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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.

Truth and Healing Commission Bills Make Progress in Congress

For several years, FCNL has advocated in support of legislation to establish a commission to investigate, document, and acknowledge past injustices of the federal government’s Indian boarding school policies.

On Feb. 5, Representatives Sharice Davids (KS-03) and Tom Cole (OK-04), the co-chairs of the Congressional Native American Caucus, reintroduced the Truth and Healing Commission on Indian Boarding School Policies in the United States Act (H.R. 7227). We are ecstatic about this bill’s reintroduction and are eager to continue to advocate for its passage during our 2024 Spring Lobby Weekend in March.

The House bill is very similar to the companion bill (S. 1723) that the Senate Indian Affairs Committee (SCIA) approved last June. The Senate bill also recently cleared an important procedural step when it received a required estimate of its budgetary impact. SCIA is now preparing for the bill to go before the full Senate.

As this legislation advances in Congress, we must continue to raise our voices to ensure it is swiftly passed in both chambers and enacted this year.

New NCAI President Delivers State of Indian Nations Address

Mark Macarro, the new president of the National Congress of American Indians (NCAI), delivered the annual State of Indian Nations address in Washington, D.C. on February 12. He is also the tribal chair of the Pechanga Band of Luiseño Indians.

Macarro addressed a range of national tribal legislative priorities, including mandatory funding for Indian health services and programs and the reauthorization of the Native American Housing Assistance and Self-Determination Act. In addition, he also addressed provisions in the upcoming 2024 farm bill to give tribes greater control of their food systems.

Macarro also announced that NCAI plans to call a national tribal public safety and justice summit. There, federal, state, local, and other partners will discuss the fentanyl and opioids crisis impacting Native communities and the need for tribal jurisdiction over drug crimes. It will also discuss the over-policing of Native Americans living in urban areas and the lack of law enforcement support on reservations.

Rep. Mary Sattler Peltola (AK At-Large), the first Alaska Native elected to Congress, offered the congressional response to the State of Indian Nations address. She applauded the announcement of the tribal public safety and justice summit, noting that fentanyl is impacting even the smallest of Alaska Native communities.

Indian Affairs Legislation We Are Watching 

At NCAI’s winter conference, Senate Indian Affairs Committee Chair Brian Schatz (HI) noted that the committee’s roadmap has been set by the legislative priorities voiced by tribal governments and Native American organizations. These priorities include:

  • Access to healthcare, education, and housing.
  • The protection, preservation, and promotion of tribal cultural resources, lifeways and languages.
  • The return and restoration of tribal homelands.
  • Fostering forms of economic development and diversification according to tribes’ choosing.

Here are a few key examples of the diversity of Indian affairs legislation currently pending in Congress:

Bill Tracker

The Native American Child Protection Act (H.R. 663/S. 2273) 

Passed by the House and awaiting a vote in the Senate, this legislation would reauthorize and strengthen programs to help prevent child abuse, child neglect, and family violence impacting tribes and their citizens.

The Tribal Access to Clean Water Act of 2023 (S. 2385/H.R. 4746) 

This bill seeks to provide funds and resources to address glaring shortcomings in the federal government’s obligation to provide clean water and adequate sanitation to all tribal communities.

A bill to amend the Native American Tourism and Improving Visitor Experience Act (S. Rept. 118-9 to S. 385)

This pending Senate bill directs federal agencies to assist Indian tribes, tribal organizations, and Native Hawaiian organizations in developing tourism and opportunities for visitors to learn about Native American history and cultures.

What We’re Reading

Cindy Darcy

Cindy Darcy

Consultant, Native American Policy

Cindy Darcy’s 40-plus years serving as an advocate for American Indian and Alaska Native tribal governments in the public policy arena began at FCNL.