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WASHINGTON — Here is this week's roundup of news and policy updates from Washington, D.C. that affect Indian Country. 

Social Security Administration Establishes Native American Office

The Social Security Administration on Monday established an Office of Native American Partnerships within the Office of the Commissioner.

The purpose of this newly formed office is to elevate and centralize efforts to administer comprehensive programs and policies related to American Indians and Alaska Natives. It will enhance the agency’s relationship with tribes and serve as the primary point of contact on tribal affairs for all stakeholders.

The Office of Native American Partnerships will be responsible for many functions to assist Tribal communities throughout the country. It will seek to improve services to communities by engaging in meaningful national and regional policy consultations, roundtable discussions, and seminars with tribal and federal experts. It will also coordinate internal agency Native American efforts, increase external program awareness to the Tribal community, help to recruit a diverse candidate pool for hiring at all levels of Social Security, and serve as the primary point of contact for Tribal Government Offices to foster transparency and collaboration. Additionally, the office will conduct ongoing data collection and analysis to improve outreach to Tribal communities,

“We remain steadfast in our commitment to reducing barriers to ensure people who are eligible for our benefits receive them,” Acting Commissioner Kilolo Kijakazi said. “Establishing our new Office of Native American Partnerships strengthens that commitment by providing Tribal communities more representation and a strong advocate, messenger, and facilitator within Social Security’s Office of the Commissioner.”

REMIMDER! Tribal Homeland Security Nominations Due

This is a friendly reminder that the deadline for nominations to the inaugural DHS Tribal Homeland Security Advisor Council is Monday, October 10th, 2022 at 11:59 p.m. ET. Be sure to send in your nominations according to the below. 

On September 7, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) announced the establishment of the first-ever Tribal Homeland Security Advisory Council (THSAC) and the opening of the nomination period for membership. 

This Council will enable Tribal leaders to advise the Secretary on homeland security policies and practices that affect Indian Country and indigenous communities, including emergency management, law enforcement, cybersecurity, domestic terrorism and targeted violence, and border security. 

Members of the THSAC shall be appointed based on their qualifications to serve as representatives of a Tribal Nation or tribal organization. Such qualifications to be considered are listed below:  

• Educational background (e.g., Native American studies, homeland security, Indian Law, or public policy);  

• Leadership, experience, and accomplishments (e.g., tribal elected officials, tribal association appointment, tribal coordination efforts); and  

• Employment and membership in associations (e.g., tribal government employee, tribal programs volunteer, active in tribal associations or groups).  

Nominations for inaugural members to the Council will be accepted until 11:59 p.m., Eastern Daylight Time, on October 10, 2022.  

To learn more about the Council and how to apply, please visit https://www.dhs.gov/tribal-advisory-council

Interior Department Leads Multi-Agency Effort to Support Tribal Sovereignty

Following robust Tribal feedback, on Friday, the Department of the Interior and 11 federal agencies entered into an updated Memorandum of Agreement (MOA) on implementing Public Law 102-477 to better support Tribal sovereignty. Public Law 102-477 reduces the burden of Tribal administrative, reporting and accounting costs, and gives Tribes the power to best integrate and deliver federal services within their communities. The purpose is to allow tribes to streamline various funds and programs within the federal government. 

Tribal 477 Plans allow federally recognized Tribes and Alaska Native entities to streamline eligible employment, training and related services programs and funds through the Department. The MOA was signed by the Departments of Agriculture, Commerce, Education, Energy, Health and Human Services, Homeland Security, Housing and Urban Development, Justice, Labor, Transportation and Veterans Affairs.

“Supporting Tribal sovereignty is at the core of the Biden-Harris administration’s commitment to Tribal Nations. Today’s signing is an example of that commitment.” said Secretary Deb Haaland. “I am grateful to the Tribal leaders who for years have made their voices heard on the need to improve implementation of Public Law 102-477 and whose efforts will create better jobs and economic opportunities for Indigenous peoples.”

Chief of the Office Native Affairs and Policy Chief Named

Federal Communications Commission (FCC) Chairwoman Jessica Rosenworcel has announced that Bambi Kraus will serve as the new Chief of the Office of Native Affairs and Policy.

Prior to joining the FCC, Ms. Kraus served as the National Tribal Affairs Advisor for the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA).  She was also the founder and executive director of the National Association of Tribal Historic Preservation Officers (NATHPO), a national nonprofit organization devoted to American Indian, Alaska Native and Native Hawaiian cultural preservation. 

As Chief, Ms. Kraus will focus on important Commission priorities, including mapping through the Broadband Data Collection, the expanded eligibility of Tribal libraries to participate in the Commission’s E-Rate Program, and the Affordable Connectivity Program.  She will also oversee the work of the Native Nations Communications Task Force, which will include development of a framework for the long term sustainability of telecommunications infrastructure on Tribal lands.

Ms. Kraus is Tlingit, with family from Kake, Alaska. 

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