Kayenta, AZ) will install solar PV, battery storage, and backup propane generator to provide clean electricity to 24 unpowered homes in the Comb Ridge/El Capitan community in the Kayenta Chapter of the Navajo Nation and creating five full-time temporary positions and three full-time positions for the life of the system. (Award Amount: $1,185,409

Learn more about these newly selected projects on the Office of Indian Energy's website. 

Biden-Harris Administration Releases Report on Native American Voting Rights

In March 2021, President Joe Biden directed the creation of an Interagency Group on Native American Voting Rights, whose mission is to study the barriers Native voters face in casting their ballot and having those votes counted, and to recommend steps to mitigate or eliminate these barriers. 

On Thursday, the White House released the “Report on Native American Voting Right.”

The report highlights several barriers that have existed for decades. For far too long, members of tribal nations and Native communities have faced unnecessary burdens when they attempt to exercise their sacred right to vote.  

Native voters often have to overcome language barriers, a lack of accessibility for voters with disabilities, cultural disrespect and outright hostility, geographically remote residences, and persistent poverty — conditions that have only been exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic. 

State laws and local practices also present too many Native voters with undue impediments to full and fair exercise of the franchise, including barriers in receiving information about the voting process, discriminatory redistricting, and burdens in voter registration, voter identification, voting in person, and voting by mail.

Continue Reading Report on Native American Voting Rights

Senate Committee on Indian Affairs Holds Hearing on Six Indian Affairs Bills

The Senate Committee on Indian Affairs on Wednesday held a legislative hearing on six bills pending before Indian Affairs.

The six bills are as follows:

The committee heard from Assistant Secretary–Indian Affairs Bryan Newland, Department of Health and Human Services Intergovernmental and External Affairs Director Marvin Figueroa, White Mountain Apache Tribe Chairwoman Gwendena Lee-Gatewood, Colorado River Indian Tribes Chairwoman Amelia Flores, Confederated Tribes of the Chehalis Reservation Chairman Harry Pickernell, MOWA Band of Choctaw Indians Chief Lebaron Byrd, and Dr. Darin Prescott, Lower Sioux Indian Community Health and Clinic CEO and Great Lakes Area Tribal Health Board Member.

To view the full video of the hearing, click here.

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