Blog Posts Related to the Native American Community

  • Making Progress for Indian Country

    Working to fulfill President Obama’s commitment to create jobs and improve the quality of life for Native American communities, the Department of the Interior and the Bureau of Reclamation are working to provide safe and reliable water supplies across Indian Country as we aggressively implement an unprecedented number of Indian water rights settlements. To achieve the goals we have with our Tribal partners, major water infrastructure is being developed with the potential to create thousands of jobs throughout the development and construction of these important projects.

    Since our first days in office, the Obama Administration has been strongly supportive of Indian water rights settlements. With the leadership of Interior Secretary Ken Salazar, we have supported resolution of the Navajo-San Juan River claims in New Mexico, endorsed a settlement for the Duck Valley Reservation in Nevada and Idaho, and worked to enact four new settlements at the end of last year as part of the Claims Resolution Act of 2010.  This support for Indian water rights settlements is unprecedented – six settlements in the last two years – but we also recognize that there is a lot more work to do.

    Secretary Salazar meets with members of the Crow Nation

    In July, Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar met with more than 200 members of the Crow Nation to celebrate the Crow Tribe Water Rights Settlement. The pact will bring more than $460 million to the reservation to ensure safe drinking water and rehabilitate the Tribe’s irrigation project. (Photo from DOI by Tami Heilemann)

  • The American Jobs Act and Indian Country

    While the current economic crisis has challenged all Americans, we know this to be especially true for Indian Country where some reservations face unemployment rates of up to 80%.  Though the economic challenges of Indian Country are significant, President Obama is committed to forging a brighter future with tribes by identifying and developing long-term solutions that will help break the generational history of unemployment in Indian Country.  

    Last night, the President announced the American Jobs Act, a jobs and growth plan that reflects a commitment to increasing access to jobs for all Americans. With unemployment among Native Americans at an unacceptably high rate, the President believes that inaction is not an option. That’s why the President has put out a plan to increase the pace of job creation, and why he has called on Congress to act on this plan.  The American Jobs Act will make a difference in Indian Country.  For example:

    • Tax cuts to benefit over 20,000 Native American-owned small businesses.  The President is proposing tax cuts that will go to every small business nationwide, providing incentives to hire and make new investments.
    • An estimated 1.5 million Native American workers will benefit from the extension of the payroll tax cut. By extending the payroll tax cut for employees next year, the President’s plan will help increase the paychecks of 1.5 million Native American workers – providing them with more money to spend in their communities and support their families.
    • The extension of unemployment insurance will benefit Native Americans and their families, while providing targeted support for the long-term unemployed.  In addition to extending unemployment insurance, the President is calling for reforms and tax incentives that will help the long-term unemployed – including the disproportionately high rate of Native Americans who have been looking for work for more than six months – find a job. 
    • “Pathways Back to Work” will support subsidized jobs and summer/year-round jobs for low-income Native American youth and adults. In an environment with an unacceptably high unemployment rate for Native American youths, the President is proposing to build on successful programs like those used in the Recovery Act to create jobs for those hardest-hit by the recession.
    • A commitment to rebuilding and revitalizing communities across the country will target investments to the communities hardest-hit by the recession. The President’s investments in infrastructure include a school construction initiative that will provide $125 million for schools funded by the Bureau of Indian Education and $12.5 million for tribal colleges, and a new initiative to expand infrastructure employment opportunities for minorities, women, and socially and economically disadvantaged individuals, including Native Americans.

  • Treasury Announces Awards to Benefit Low-Income and Distressed Native Communities

    Ed. Note: Cross-posted from Treasury Notes, the Department of the Treasury blog.

    Building upon last month’s announcement of $142 million in awards for distressed communities – the single largest round of awards in the Community Development Financial Institutions (CDFI) Fund’s history – yesterday, I had the privilege of meeting with a national gathering of Native CDFIs in Honolulu, HI where I announced an additional $11.85 million in awards expressly for financial institutions serving Native American, Alaska Native and Native Hawaiian communities.

    That money, made under the fiscal year 2011 round of Treasury’s Native American CDFI Assistance Program (NACA Program), will go to 35 organizations with a primary mission of serving low-income and distressed Native communities in 17 states (pdf), the majority of them in rural areas.  Of the 35, seven organizations serving Native Hawaiian communities will receive awards that will allow them to increase lending services, start new microloan programs and increase their capacity to serve their target markets.

  • A Step Toward better Housing and Economic Development in Indian Country

    Ed. Note: Cross-posted from The HUDdle.

    I was in Albuquerque yesterday to announce $28 million in HUD funding to help rural communities across the country tackle their toughest housing and poverty challenges. I was joined by tribal leaders in New Mexico as I shared that more than half of the funds, $15.6 million, went to 27 Native American tribes or communities across the nation.

    I’m not surprised there was a strong showing of communities in Indian Country finding innovative solutions to address some of our most difficult challenges. Economic development is particularly crucial in Native American communities.

    The Rural Innovation Fund Grants promote an entrepreneurial approach to addressing affordable housing and economic development in rural areas – and at the heart of this movement are Native American tribes and leaders. The grants will lead to nearly 800 new homes and more than 650 jobs nationwide, and leverage an extra $18 million in investments. We know each tribe and American Indian community is different, facing different challenges and opportunities. That is why the new Rural Innovation Fund offers flexible resources that allow communities to address either housing or economic development needs, or both.

  • The American Family of Governments, Working Together to Strengthen America’s Economy

    From Jefferson Keel, the current President of the National Congress of American Indians and the Lt. Governor of the Chickasaw Nation, on his experience participating in the White House Rural Economic Forum in Iowa:

    Like so many of our rural neighbors, American Indian and Alaska Native communities have felt the burden of our nation’s economic challenges. In fact tribal nations have known hardship like this for too long.  That is why the efforts of the White House to find economic development solutions for Indian Countryhave been so important to tribal leaders and entrepreneurs.  It’s also the reason I accepted the invitation to join other rural leaders in Iowa to have an important conversation with President Obama and Secretaries Vilsack, Salazar, Donovan, and LaHood about the economic viability of our country, including our tribal nations.  The discussions with the President and Secretaries were constructive and encouraging.

    The White House Rural Council, established this past June, is a flagship effort that shows President Obama is serious about building a strong economic future for all Americans. The fact that tribes have a seat at the table as rural policy is considered is a reflection of a commitment to the nation-to-nation relationship that began even before the President took office. It is a commitment that acknowledges the need to address the challenges tribes face and sees the innovation tribal nations offer to build a stronger America.

    Native people are America’s most rural population and tribal lands consist of over five percent of the nation’s land base (an area that would make Indian Country the nation’s fourth largest state). While many of our communities are among the poorest in the country and unemployment rates in Indian Country often stand above 50 percent, tribes are leading the way in developing and implementing innovative policy.

  • Native American Business Leaders Share Their Ideas on Economic Growth with Senior Administration Officials

    Recently, I wrote about the Obama Administration’s commitment to collaborate with tribal leaders and experts in Native American economic development to help the White House Rural Council to develop policy recommendations on issues impacting Indian Country.

    Last week, the Domestic Policy Council and National Economic Council convened a meeting with Native American economic development experts for a White House Native American Business Leaders Roundtable. As part of the White House Rural Council’s ongoing engagement with leaders from across Rural America, this roundtable gave Administration officials an opportunity to hear from Native American business leaders and policy experts about ways we can work together to improve economic conditions and create jobs in tribal communities.

    At the listening session, participants discussed challenges tribal businesses face, including access to capital, job skills and training shortfalls, and limited broadband deployment and adoption in tribal communities.  Meeting participants included David Gipp, the president of the United Tribes Technical College for the past three decades; Valerie Fast Horse, who has led efforts to bring wireless Internet service to the Coeur d’Alene Indian Reservation and is now working on a $12.2 million project to provide faster Internet service through fiber optic connections; and Jackie Johnson Pata, executive director of the National Congress of American Indians (NCAI), who worked on Indian Country economic development as Deputy Assistant Secretary for HUD’s Office of Native American Programs during the Clinton Administration and now coordinates NCAI’s federal policy advocacy on behalf of tribal governments.  Participants were asked to provide suggestions and insight on potential near-term administrative actions to foster economic growth and community development in Indian Country.

  • Strengthening Our Commitment to Indian Country

    Ed. Note: Cross-posted from The Justice Blog.

    Today marks the one year anniversary of the Tribal Law & Order Act (TLOA), an historic piece of legislation signed into law by President Obama on July 29, 2010. That anniversary represents an important moment to reflect on the work that has been done to address the crisis of the public safety in tribal communities and to recognize how much work remains to be done.

    To offer just a snapshot of what’s at stake, studies show that nearly three out of five Native American women had been assaulted by their spouses or intimate partners and one third of all American Indian women will be raped during their lifetimes. We also know that, on some reservations, Native women are murdered at a rate more than ten times the national average. Tribal leaders, police officers, and prosecutors tell us of an all-too-familiar pattern of escalating violence that goes unaddressed, with beating after beating, each more severe than the last, ultimately leading to death or severe physical injury.

    With these sobering statistics in mind, soon after he came into office, Attorney General Eric Holder identified building and sustaining safe and secure tribal communities as one of the Department of Justice’s top priorities—in line with his key goals of addressing violent crime and protecting our nation’s most vulnerable. In June of 2009, the Department launched a wide-ranging initiative to strengthen public safety in Indian Country. Since that time, the Department has taken a number of steps to deepen its commitment to tribal communities and to develop more effective partnership with tribal leaders, police, prosecutors, courts, and advocates to combat crime in tribal communities.

  • Celebrating the One Year Anniversary of the Tribal Law and Order Act

    President Obama and the Native American Community

    President Barack Obama greets Lisa Marie Iyotte in the Blue Room of the White House prior to signing the Tribal Law and Order bill signing ceremony, July 29, 2010. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

    This week marks the one-year anniversary of the enactment of the Tribal Law and Order Act (TLOA), a comprehensive law that is improving the federal government’s ability to work with Indian tribes in the investigation and prosecution of crime impacting tribal communities.  President Obama was proud to sign the TLOA, as it fills key gaps in our criminal justice system that for far too long were not addressed. 

    Lisa Iyotte, a Lakota woman, a survivor, shared her personal story of her brutal rape that occurred in her home on a reservation as her young daughters watched.  The man who raped her was never prosecuted for his crimes against her.  During her introduction of President Obama at the TLOA signing ceremony, she said, “if the Tribal Law and Order Act had existed 16 years ago, my story would be very different.”  As President Obama put it, “when one in three Native American women will be raped in their lifetimes, that is an assault on our national conscience; it is an affront to our shared humanity; it is something that we cannot allow to continue.”

    TLOA helps us better address public safety in tribal communities.  Specifically, TLOA gives tribes greater sentencing authority, improves defendant’s rights, establishes new guidelines and training for officers handling domestic violence and sex crimes, strengthens services to victims, helps combat alcohol and drug abuse and helps at-risk youth, expands recruitment and retention of Bureau of Indian Affairs and tribal officers and gives them better access to criminal databases.