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Native American Legislative Update

January 2019

By Lacina Tangnaqudo Onco , January 24, 2019

Welcome to FCNL's Native American Legislative Update! The NALU is a monthly newsletter about FCNL's Native American policy advocacy and ways for you to engage your members of Congress. FCNL's Congressional Advocate for Native American policy is Lacina Tangnaqudo Onco (Shinnecock/Kiowa).

First Two Native American Women in Congress

January 3 was a day of historic firsts in Congress. It included the swearing in of the first two Native American Women in the House of Representatives—Reps. Sharice Davids (KS-03, Ho-Chunk Nation) and Deb Haaland (NM-01, Pueblo of Laguna).

Rep. Davids is a former attorney with a degree from Cornell Law School. Davids used her legal background to support economic development for the Oglala Sioux while living on the Pine Ridge Reservation. She comes to the Washington, D.C. with previous political experience as a White House Fellow in the Obama administration.

Rep. Haaland followed a similar path to Congress. She earned her law degree from the University of New Mexico, then worked as a field organizer and as a tribal administrator for San Felipe Pueblo. Prior to her election, Haaland served as chair of the Democratic Party of New Mexico.

Rep. Haaland with Lacina Rep. Davids and Lacina
Deb Haaland (NM-01, Pueblo of Laguna) Sharice Davids (KS-03, Ho-Chunk Nation)

In an interview with Splinter News, Haaland said, “Everybody needs healthcare. Everybody needs a quality public education system. Everybody needs to know that we’re fighting climate change and moving toward a renewable energy economy. Those are things that I think coincide with my values as a Native woman and that I believe a lot of tribes are looking to have as well.”

We look forward to developing relationships and working with the congresswomen on policies to help Native communities.

Shutdown Devastates Native Communities

The partial government shutdown is impacting Native communities across the country. Vital services are at risk. Federally funded nutritional programs and food pantries are no longer able to meet the needs of tribal members.

Indian Health Services, often the main source of healthcare for Native people, is unable to pay employees. As a result, contracted health services and referrals are coming to a halt.

In Seattle, a substance abuse treatment center which serves Native and non-Native patients is endangered. The urban health centers of Baltimore and Boston have also limited their services and are unable to help patients pay for medications and medical services.

In exchange for land, the federal government promised tribes resources. Funding and services such as healthcare are a part of these trust responsibilities. Congress has treaty-based obligations to all Native people, whether they live on tribal lands or in urban communities. As such, funding for tribal and urban Native communities should be made exempt from federal shutdowns.

The loss of services has further damaged the relationship between tribes and the federal government. It may take months or even years to fully recover from the effects of the shutdown.

Bill Tracker

Reauthorization of the Violence Aganst Women Act:

VAWA expired on Dec. 22 for the second time in 25 years. It remains expired due to the partial government shutdown. We are calling for a Reauthorization of VAWA that expands tribal protections.

What We're Reading:

Lacina Tangnaqudo Onco

  • Congressional Advocate, Native American Advocacy Program

Lacina Tangnaqudo Onco managed the Native American Advocacy program from 2017-2019. In that capacity she lobbied on legislation that affects Native communities and built connections between tribes, tribal organizations, and non-Indian allies, particularly among a wide range of faith groups, to ensure tribal needs were addressed.