WASHINGTON — The big news in Washington this past week was the U.S. Supreme Court hearing on Wednesday oral arguments in the Oklahoma vs. Castro-Huerta case. 

It is one of the state of Oklahoma’s attempts to return criminal jurisdiction to the state after the McGirt majority decision that determined much of the eastern part of Oklahoma is still legally an Indian reservation. 

Native News Online reporter Darren Thompson (Lac du Flambeau) was at the Supreme Court to cover the  event.

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.

Federal Funding to Provide Broadband Access to Native Families Secured

On Friday, Rep. Raul Ruiz M.D. (D-CA) announced that a federal grant of $320,000 from the Department of Commerce’s National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) will be awarded to the Cabazon Band of Mission Indians. 

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This grant is apart of the Tribal Broadband Connectivity Program. It will help provide local Native families with access to quality internet access. Specifically, it will help connect 17 unserved households with qualifying broadband service. 

Dr. Ruiz issued the following statement: 

“The pandemic showed us why it is so important to have internet for education, health care, and commerce. Not having internet puts families at a disadvantage, which leads to education, health, and economic disparities for underserved communities. This federal funding is important to me, the Cabazon Band of Mission Indians, and the families, who for the first time, will have access to the internet. I’m glad for them and to have been a part of these efforts.” 

House Members Call for $1.135 Billion in FY 2023 Funding for Violence Against Women’s Act Programs; $52 for Native American Programs

In a letter dated April 26, 2022 to the House Appropriations Committee, Representatives Gwen Moore, Jan Schakowsky, Judy Chu, and John Katko, called for $1.135 billion in FY 2023 funding for VAWA programs. Of the $1.135 billion, $52 million is requested for programs to address the issue in Indian Country.

“The Violence Against Women’s Act (VAWA) programs save lives. Not only does the VAWA program invest in community responses to domestic and sexual violence, these programs provide safe housing, legal services, combat violence on college campuses, and help address the unique needs of American Indian and Alaskan Native survivors. With the most recent VAWA reauthorization, it is our duty to invest in these critical programs and I am incredibly proud of bipartisan support that this letter continues to receive,” Rep. Gwen Moore said.

Programs that specifically address the needs of Native American victims include:

  • Research on Violence Against Indian Women ($2 million)
  • The VAWA Tribal Jurisdiction ($25 million)
  • National Tribal Sex Offender Registry ($1 million)
  • The National Clearinghouse on Sexual Assault of American Indian and Alaska Native Women ($2 million)
  • Tribal Special Assistance US Attorneys ($4 million)
  • Tribal Order of Protection ($10 million) and
  • The Tribal Access program ($6 million). Finally, the Resource Center on Workplace Response ($2 million) helps companies address domestic violence and sexual assault in the workplace

Read the full text of the letter here.

Indian Affairs Seeking Applications for Native American Business Development Institute Grants 

The Indian Affairs Office of Indian Economic Development announced today it is accepting applications for Native American Business Development Institute grants. Proposals must be submitted via the Grants.gov website by June 27, 2022.

Funds awarded through the program can be used to explore business solutions by obtaining technical assistance through the hiring of consultants to perform feasibility studies of economic development opportunities. Grants for this purpose support facilitation of informed decision-making by Tribes regarding their economic future. In addition, the grants may fund business plans for proposed businesses or Tribal businesses recovering from the economic impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“The Native American Business Development Institute grant program is an important funding source for Tribes looking to explore new lines of economic activity,” said Assistant Secretary-Indian Affairs Bryan Newland. “By evaluating and identifying viable business endeavors, Tribes can create more opportunities for Native people to live safe, healthy and fulfilling lives in their Tribal communities.”

The Office of Indian Economic Development seeks to fund approximately 10 to 32 grants, ranging in value from $25,000 to $75,000, with applicant eligibility limited to federally recognized American Indian and Alaska Native Tribes and Tribal organizations.

The solicitation and details on how to apply can be found in the Federal Register here and at Grants.Gov here.

U.S. Senate Approves Two-Year Extension of the Radiation Exposure Compensation Act

The U.S. Senate voted to approve a two-year extension of the Radiation Exposure Compensation Act (RECA), which is set to expire in July. If the short-term extension is passed by the House, it will provide more time to work with congressional members on a long-term solution that would extend the Act until 2040, expand downwinder eligibility based on geographic residency and expand the range of years that can be used for calculating exposure for certain individuals working in uranium mines, mills, or transporting uranium ore. 

This issue is important to the Navajo Nation. In March, President Jonathan Nez met with members of both political parties in Washington, D.C., to affirm the Navajo Nation’s support and to speak for affected Navajo families and the Navajo Uranium Radiation Victims Committee.

The Radiation Exposure Compensation Act was first enacted in 1990, then amended in 2000, and is set to expire in July of this year. 

“With unanimous consent from the U.S. Senate for the two-year extension, it demonstrates strong bi-partisan support for former uranium miners, downwinders, and many others who have to live with the devastating health effects to this day. We need the support of the House to finalize the extension, so that we can continue to work for the reauthorization and expansion of RECA through 2040. The meetings we had with members of both political parties last month were critical to garnering the support that was needed to push the two-year extension through the Senate,” President Nez said.

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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