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.
House Protects Funding for Tribal Programs in Fiscal Year 2024
Congress left Capitol Hill for its Thanksgiving recess after passing a bipartisan short-term spending bill to avert a government shutdown and ensure federal funding will continue into early 2024. However, further appropriations deadlines will take place early in the new year.
In crafting its FY 2024 appropriations bills, the House has pursued amendments to reduce spending below agreed-upon levels and attach harmful policy provisions.
This was true of the House’s FY 2024 Interior and Environment appropriations bill (H.R. 4821). Despite proposing sharp cuts to many federal agencies, House appropriators protected funding for the Bureau of Indian Affairs, the Bureau of Indian Education, and the Indian Health Service. Lawmakers expressed their commitment to upholding and honoring federal treaty obligations and trust responsibility to tribal nations.
Much work remains as Congress continues to craft a final spending deal to fund the government for FY 2024. For now, funding for Native communities to address critical needs is protected.
Committee Examines Fentanyl Impacts on Native Communities
American Indians and Alaska Natives had the highest drug overdose rates of any ethnic group for 2020 and 2021.
On Nov. 8, the Senate Indian Affairs Committee held a first-of-its-kind hearing to examine the impact of fentanyl in Native communities. The hearing focused on Native perspectives to address the growing crisis.
“Fentanyl—a potent synthetic opioid—is contributing to a rapid rise in opioid-related deaths across the country, and Native communities are getting hit extra hard,” said Brian Schatz (HI), committee chair. “We have to listen to Native leaders, organizations, and health care professionals and support Native-led solutions to fight fentanyl in their homelands and surrounding communities.”
The chairman of the Lummi Nation of Washington testified that this year, his community lost five people to fentanyl overdoses in a single week. The chairman of the Turtle Mountain Band of Chippewa Indians shared that, on average, two North Dakotans die each week from opioid and fentanyl overdoses, with the highest percentages of those deaths coming from the reservations of one of North Dakota’s five tribes.
Not Invisible Act Commission Submits Report
On Nov. 1, the Not Invisible Act Commission delivered its final report, entitled “Not One More,” to Congress and the administration. It calls upon the federal government to declare a “Decade of Action and Healing” to address the crisis of missing and murdered Indigenous people effectively for future generations.
The Not Invisible Act (Public Law 116-166) aims to address these high rates of violence by creating a cross-jurisdictional advisory committee on crime against American Indians and Alaska Natives.
Working in solidarity with its Native partners during the 116th Congress, FCNL advocated for the passage of the bill. FCNL’s lobbying was led by Kerri Colfer, then FCNL’s Native American Congressional advocate.
The Not Invisible Act Commission, on which Ms. Colfer served, held hearings around the country and developed recommendations focused on improving intergovernmental coordination. It also established best practices for state, tribal, and federal law enforcement to bolster resources for survivors and victim’s families and combat the epidemic of missing persons, murder, and trafficking of American Indian and Alaska Native peoples.
The law requires a federal response to be prepared to the commission’s report within 90 days of its release.
Truth and Healing Commission on Indian Boarding School Policies in the United States Act (S. 1723)
This legislation, which would establish a commission to investigate, document, and acknowledge past injustices of the federal government’s Indian boarding school policies, is a top priority for FCNL advocates. Sen. John Fetterman (PA) became the most recent bill co-sponsor, thanks to the work of Pennsylvania advocates.
Recognizing Native American Heritage Month (S. Res. 459)
The Senate passed an annual resolution recognizing National Native American Heritage Month and celebrating the heritages, cultures, and contributions of Native Americans.