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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.

Secretary Haaland Announces Federal Indian Boarding School Initiative

On June 22, Interior Secretary Deb Haaland announced the creation of the Federal Indian Boarding School Initiative to investigate the deaths and the lasting consequences of residential Indian boarding schools.

“I know that this process will be long and difficult,” said Haaland. “I know that this process will be painful. It won’t undo the heartbreak and loss we feel. But only by acknowledging the past can we work toward a future that we’re all proud to embrace.”

The initiative will identify boarding school facilities, the location of known and possible student burial sites, and the identities and tribal affiliations of children interred in those locations.

The work will include the identification and collection of information related to the department’s oversight and implementation of the Indian boarding school program, and formal consultations with tribal nations to clarify the processes and procedures for protecting identified burial sites. A final report will be submitted by April 1, 2022.

American Jobs Plan Invests in Broadband Connectivity

As part of the American Jobs Plan, President Joe Biden has proposed a $100 billion investment in broadband internet. The Tribal Broadband Connectivity Program (TBCP) would be getting $1 billion of that funding to expand broadband on tribal lands. It is estimated that half of tribal households do not have access to broadband connectivity.  “In the 21st century economy, broadband access and affordability is essential to everyday life,” said Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo.

Newland Nominated for Assistant Secretary for Indian Affairs

On June 9, the Senate Committee on Indian Affairs held a hearing on Bryan Todd Newland’s nomination as assistant secretary for Indian Affairs. This role is charged with upholding the federal trust responsibility and maintaining government-to-government relationships with tribal nations.   

Senators asked Newland to ensure that the Department of the Interior would respond with urgency to the epidemic of missing and murdered Native Americans. They also asked him to preserve tribal rights to develop oil and gas, expand broadband to tribal communities, and help seek funding for tribal water settlements.

If confirmed, Newland would oversee key Interior departments, including the Bureau of Indian Affairs, Bureau of Indian Education, and the Office of Indian Gaming.

Supreme Court Unanimously Upholds Tribal Jurisdiction

On June 1, the Supreme Court upheld the inherent authority of tribal nations to detain non-Indians suspected of committing crimes on tribal lands. In United States v. Cooley, a tribal police officer temporarily detained and searched a non-Native on a public right of way that goes through tribal land.

Justice Stephen Breyer wrote, “To deny a tribal police officer authority to search and detain for a reasonable time any person he or she believes may commit or has committed a crime would make it difficult for tribes to protect themselves against ongoing threats.”

Bill Tracker

Violence Against Women Reauthorization Act of 2021:

Passed the House (H.R. 1620) and awaits introduction in the Senate.

Requirements, Expectations, and Standard Procedures for Effective Consultation with Tribes (RESPECT) Act:

Codifies requirement for federal agencies to consult with tribal governments before taking or permitting actions that would significantly impact them. Introduced in the House (H.R. 3587).

Native American Child Protection Act:

Reauthorizes and revises programs related to family violence, child abuse, and child neglect involving Indian children and families. Passed the House (H.R. 1688), received in the Senate, and referred to the Committee on Indian Affairs.

What We’re Reading

 

People: Portia Skenandore-Wheelock

Portia Kay^nthos Skenandore-Wheelock

Congressional Advocate, Native American Advocacy Program
Portia manages the Native American Advocacy Program, lobbying on legislation that affects Native communities.

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