Welcome to FCNL’s Native American Legislative Update! NALU is a monthly newsletter about FCNL’s Native American policy advocacy and ways for you to engage members of Congress.
Haaland Makes History as First Native American Secretary
On March 18, Deb Haaland was officially sworn in as secretary of the interior. As a member of the Laguna Pueblo, she becomes the first Native American woman to serve as a cabinet secretary in U.S. history.
As head of the Interior Department, Secretary Haaland oversees the nation’s public lands and natural resources, as well as the Bureau of Indian Affairs and Bureau of Indian Education. The interior secretary is a steward, and it is only right for a Native American woman to serve in this capacity.
“Today I stand on my ancestors’ shoulders ready to serve as the first Native American cabinet secretary,” said Haaland. “A voice like mine has never been a cabinet secretary or at the head of the Department of Interior. Growing up in my mother’s Pueblo household made me fierce. I’ll be fierce for all of us, our planet, and all of our protected land.”
President Joe Biden has said that he will respect the sacred trust and treaty obligations between the federal government and tribes. With the appointment of Secretary Haaland, he takes a key first step in upholding that promise. On Secretary Haaland’s first day she reiterated that tribal consultation will be a key priority for the Interior.
Reauthorization of VAWA Passes the House
March is Women’s History Month, and the House observed the occasion with the introduction and passage of the Violence Against Women Act Reauthorization Act of 2021 (H.R. 1620), or VAWA.
The bill includes provisions to restore tribal jurisdiction over crimes of dating violence, sexual assault, sex trafficking, and stalking. It will also promote tribal access to federal criminal databases, improve the response to missing persons cases, and provide grants for tribal courts and law enforcement agencies to exercise restored jurisdiction. With these provisions, VAWA can finally provide justice and safety for all tribal citizens.
President Biden, who wrote and supported the original version of the legislation, has promised that VAWA reauthorization will happen in his first 100 days. Now is the time for the Senate to act. Contact your senators today and urge them to pass a strong VAWA reauthorization that includes the tribal provisions in H.R. 1620.
American Rescue Plan Includes Over $30 Billion for Tribes
On March 11, Congress passed the American Rescue Plan Act of 2021 (H.R. 1319), which included much-needed financial relief for tribal governments.
The COVID-19 pandemic has hit Indian Country particularly hard. Native Americans are four times as likely to be hospitalized and nearly three times as likely to die from COVID-19. The closure of tribal businesses means that tribal governments have little to no funding for essential government services.
The provisions in the American Rescue Plan Act include:
- $6.094 billion for Indian Health Services, including $600 million for tribal vaccine distribution and $10 million for potable water delivery.
- $20 billion to tribal governments in direct relief to cover costs related to essential services.
- $850 million for programs operated or funded by the Bureau of Indian Education, bureau-funded schools, and tribal colleges or universities.
- $20 million in emergency funding for Native American language preservation.
Violence Against Women Reauthorization Act of 2021:
Passed the House (H.R. 1620) and awaits introduction in the Senate.
What We’re Reading
- Deb Haaland takes her oath of office in a traditional ribbon skirt
- Sex trafficking sting nets Enbridge pipeline workers
- Naiomi Glasses, a Diné skateboarder, goes viral on TikTok
- Indian Country achieves higher vaccination rates compared to state vaccination distribution