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.

State of Indian Nations Address Celebrates Victories and Looks Forward

On Feb. 21, National Congress of American Indians (NCAI) President Fawn Sharp delivered the annual State of Indian Nations Address at the 2023 NCAI Executive Council winter session. She highlighted last year’s wins to secure advanced appropriations for the Indian Health Service, the reauthorization and expansion of tribal provisions in the Violence Against Women Act, and funding parity in critical legislation for tribes to address broadband, water resources, and climate change.

“Today the state of Indian Nations is strong because our ancestors worked hard to make it so. If we work together, we can make their legacy—our Tribal Nations—everlasting,” said Sharp. “This is the true strength and power of NCAI—the collective strength of Tribal Nations, Tribal citizens, our allies—all of us—working together, standing united as one.”

Looking ahead to some of this year’s priorities for NCAI, Sharp focused on improving housing and voting rights, defending the Indian Child Welfare Act, and confronting the full pain of the Indian boarding school era. She also spoke about using the farm bill (a multiyear law that covers a range of agricultural and food programs) to protect tribal lands, foods, and medicines.

Sen. Elizabeth Warren (MA) delivered this year’s congressional response. She highlighted the importance of the nation-to-nation relationship between the United States and tribal nations and thanked tribal leaders, advocates, and Native language teachers and learners for their work.

Sen. Warren also defended the importance and constitutionality of the Indian Child Welfare Act. She called on tribal leaders to continue working with her on the Honoring Promises to Native Nations Act, which would redress the federal government’s systematic failure to meet its trust and treaty obligations to tribal nations.

Committees Overseeing Tribal Affairs Kick Off the 118th Session of Congress

On Feb. 7, the House Natural Resources Committee approved an oversight plan for its activities in the 118th Congress. The Subcommittee on Indian and Insular Affairs (formerly the Subcommittee for Indigenous Peoples in the U.S.), led by newly-elected Rep. Harriet Hageman (WY), is primarily focused on economic and energy development on tribal lands, forest management, public safety and justice, and the Interior Department’s land into trust processes.

On Feb. 9, the Senate Committee on Indian Affairs held its organizational meeting and approved its committee rules for the 118th Congress. Priorities were not discussed for the new session, but committee achievements of the 117th Congress were celebrated with calls for continued bipartisanship. “None of our achievements last Congress would have been possible without this Committee’s bipartisan commitment to Native people in Indian Country, in Alaska, and in Hawaiʻi,” said Sen. Brian Schatz (HI), committee chair.

While the Democratic roster remains the same, committee membership has changed for the Republicans. Sens. Jerry Moran (KS) and James Lankford (OK) have left and newly-elected Sen. Markwayne Mullin (OK), a citizen of the Cherokee Nation, was added to the Republican roster. Mullin’s appointment marks the second time that a Native American will serve on the committee.

Bill Tracker

Native American Child Protection Act (H.R. 663):

On Feb. 6, Rep. Gallego (AZ-03) and Rep. Newhouse (WA-04) reintroduced the Native American Child Protection Act (NACPA) (H.R. 663). This bill would ensure tribes have the tools they need to treat, prevent, investigate, and prosecute instances of family violence, child abuse, and child neglect involving Native children and families.

Bridging Agency Data Gaps and Ensuring Safety (BADGES) for Native Communities Act (S. 465)

On Feb. 16, Senators Cortez Masto (NV) and Hoeven (ND) reintroduced the BADGES for Native Communities Act (S. 465). This bill would require federal law enforcement agencies to report on cases of missing or murdered Native Americans, and revise policies related to information sharing, reporting, and investigating these cases.

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.