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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.

Bipartisan Infrastructure Deal Invests in Indian Country

On August 10, the $1 trillion Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act (H.R. 3684) passed the Senate. It allocates $11 billion to be invested in Indian Country for the following:

  • $3.5 billion for the Indian Health Service Sanitation Facilities Construction Program
  • $3 billion for the U.S. Department of Transportation Tribal Transportation Program
  • $2.5 billion to address congressionally approved Indian water rights settlements
  • $2 billion to expand broadband access on tribal lands and Hawaiian homelands

If passed by the House and signed into law, this will be one of the largest investments in Native communities in American history. Senator Brian Schatz (HI), chair of the Senate Committee on Indian Affairs, said, “The more than $11 billion for Native communities is proof positive that we can come together, on a bipartisan basis, to get things done. But our efforts don’t end today—we have more work to do to better represent and serve Native communities across the country.”

Joint Commission to Address Violent Crime Takes Shape

  Youth from Northern Arizona pose in support of Missing and Murdered American Indians and Alaska Natives Awareness Day 2021.
U.S. Indian Affairs
Young women from Northern Arizona pose in support of Missing and Murdered American Indians and Alaska Natives Awareness Day 2021.

The Interior and Justice Departments are consulting with tribal leaders and soliciting nominations for a joint commission to address violent crime. As required by the Not Invisible Act, the commission should contain at least 28 federal and non-federal members.

Attorney General Merrick B. Garland said, “The membership of the Commission must represent a diverse range of expertise, experience and perspectives, and we will consult with Tribal leaders who know best what their communities need to make them safer.”

The Commission will hold hearings, take testimony, and receive evidence to develop recommendations for the federal government to combat violent crime against tribal citizens and within tribal lands.

Lawmakers Call for Trauma-Informed Resources as Interior’s Initiative Starts

Senator Elizabeth Warren (MA), Rep. Sharice Davids (KS-03), and 19 other members of Congress signed a letter to the Indian Health Service (IHS) as the government begins to investigate Indian boarding schools. The letter, supported by the National Native American Boarding School Healing Coalition and the National Indian Health Board, reads:

“We urge IHS to consider potential protections for those experiencing trauma from the Indian Boarding School Policies and the revelations that will continue to emerge during the course of the Federal Indian Boarding School Initiative. This revisiting and exploration of the boarding school era could be traumatic for survivors, their families, and their communities.”

Trauma-informed care that is culturally appropriate may include a hotline for survivors and other mental and spiritual programs.

Bill Tracker

Native American Language Resource Center Act (S. 989):

On Aug. 4, this bill to establish, operate, and staff a Native American language resource and training center was approved by the Senate Committee on Indian Affairs and moves to the full Senate for further consideration.

Durbin Feeling Native American Languages Act (S. 1402):

On Aug. 4, this bill to direct the president to review whether federal agencies are complying with requirements to promote the use of Native American languages was also approved by the Senate Committee on Indian Affairs and moves to the full Senate for further consideration.

Frank Harrison, Elizabeth Peratrovich, and Miguel Trujillo Native American Voting Rights Act of 2021 (NAVRA) (H.R. 5008):

On Aug. 13, this bipartisan bill to protect the right to vote and ensure equal access to the electoral process for Native Americans, Alaska Natives, and voters living on tribal lands was introduced by Reps. Davids (KS-03) and Tom Cole (OK-04) in the House and referred to committee. The Senate companion bill, S. 2702, introduced by Sen. Lujan (NM), was referred to the Committee on the Judiciary.

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.