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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.

Legislation Introduced to Make It Easier for IHS to Recruit and Retain Physicians

U.S. Senators Markwayne Mullin (R-OK) and Catherine Cortez Masto (D-NV) introduced bipartisan legislation to make it easier for the Indian Health Services (IHS) to recruit and retain physicians. 

IHS has a 25 percent vacancy rate for health care providers, and this legislation would help attract new doctors to the agency that serves over two million American Indian and Alaska Native tribal citizens.  

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To help recruit more doctors to IHS facilities, this bipartisan bill would allow health care providers working part-time to access IHS scholarship and loan repayment programs. Many IHS sites do not have a full-time clinician, and the current requirement for doctors to work full-time in order to access these benefits discourages health care professionals from serving tribal communities.This bill would bring IHS in line with the National Health Service Corps loan and scholarship programs.

The Government Accountability Office has reported that the Indian health Service (IHS) is in need of over 1,300 clinical providers for doctors, nurses, and other clinical staff. Mullin’s bill would allow providers who might not otherwise consider service in IHS to fill an urgent need while also operating a part-time private practice or combining their service with part-time administrative duties at the IHS. 

Mullins is a tribal citizen of the Cherokee Nation. Both senators are members of the Senate Committee on Indian Affairs.

Sen. Peters Introduces Bipartisan Legislation to Increase Tribal Access to Priority Resource Concern Determination Process

U.S. Senator Gary Peters (D-MI) with U.S. Senator Deb Fischer (R-NE) introduced bipartisan legislation in June 2023 to increase tribal visibility in the priority resource concern (PRC) determination process. 

A priority resource concern (PRC) is currently defined as a natural resource concern or problem determined by the U.S. Secretary of the Interior, and identified at the national, state, or local level. 

Peters is pushing for the bill to be included in the 2023 Farm Bill. Companion legislation was introduced in the U.S. House of Representatives by Representative Joe Neguse (D-CO-2).

“The process of identifying and determining natural resource concerns is critical to keeping our environment strong and healthy for future generations. We need to ensure our tribal communities, who have a deep understanding of these issues, have the ability to voice their concerns,” Sen. Peters said. “I’m leading this bipartisan bill and working to get it passed through the upcoming Farm Bill to improve the inclusivity and effectiveness of this process,”  

Peters’ Tribal Conservation Priorities Inclusion Act – which he introduced in June 2023 – would amend this definition to include tribes as entities that can identify PRCs.

Adding tribes to the list of entities that can identify PRCs would increase tribal visibility during the PRC determination process and facilitate a deeper consideration of tribally driven concerns through National Resource Conservation Service (NRCS) funding, which can be used to address soil erosion, surface and groundwater contamination, plant and animal health, and more. 

The NRCS is the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) primary private lands conservation agency and provides financial assistance and personalized conservation planning to help producers meet their unique natural resource conservation and business goals.

The bill would not require any changes to the PRC determination process – it simply enables states to take tribally identified environmental priorities into consideration.

FCC’s Office of Native Affairs & Policy Announce Tribal Workshop to be Hosed by Penobscot Nation

The Federal Communications Commission (FCC)’s Office of Native Affairs & Policy announced that the FCC Tribal Workshop to be hosted by Penobscot Nation in Maine will be held on November 2-3, 2023. The workshop was originally scheduled for October 12-13, 2023.

The event page (which will be updated with the session topics for this workshop) is here: https://www.fcc.gov/news-events/events/2023/10/fcc-tribal-workshop-indian-island-maine

What: FCC staff will provide presentations on a broad range of important FCC initiatives that impact Tribal Nations.

When: Thursday, November 2 (all day) and Friday, November 3 (8:30am – noon)

Where: Nic Sapiel Building, 27 Wabanaki Way, Indian Island, ME 04468

Who: Tribal leaders, Tribal IT managers, government and community planners and managers, Tribal enterprise specialists, and representatives of Tribal social service agencies, schools, and libraries should consider attending this event.

Registration is free.  To register for the workshop, please send your name, title, Tribal affiliation, and contact information, with the subject line “November Workshop” to [email protected].  Questions about the workshop may be directed to the Office of Native Affairs and Policy:  [email protected] or [email protected].  Walk-ins can also be accommodated.

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