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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.

Northwest Regional Summit Engages Tribes for Environmental Justice

In late July, the Department of Justice’s Environment and Natural Resources Division (ENRD), the Office of Environmental Justice, and the Office of Tribal Justice held a regional summit for tribal leaders in Spokane, WA. These gatherings aim to fulfill the commitment outlined in the department’s Comprehensive Environmental Justice Enforcement Strategy, which seeks to engage with Tribal governments and other federal entities to effectively address concerns within the Department’s enforcement initiatives. This gathering marked the first of three regional summits scheduled for this year.

During his speech to the attendees, Assistant Attorney General Todd Kim of the Environment and Natural Resources Division encouraged the participants to explore innovative approaches for collaboration in tackling the obstacles Tribes face in establishing and maintaining sustainable lands. Kim highlighted the distinctive government-to-government association between the United States and Tribes, underlining the Justice Department’s responsibility for safeguarding and advocating for federal reserved water rights claims and other tribal and treaty rights. He outlined the Biden administration’s three priorities for the summit:

  1. Upholding Tribal sovereignty and self-governance;
  2. Advancing environmental justice; and
  3. Addressing the challenges of the climate crisis.

The group discussed many topics, including Missing and Murdered Indigenous Persons, tribal water rights, the challenges posed by climate change, and treaty rights concerning the hunting and gathering of natural resources.

Members of the Greater Chaco Coalition rally and deliver nearly 80,000 comments to the Bureau of Land Management demanding greater protections for the Greater Chaco Landscape and surrounding communities from expanded oil and gas activities in May 2022
Evalyn Bemis
Members of the Pueblo and Diné tribes rally for environmental justice and tribal consultation in May 2022.

Federal Consultation on Indian Child Welfare Act

The federal Departments of Interior (DOI), Health and Human Services (HHS), and Justice (DOJ) began a series of consultations with tribal leaders to gather suggestions on how to enhance federal safeguards for Native children as well as their parents and caregivers. The first session was held virtually on August 7, and the second in-person session occurred in Alaska on August 11.

Each agency plays a role in upholding the Indian Child Welfare Act (ICWA). Through the consultation process, agencies asked tribal leaders what further assistance they could offer Tribes, state courts, and state child welfare agencies as they implement ICWA. Federal agencies also requested more information on any current collaborations or procedures between States and Tribes supporting the implementation of ICWA.

Congress enacted ICWA 45 years ago to rectify decades of government-enforced removal of Native children from their families in a deliberate effort to erase their cultural identity and tribal citizenship. FCNL helped draft and advocate for the passage of ICWA in 1978

Upcoming Opportunities

Toward Right Relationship with Native Peoples is a program of Friends Peace Teams. They are offering the following opportunities this fall.

The Indigenous Boarding Schools and Multigenerational Trauma

Register: Sept. 12
This is the Senate companion to H.R. 663, a bill recently approved by the House Natural Resources Committee. It would reauthorize and make amendments to the Indian Child Protection and Family Violence Prevention Act (Public Law No. 101-630) and its programs related to the prevention, investigation, treatment, and prosecution of family violence, child abuse, and child neglect involving Native American children and families.

Roots of Injustice, Seeds of Change: Toward Right Relationship with Native Peoples

Register: Sept. 9 | Oct. 15 | Nov. 11
This interactive workshop is facilitated by a team of Native and non-Native presenters. It is appropriate for high school students and adults.

What We’re Reading

Lacina Tangnaqudo Onco, Congressional Advocate, Native American Advocacy Program

Lacina Tangnaqudo Onco

Consultant, Native American Advocacy Program

Lacina Tangnaqudo Onco managed the Native American Advocacy program from 2017-2019.