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WASHINGTON — In addition to news already covered during the previous week, each Sunday Native News Online provides an overview of activity in Washington, D.C. that impacts Indian Country during the past week.

The White House Tribal Nations Summit, held Monday and Tuesday, produced several new initiatives directed to Indian Country. “We have to continue to stand up for the dignity and the sovereignty of tribal nations,” President Joe Biden said during his remarks on Monday. 

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On Friday, Interior Secretary Deb Haaland (Laguna Pueblo) issued two secretarial orders that seek to remove the racist term "squaw" from public geographic places. 

Bipartisan Lawmakers Vow to Hold Treasury Dept. Accountable on Tribal American Rescue Plan Act Funding 

On Monday, Tribal Business News, the sister publication of Native News Online, reported that Senate and House lawmakers on both sides of the aisle are speaking out against the Treasury Department’s formulas for allocating $20 billion in American Rescue Plan Act funding to tribes.

The formulas resulted in wildly divergent amounts of funding being distributed to tribes this year, with some of the most-needy tribes receiving the least amount of funds and some of the richest receiving the most funds per tribal citizen.

House Build Back Better Bill Increases Health Care Dollars for Indian Country

The House of Representatives on Friday morning passed the Build Back Better bill, H.R. 5376 (as amended) by a vote of 220-213. This bill is the Budget Reconciliation measure to carry out portions of the President’s domestic agenda for social programs including child care, early education, and access to health care. A summary of the Indian health-related provisions in the bill (with the relevant amendments) is provided here.

In brief, for the specific Indian Health Service (IHS) programs, this bill includes the following in direct funding, for FY 2022, to remain available until September, 30, 2031:

  • $945 M for maintenance and improvement for IHS and tribal facilities;
  • $123.716 M for mental health and substance use prevention and treatment services, including facility renovation, construction, expansion;
  • $1 B for the health care facility priority system established in 25 U.S.C. §1631(c)(1)(A);
  • $40 M for small ambulatory construction;
  • $100 M urban Indian health care facility renovation, construction, expansion, equipping, improvement;
  • $25 M epicenters pursuant to 25 U.S.C. §1621m(a)(1)-(2); and
  • $113.284 M environmental health facilities support.

Originally, the Senate Committee on Indian Affairs had been allocated $20.5 Billion for Native American programs, including Indian health care. Based on objections to the top line dollar figure for the entire Budget Reconciliation of $3.5 Trillion, that amount was trimmed to roughly $1.75 Trillion. As a result, Indian programs took a hit and were reduced significantly. 

Most likely, in December, the bill will be amended in the Senate and a chance that the top line dollar may get reduced again. Tribes and friends of Indian health need to once again reach out to Senators to protect the Indian health funding from any further cuts.  

CLICK to read FACT SHEET: How the Build Back Better Framework Helps Native American Communities

Sen. Murkowski Backs Indian Boarding Schools Commission Legislation

Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-AK), Vice Chairman of the Senate Committee on Indian Affairs, made the following statement after signing on as the lead Republican co-sponsor of S. 2907, the Truth and Healing Commission on Indian Boarding Schools Act.

“For many years, thousands of Native children were taken from their families, homes, and communities, and forced to attend boarding schools far away. These Indian boarding schools stripped Native children of their identities and forced them to assimilate and conform to an identity that was thought to be more “acceptable” to Western society. Many Native children were abused, both physically and emotionally. Many developed illnesses and died, and were buried far from home. In many cases, their families and Tribes were never notified of their death.”

“S. 2907 would establish a commission to investigate and document United States Indian boarding school issues, locate the graves of Native children who died while attending these schools, and provide recommendations to Congress. This legislation is significant, but I recognize that it is a work in progress as we attempt to better understand the trauma that followed these policies. I look forward to holding hearings in the Indian Affairs Committee and favorably reporting a bill that will fully address the injustices done to Native peoples by Indian boarding schools as a result of federal assimilationist policies,” Vice Chairman Murkowski said.

Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) is the lead sponsor of the Truth and Healing Commission on Indian Boarding Schools Act. Representatives Sharice Davids (D-KS) and Tom Cole (R-OK) introduced a House companion bill, H.R. 5444, of which Congressman Don Young (R-AK) is also a cosponsor.

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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