Skip to main content

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.

Historic Funding for Tribal Nations in FY 2023 Budget Proposal

For the first time in history, the president’s budget process included direct consultations with tribal nations. As a result, President Joe Biden’s FY 2023 budget proposal includes increased funding for tribal nations and programs. Notably, it would also significantly invest in the stabilization of the entire tribal healthcare system.

For the first time in history, the president’s budget process included direct consultations with tribal nations.

By recategorizing Indian Health Service (IHS) funding as mandatory rather than discretionary spending, IHS funding would automatically keep pace with increasing healthcare costs and population growth. This change would gradually close longstanding shortfalls, address backlogs and inequities, and modernize record systems. The budget proposal recommends $9.1 billion in mandatory funding for tribal healthcare.

“This proposal is a historic step forward towards securing adequate, stable, and predictable funding to improve the overall health status of American Indians and Alaska Natives,” said IHS Acting Director Elizabeth Fowler. “It also ensures we never repeat the disproportionate impacts experienced during the pandemic…and acknowledges the need to implement long-term solutions to address IHS funding challenges, which contribute to the stark health disparities faced by American Indian and Alaska Native people.”

Other wins in the budget proposal include increased funding for tribal programs in general, Violence Against Women Act programs, and the Federal Indian Boarding School Initiative.

Interior Department Reverses Nearly 50 Year Obstacle to Tribal Water Rights

On April 7, Interior Secretary Deb Haaland reversed the Morton Moratorium, a 1975 memorandum directing the Bureau of Indian Affairs to disapprove tribal regulation of water use on reservations. With this change, tribes requiring secretarial approval of tribal water codes will be able to better regulate and protect waters on tribal lands.

“If we are to truly support tribal self-determination, we cannot be afraid to review and correct actions of the past that were designed to create obstacles for tribal nations,” said Haaland. The Interior Department will hold tribal consultations for guidance on an improved review process for tribal water codes.

Bill Tracker

Advancing Equality for Wabanaki Nations Act (H.R. 6707)

On March 31, the House Committee on Natural Resources Subcommittee for Indigenous Peoples of the United States heard testimony from four chiefs of Wabanaki tribes located in Maine. The bill would update federal law to ensure Wabanaki tribes have the same access as other federally recognized tribes to federal programs and protections.

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) Tribal Public Health Security and Preparedness Act (S. 3968)

On March 31, Sen. Martin Heinrich (NM), Sen. Elizabeth Warren (MA), Rep. Ruben Gallego (AZ-07), and Rep. Tom Cole (OK-4) introduced this legislation to ensure tribal nations have equal access to funding through the CDC to prepare for public health emergencies, like COVID-19. 

Shadow Wolves Enhancement Act (H.R. 5681)

On April 19, President Biden signed the Shadow Wolves Enhancement Act into law (P.L. No. 117-113). Shadow Wolves are members of the Tohono O’odham Nation that patrol the 76-mile stretch of their nation land along the Mexico border and are known for their ability to track drug smugglers. The law authorizes U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) to reclassify Shadow Wolves as ICE special agents upon completion of special training.

What We’re Reading  

People: Portia Skenandore-Wheelock

Portia Kay^nthos Skenandore-Wheelock

Congressional Advocate, Native American Advocacy Program (2021-2023)

Portia managed the Native American Advocacy Program, lobbying on legislation that affects Native communities.