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Native American Legislative Update

January 2020

By Kerri Colfer, January 29, 2020


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 Kerri Colfer (Tlingit).

Wins for Indian Country in the NDAA

Legislators failed to include several provisions to end and prevent war in the final FY 2020 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), which was signed into law late last month. Despite this disappointment, the NDAA did contain some wins for Indian Country.

  • Additional land placed into trust: 1,427.28 acres of land were placed into trust for the benefit of the Santa Ynez Band of Chumash Indians to become part of the Santa Ynez Indian Reservation in California. An additional 511 acres of land were placed into trust for the Lytton Rancheria of California, for the tribe's housing and economic development needs.
  • Little Shell Tribe of Chippewa Indians of Montana wins federal recognition: The tribe has petitioned the federal government for recognition since the 1930s, but its struggles date back to more than 150 years ago. Little Shell now has the right to self governance, and will be eligible for certain federal benefits and protections.
  • Improved tribal consultation for military construction projects: Tribal governments will now be consulted to determine the impact of the proposed project and whether it can be avoided or mitigated.

Native American Language Revitalization Bill Becomes Law

The Esther Martinez Native American Languages Programs Reauthorization Act (S. 256), signed into law in December, extends two federal Native language programs until 2024. The act authorizes federal funding for tribes to preserve their languages and ensure that they are passed on to future generations.

The bill, which first became law in 2006 and expired in 2012, is named after Esther Martinez, an Ohkay Owingeh Pueblo linguist who worked to preserve and teach the Tewa language.

Tell Congress:

Reauthorize VAWA with increased protections for Native women.

Act Now 

FY 2020 Appropriations for Indian Country

Two appropriations packages passed in December will fund several programs related to Native American issues.

  • Special Diabetes Program for Indians (SDPI): This program received a short-term extension, with $96.6 million appropriated through May 22, 2020. FCNL continues to advocate for a long-term renewal of SDPI and an increase to $200 million for the program’s current base funding level.
  • Office on Violence Against Women: This office had a record $502.5 million appropriated for FY 2020. Of this, $4 million will be used to assist tribes in exercising special domestic violence criminal jurisdiction under the 2013 Violence Against Women Act (VAWA). An additional $1 million will be used for research on violence against Native women.
  • Tribal Set-Aside: The appropriations bills included a five percent set-aside for tribes—amounting to a record high $132 million—in the Crime Victims Fund. FCNL advocated for this set-aside throughout 2019.

Bill Tracker

Violence Against Women Reauthorization Act of 2019:

Passed in the House (H.R. 1585), two versions introduced in the Senate (S. 2920 and S. 2843).

Remove the Stain Act (S.3164/H.R. 3467):

Introduced in the Senate.

What We're Reading:


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Kerri Colfer

  • Congressional Advocate, Native American Advocacy Program

Kerri manages the Native American Advocacy Program, lobbying on legislation that affects Native communities.