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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.

Tribes to Benefit from Inflation Reduction Act

Native communties are set to benefit from the Inflation Reduction Act (IRA) (P.L. 117-169), which was signed into law on Aug. 16. It is the most significant climate legislation in U.S. history.

Many tribes have been severely impacted by climate change, which has disrupted traditional food practices, tribal economies, and health and safety. In some communities, the damage has been so severe that entire villages have had to be relocated.

The IRA allocates $468 million in specific funding for Indian Country, including:

  • $220 million for tribal climate resilience and adaptation at the Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA);
  • $145.5 million for the Tribal Electrification Program;
  • $75 million for the Tribal Energy Loan Guarantee Program;
  • $12.5 million for emergency drought relief for tribes;
  • $10 million for Bureau of Indian Affairs fish hatchery operations and maintenance programs, and $5 million for administration of the programs.

87 Members of Congress File Amicus Brief to Defend Indian Child Welfare Act

On Aug. 19, a bipartisan group of 87 lawmakers filed an amicus brief to the Supreme Court defending the constitutionality of the Indian Child Welfare Act (ICWA).

Leading the group were Sens. Brian Schatz (HI) and Lisa Murkowski (AK), chair and vice chair of the Senate Committee on Indian Affairs respectively, and Reps. Tom Cole (OK-4) and Sharice Davids (KS-3), co-chairs of the Congressional Native American Caucus. 

ICWA was enacted in 1978 to help keep Native children in Native homes. It’s considered the gold standard for child welfare policies and practices by advocacy groups. It is being challenged in the case of Haaland v. Brackeen, which is expected to be heard by the Supreme Court in November.

In ICWA cases, the first preference is that the child go to an extended family member for placement, even if the relative is non-Native. The second preference is placement with someone within the child’s tribe, and the third preference is placement with another tribe.

In 2017, however, a Texas couple and state attorneys general in Texas, Louisiana, and Indiana sued the Department of the Interior to challenge ICWA. The state of Texas claims that the law created a race-based system that makes it more difficult for Native children to be adopted or fostered into non-Native homes.

“The Indian Child Welfare Act continues to protect the best interests of Indian children, serving as a powerful check on the loss of tribal language, identity, and cultures through the removal of Native children from their families and communities and placement in non-Indian homes,” said Sen. Schatz.

“Our amicus brief reaffirms Congress’ constitutional authority to legislate on Indian affairs, honors the federal government’s trust responsibility to Indian tribes by urging the Court to uphold ICWA, and protects Indian children, families, and communities.”

The congressional amicus brief is one of 21 briefs submitted in support of ICWA. Briefs were also submitted by 497 tribal nations, 62 Native organizations, 20 states and Washington D.C., and 27 child welfare and adoption organizations. FCNL lobbied to pass ICWA in the 1970s. 

Bill Tracker

Tribal Nutrition Improvement Act (H.R. 8502/S. 4625)

On July 26, Rep. Teresa Leger Fernandez (NM-3) and Sen. Martin Heinrich (NM) introduced legislation to promote tribal food sovereignty and make it easier for Native children to access free school meals.

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.