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Short Stories on the President's Budget Proposal

Native American Special Budget Update - June 11, 2017

June 12, 2017


The administration released a detailed budget in late May. The colorful and energy-filled rhetoric about infrastructure, economic development, and simplifying relationships with the federal government turns to grey when the budget numbers are applied.

Tribal leaders have been in Washington for numerous hearings, briefings and roundtables in the last three months; they vividly described the realities affected by federal budget decisions.

Tribal leaders reported dangerous roads, dilapidated schools, inadequate and outdated health centers, and housing that is overcrowded and lacking in basic sanitation and health requirements. Social services are underfunded and unable to meet the needs of communities where the number of youth suicides continues to rise.

The President’s budget proposes to slice deeply into nearly every line item that provides funds for Indian programs, and to cut deeper still into national programs on which many Native Americans rely.

You can download the whole Update here (a .pdf file), or explore the short stories listed below.

What You Do Now Will Make a Difference

Congress is not of one mind on these cuts. Some members and leaders – of both political parties – are expressing anger and sometimes flatly rejecting the proposals we’re seeing here.

The problem is that they’re dealing with a million slices, in every program from health care to space exploration. How will they keep track of what’s important?

You’ll tell them. Your voice, reminding them of what’s important to you (and probably – at their core – to them) will make the difference.

First, we honor our debts – our promises, our trusts. Native people have paid dearly for the basic support they are supposed to receive “forever” – with the lives and the land lost and taken as our ancestors took over this continent.

Secondly, we honor each other – we invest our pooled dollars to build the kind of communities we all want to live in – where no child is hungry, no one dies or is burdened with a treatable disease, everyone has a home, everyone has a future, and we all share a living earth.

Your message to your representative and your senators may be one of the few messages they receive about Indian programs – and that makes your message all the more important.

At the end of each short story below, we’ve identified the appropriations subcommittees that will consider these programs. The members of these subcommittees are listed here by state and district. Check to see where your representative and your senators serve. Now you know how to focus your message.

If no one from your delegation is on any of the relevant committees, write to them anyway about putting people first. They’ll all have to vote on each of the bills coming out of these subcommittees – so everyone’s vote will make a difference.

Short Stories on the Budget:

Update Tribal Sovereignty and Governance 

A Budget Short Story

Among the many twists and turns in federal policy toward Indian nations, the federal government turned away from its termination and relocation policies and, in the 1970s, began taking steps to strengthen and respect tribal self-governance. Now the U.S. needs to commit to the budget implications of that policy.

Update Economic Development in Indian Country 

A Budget Short Story

Economic development involves partnerships. Tribal leaders call on the federal government to join tribes at the table where they are forming economic development partnerships with state, local and private investors.

Update Indian Schools and Indian Education 

A Budget Short Story

The state of Indian education tells the story about the future of Indian nations. After years of abandonment, the federal government has begun to invest in infrastructure, teaching, language programs and other assets to convey and build hope and promise among Native youth. What's the story now?

Update Indian Housing 

A Budget Short Story

The construction of housing in Indian Country has been so hampered by lack of funding and regulatory complexities that the need now seriously outstrips the demand. The Department of Housing and Urban Development found a need for 68,000 units to match current needs related to dilapidated and overcrowded housing on tribal lands.

Update Indian Health Care 

A Budget Short Story

Congress learned, in numerous hearings in the last two years, that short staffing, lack of housing for professional staff, short funding for equipment, buildings, and even basic utilities have added up over the years to an Indian Health Care system that is close to failure in some areas. Yet the need for local, accessible and culturally knowledgeable care is strong as ever. How will this budget respond?

Update Roads on Tribal Lands 

A Budget Short Story

In Indian Country - 160,000 miles of roads. Miles owned by the BIA - 29,000. Miles of BIA roads in "acceptable" condition -- less than 5000.

Update Tribal Justice  

A Budget Short Story

Amendments to the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) pointed to a bigger role for tribal police, courts and social agencies. Many of these agencies needed - and continue to need - technical assistance, coordination and backup from federal sources - in the Justice Department.

Source Note: These short stories compare the appropriations proposed in the President’s Fiscal Year 2018 Budget with appropriations passed by Congress in the Fiscal Year 2017 Consolidated Appropriations Act. For the exceptionally curious, a spreadsheet is available here.