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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 last week.


Sen.Tester Presses Administration on Public Safety in Indian Country, Law Enforcement Shortages

 U.S. Senator Jon Tester (D-MT) on Wednesday pressed top Indian Health Service and Interior Department officials on steps to address the public safety and public health crises facing tribal communities during a Senate Appropriations Subcommittee hearing.

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During the hearing, Tester grilled Assistant Secretary for Indian Affairs Bryan Newland (Bay Mills Indian Community) on funding for the Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA) and emphasized the need to increase the number BIA law enforcement officers in Indian Country, especially on the Northern Cheyenne Reservation.

“It is clear we need more resources on the ground. We need more police officers. We need more people…” Tester said. “Northern Cheyenne may be the tip of the spear, but there’s problems in every [tribe]…if you’ve got a tribe that’s complaining about resources, at a bare minimum, you should look and see what the BIA’s spending before they took that contract over. Add some inflation, and get them the money because you can’t run a police department on air. It takes dollars, and it takes people.”

Tester also pressed Indian Health Service Director Roselyn Tso on staffing shortages at IHS, and highlighted the detrimental effects these shortages have on Tribal communities.

“It’s a crisis. What we need to know from you though is—we prioritize it—but what the hell does that mean? What are we doing to get people on board? And once again, not unlike law enforcement, if we need to be a help on this committee, tell us what we need to do so that you can bring more people onto Indian Health…I don’t need to give you the statistics on life span of Native Americans. It has to do with more than just health care, but health care is pretty fundamental. So this is important.” 

As the former Chairman of the Senate Committee on Indian Affairs, Tester has consistently fought to provide Tribal governments and organizations with the resources they need to reduce crime and tackle the MMIP epidemic. In March, Tester introduced his bipartisan Strengthening Tribal Law Enforcement Act to recruit and retain tribal law enforcement by increasing the pay rates for BIA officers. He also led the Senate passage of Savanna’s Act and the Not Invisible Act, both of which were signed into law in October of 2020, improving information sharing and collaboration between Tribal and federal law enforcement agencies, and he has secured millions to enhance law enforcement, improve public safety, and support victims in Indian Country.

Native Land Institute Celebrates Introduction of Legislation to Protect Chaco Canyon 

The Native Land Institute (NLI) celebrated the reintroduction of the Chaco Cultural Heritage Area Protection Act, supported by the entire New Mexico Congressional delegation – Senators Ben Ray Luján and Martin Heinrich and Representatives Teresa Leger Fernández, Melanie Stansbury, and Gabe Vasquez. The legislation will permanently protect federal lands within 10 miles of Chaco Culture National Historical Park from new oil and gas leasing.

Last week’s introduction of legislation came on the same day Native Land Institute, in partnership with National Parks Conservation Association, Archaeology Southwest, and Walatowa Charter High School in Jemez Pueblo and Laguna-Acoma Jr./Sr. High School, carried out a field trip with approximately 65 students from the two schools. Participants were accompanied by Pueblo leaders who shared their expertise and history of the sites and the interconnected broader landscape. Photos from the field trip can be found here.

The legislation, originally introduced and passed by the U.S. House of Representatives in 2019, would protect nearly 339,000 acres of federal public lands, containing thousands of significant cultural properties and sites. The land that is being considered for withdrawal from expanded leasing does not include any private lands or allotments, is historically, spiritually, and ecologically significant to numerous Tribes in the Southwest, and its protection is critical. 

This reintroduction comes as the Biden administration is preparing to decide whether or not to finalize its proposed 20-year administrative mineral withdrawal of federal lands and minerals surrounding Chaco Canyon from future oil and gas leasing. This reintroduction further demonstrates the growing momentum behind lasting protections for this significant landscape.  

The proposed legislation would ensure the permanent protection of roughly 339,000 acres of public lands surrounding the park, which contain thousands of archaeological and cultural sites, and would also help protect local communities from the impacts of expanded drilling. 

CMS to Host Webinar on Medicare Inflation Rebates and Negotiations

The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) Division of Tribal Affairs, in collaboration with the CMS Center for Medicare, is holding an All Tribes Webinar on Wednesday, May 17 from 3:00 – 4:00pm ET on the Inflation Reduction Act, specifically the new Medicare Prescription Drug Inflation Rebate Program and the Medicare Drug Price Negotiation Program.

These programs are expected to lower prescription drug costs for millions of Americans. The webinar will also focus on discussing the most reliable way to identify Part D claims filled with 340B units so these associated units can be excluded from the determination of units of Part D rebate-eligible drugs. Registration is available at the this link.

USDA Announces $45 Million Funding to Support Underserved and Veterans Farmers, Rancers, & Foresters

The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) announced $45 million in funding to organizations that help underserved veteran farmers, ranchers, and foresters own and operate successful farms.

Eligible applicants include nonprofit organizations, community-based organizations, federally recognized tribes and tribal organizations, and a range of higher education institutions serving veteran farmers and African American, American Indian, Alaska Native, Hispanic, Asian, and Pacific Islander communities.

With this funding, organizations conduct education, training, farming demonstrations, and conferences on agribusiness to increase access to USDA's programs and services. Application deadline is July 25, 2023


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