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

Senate Committee on Indian Affairs Hosts Roundtable on Spectrum for Native Communities

On Wednesday, the Senate Committee on Indian Affairs, led a roundtable discussion titled, “Promoting and Supporting Tribal Access to Spectrum and Related Benefits in Native Communities,” to hear from the U.S. Department of the Interior, Federal Communications Commission, Government Accountability Office, and Native leaders and experts on promoting and improving spectrum access for Native communities.

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“In January this year, the Committee held a roundtable to discuss the unique barriers to internet access in Native communities and explore how billions of dollars secured in Congress is helping Native communities invest in broadband infrastructure and close the digital divide. But missing from that conversation was how spectrum could be a key wireless technology for deploying broadband,” Sen. Brian Schatz (D-HI), Committee chairman said. “For Native communities – many of which are remote and where wireline broadband can be challenging to install – increasing access to and use of spectrum could be a game changer.”

Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-AK), vice chair of the Committee added: “Too many of our rural communities in Alaska are on the wrong side of the digital divide, lacking broadband infrastructure and access to spectrum that are necessary for economic and educational opportunities and the delivery of services today. The destruction caused by the historic storm that just hit Western Alaska will only exacerbate those inequities. Now, more than ever, the need for robust coordination between our state, local, Tribal and federal governments to get these technologies deployed is critical."

The following panelists participated in the roundtable discussion:

  • Umair Javed, Chief Counsel, Office of the Chairwoman, U.S. Federal Communications Commission, Washington, D.C.
  • Priscilla Delgado Argeris, Chief Legal Advisor, Office of the Chairwoman, U.S. Federal Communications Commission, Washington, D.C.
  • Heidi Todacheene, Senior Advisor to the Secretary, U.S. Department of the Interior, Washington, D.C.
  • Dr. Anna Maria Ortiz, Director, Natural Resources and Environment, U.S. Government Accountability Office, Washington, D.C.
  • Sally Moino, Assistant Director, Physical Infrastructure, U.S. Government Accountability Office, Washington, D.C.
  • Tyler Iopeka Gomes, Deputy to the Chairman, Department of Hawaiian Homelands, Kapolei, HI
  • The Honorable Melanie Benjamin, Chief Executive Officer, Mille Lacs Band of Ojibwe Indians, Onamia, MN - Accompanied by Keith Modglin, Director of Information Technology, Mille Lacs Band of Ojibwe Indians, Onamia, MN
  • Chris Cropley, Network Architect, Tidal Network, Juneau, AK

To view the full video of the roundtable, click here.

IHS to Host Tribal Listening Session
On Monday, September 26, 2022, Indian Health Service (IHS) will provide important updates and extend an opportunity for Tribal Leaders and Urban Indian Organization Leaders to share input with IHS officials. IHS updates will include evaluating Health Care Facilities Construction Demonstration Project Proposals, Health Information Technology Modernization, decisions on Special Diabetes Program for Indians for FY 2023, 
 
The listening session will take place from 12 noon 1:30 pm EDT at 400 New Jersey Avenue, NW, Washington, D.C. This listening session complies with IHS Tribal Consultation Policy, 2022-2026 Office of Urban Indian Health Programs Strategic Plan, and Draft Operational Plan for IHS-VHA Memorandum of Understanding (MOU).
 
Virtual Access: Join ZoomGov Meeting: https://ihs-gov.zoomgov.com/j/1614036634 | Meeting ID: 161 403 6634
Telephone: (833) 568-8864 Toll-free | Meeting ID: 161 403 6634
Indian Child Welfare Legislation Introduced

This week, Representative Judy Chu (D-CA) and Representative Don Bacon (R-NE) introduced the bipartisan Strengthening Tribal Families Act, legislation designed to assist state and local child welfare agencies with implementing the 1978 Indian Child Welfare Act (ICWA).

ICWA sets federal standards for abuse or neglect custody proceedings involving native children, lessens the trauma of removal by promoting placement with family and community.

“The Indian Child Welfare Act (ICWA) has been labeled the “gold standard” in child welfare policy and practice from experts across the field because it requires active efforts to keep children safely in their homes and connected to their families, communities, and culture.” Rep. Chu said. “Unfortunately, there is no federal agency responsible for overseeing the implementation of ICWA standards and progress has stagnated. Our bipartisan Strengthening Tribal Families Act will give the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) the authority to help states improve on their efforts to comply with the Indian Child Welfare Act in a way that is both in the best interests of the child and the best interests of tribal communities.”

“The Indian Child Welfare Act is an answer to kinship placements for our Native American children, as they are disproportionately represented in the foster care system,” Rep. Don Bacon said. “Research shows us kinship placement helps children develop a stronger attachment to their extended family and culture. The long-term benefits in education, employment, housing, and mental health have to be at the forefront of our decision-making and this Act will ensure that.”

President Biden Approves Major Disaster Declaration for Alaska

FEMA announced on Saturday, Sept. 24, 2022, President Joe Biden federal disaster assistance has been made available to the state of Alaska to supplement state, tribal and local recovery efforts in the areas affected by a severe storm, flooding and landslides from Sept. 15-20.

The President’s action makes federal funding available to affected individuals in the Regional Educational Attendance Areas of Bering Strait, Kashunamiut, Lower Kuskokwim and Lower Yukon.

Assistance can include grants for temporary housing and home repairs, low-interest loans to cover uninsured property losses and other programs to help individuals and business owners recover from the effects of the disaster.

Residents and business owners who sustained losses in the designated areas can begin applying for assistance www.DisasterAssistance.gov, by calling 800-621-FEMA (3362) or by using the FEMA App. Anyone using a relay service, such as video relay service (VRS), captioned telephone service or others, can give FEMA the number for that service. 

 

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