Blog Posts Related to the Native American Community

  • Getting It Right for Indian Country

    Ed. note: This is cross-posted from the FEMA Blog

    When you're tackling a new and challenging topic, starting from a solid foundation is crucial to success. Right now, there is an opportunity to change how the federal government provides disaster assistance and we’re looking for tribal leaders to help set a solid foundation for those changes.

    When President Obama signed into law the Sandy Recovery Improvement Act of 2013, he amended the Stafford Act to recognize the sovereignty of tribal governments, and this was a big step in the right direction to better meet the unique needs of Indian Country after disasters. However, there's still work to be done to shape disaster assistance programs and processes most effectively. That's where we are now -- we are consulting with tribal governments, tribal leaders, and tribal stakeholders to consider changes to a range of federal disaster assistance processes and topics:

    • Input on the major disaster declaration process,
    • Criteria to declare a major disaster,
    • Program delivery, and
    • The unique aspects of Indian culture that might not be currently considered by the rules.

    I encourage our tribal partners to join us in developing rules through consultation. You’re invited to join a series of upcoming tribal consultation calls, provide ideas to FEMA’s online collaboration community, or send an e-mail to tribalconsultation@fema.dhs.gov. Now is a great time to make sure the unique needs of Indian Country are considered throughout the federal disaster assistance process.

    Why are we looking for input from the community? Up to this point, FEMA has established rules around the disaster declaration process, assistance programs, and other aspects of federal assistance to meet the needs of state governments and individuals in those states. Now, with the recent amendment to the Stafford Act, we have an opportunity to change those rules with regards to the sovereignty of tribal nations.

    In a little more than two months since the Sandy Recovery Improvement Act became law, the President has already signed two disaster declarations directly for Indian Country. The new changes have already resulted in federal disaster assistance going directly to tribal communities.

    But there’s still much to be done. That's why we're having these consultation calls, gathering feedback online, and asking for e-mails. Once the consultation concludes, FEMA will draft proposed rules. Learn more about how to join this discussion by visiting FEMA’s online collaboration community, or send us an e-mail at tribalconsultation@fema.dhs.gov

    Craig Fugate is the Administrator of FEMA.

  • ACHP Adopts Plan to Support the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples

    The Advisory Council on Historic Preservation (ACHP) formally endorsed a plan to support the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples at its winter business meeting on March 1, 2013.

    I believe this is an opportunity to promote better stewardship and protection of Native American historic properties and sacred sites and in doing so helps to ensure the survival of indigenous cultures. The Declaration reinforces the ACHP’s policies and goals as contained in our Native American initiatives including the Traditional Cultural Landscapes Action Plan and our participation in the interagency memorandum of understanding on the protection of sacred sites as well as in our oversight of the Section 106 review process.

    The plan calls for the ACHP to raise awareness about the Declaration within the preservation community; post information about the Declaration on its Web site; develop guidance on the intersection of the Declaration with the Section 106 process; reach out to the archaeological community about the Declaration and the conduct of archaeology in the United States; and generally integrate the Declaration into its initiatives.

    The ACHP oversees the Section 106 review process which requires federal agencies to take into account the impacts of their actions on historic properties. In carrying out the Section 106 process, federal agencies are required to consult with Indian tribes, Alaska Natives, and Native Hawaiian organizations when historic properties of religious and cultural significance to them may be affected. The ACHP has an Office of Native American Affairs that provides assistance to federal agencies, Indian tribes, Alaska Natives, and Native Hawaiian organizations and others. The ACHP, among many other efforts, has also published extensive guidance regarding tribal and Native Hawaiian consultation. See the ACHP's Declaration Plan.

    Milford Wayne Donaldson is the Chairman of the Advisory Council on Historic Preservation

  • Achieving a Brighter Future for Tribal Nations

    On December 5, 2012, tribal leaders from across the country convened in Washington, D.C. for the fourth consecutive White House Tribal Nations Conference. President Obama has hosted the event each year of his presidency, affirming his commitment to strengthen the government to government relationship with tribes. The President delivered the keynote address at the Conference, which also featured remarks by senior Administration officials. Today we are releasing the synopsis of the 2012 Conference.

    The Conference featured five break-out sessions, connecting tribal leaders and federal agency officials in focused areas of Indian Country priorities. The “Synopsis of the 2012 White House Tribal Nations Conference” reflects the concerns and feedback provided by tribal leaders in each break-out session. The break-out session topics included:

    1. Protecting Our Communities: Law Enforcement and Disaster Relief
    2. Strengthening and Advancing the Government-to-Government Relationship
    3. Strengthening Tribal Communities: Economic Development, Housing, Energy and Infrastructure
    4. Securing Our Future: Cultural Protection, Natural Resources and Environmental Protection
    5. Healthy Communities, Excellence in Education and Native American Youth

    Prior to the Conference, we released the 2012 White House Tribal Nations Conference Progress Report. The Report compiles some of the President’s key accomplishments for Indian Country. These accomplishments include signing the HEARTH Act to streamline the process for tribes to manage their land independently, continuing implementation of the Tribal Law and Order Act by providing critical resources to tribal law enforcement and expanding educational opportunities for Native youth with grants through the State-Tribal Education Partnership (STEP) program.

    The President and his Administration will continue to partner with tribes to accomplish the priorities laid out by leaders at the Tribal Nations Conference. President Obama is proud to have achieved two of those priorities in the first two months of 2013. First, in January, President Obama signed a bill that included an amendment to the Stafford Act allowing tribes to make direct applications for emergency relief, just as state governments do. Second, just in the past few weeks, the President signed into law a reauthorization of the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA), which includes new protections for Native American women. As President Obama said before signing VAWA, “Tribal governments have an inherent right to protect their people, and all women deserve the right to live free from fear.

    While much progress has been made, the President recognizes that works remains, including a legislative Carcieri fix, increased energy development on tribal lands and expanded economic and education opportunities for Native American communities. In pursuing each of these priorities, the President and his Administration are committed to working with tribal leaders in, what the President called, “a true and lasting government-to-government relationship."

    Jodi Gillette is Senior Policy Advisor for Native American Affairs, White House Domestic Policy Council.

  • President Signs 2013 VAWA – Empowering Tribes to Protect Native Women

    Today, President Obama signed into law the Violence Against Women Reauthorization Act of 2013. This Act strengthens the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) with increased protections for Native American women and other victims previously left vulnerable by gaps in the law. During the signing ceremony the President emphasized, “Tribal governments have an inherent right to protect their people, and all women deserve the right to live free from fear. And that is what today is all about.

    Making Native American communities safer and more secure has been a steadfast priority of the Obama Administration. Currently, Native American women are more than twice as likely to be victims of domestic violence as non-Native women. A recent Centers for Disease Control and Prevention study found that 46% of Native American women have experienced rape, physical violence, and/or stalking by a partner in their lifetime. One regional survey conducted by University of Oklahoma researchers showed that nearly three out of five Native American women had been assaulted by their spouses or intimate partners. Tribal leaders tell us the actual rates of victimization may be even higher, since the justice system’s failure to adequately respond leaves many Native American victims unable to safely come forward with their stories.

    In July 2010, President Obama signed the Tribal Law and Order Act (TLOA), which provided for enhanced sentencing by tribal courts. Upon signing the TLOA, the President stated that the prevalence of violence against Native American women remains “an assault on our national conscience” that “we cannot allow to continue.”  The tribal provisions included in the reauthorization of VAWA give tribes important new tools to help address this problem.

    Tribal governments — police, prosecutors, and courts — are essential to the response to these crimes, but have long lacked the authority to address them effectively.  Prior to TLOA’s enactment, no matter how violent the offense, tribal courts could sentence Indian offenders to only one year in prison. Even worse, since a U.S. Supreme Court decision in 1978, tribal courts have had no authority to prosecute a non-Indian who commits domestic violence, even if he lives on the reservation, works for the tribe, and is married to a tribal member.

    Not surprisingly, abusers who are not arrested are more likely to repeat, and escalate, their attacks. Research shows that law enforcement’s failure to arrest and prosecute abusers both emboldens attackers and deters victims from reporting future incidents. In short, the jurisdictional framework in Indian country has left many serious acts of domestic violence and dating violence unprosecuted and unpunished. The reauthorization of VAWA signed by President Obama will empower Indian tribes to protect all Native American women in Indian country, at long last.

    Following up on countless reports from Native women and tribal leaders, the Administration, led by the Department of Justice, consulted formally with the tribes and then developed and submitted to Congress a proposal to address the jurisdictional barriers that have allowed crimes of domestic violence in Indian country to go unprosecuted. Because the Justice Department’s proposal was ultimately included in the VAWA reauthorization bill, tribes will now be able to prosecute non-Indian perpetrators of domestic violence against Native American women in Indian country. The new law also clarifies that tribal courts have full civil jurisdiction to provide Native American women the safety and security of protection orders. And the new law gives additional tools to federal prosecutors to combat severe cases of domestic violence.

    These provisions were included in the VAWA reauthorization along with other victims who face additional barriers to escaping violence. The strengthened VAWA reminds us that a victim is a victim, regardless of race, sexual orientation, gender identity, immigration status, or tribal affiliation, and all are worthy of protection. A broad coalition of advocates joined in championing those victims’ voices to Members of Congress. As active members in that coalition, tribal leaders and advocates worked with Senators and Representatives of both parties to ensure the victimization of Native American women did not fall victim itself to Washington politics. In the end, the bill passed with broad bipartisan support in both chambers of Congress.

    Passage of VAWA’s tribal provisions is a critical piece of the President’s larger agenda to make Indian country a safer, more prosperous place for the next generation of Native Americans. The Obama Administration looks forward to partnering with Indian tribes to implement all of the new provisions included in the VAWA reauthorization law.

    Jodi Gillette is the Senior Policy Advisor for Native American Affairs

    Charles Galbraith is an Associate Director in the Office of Intergovernmental Affairs

  • Protecting funds from the Cobell v. Salazar settlement

    Ed. note: This is cross-posted from the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau Blog

    Hundreds of thousands of Native Americans started getting the first payments last week as part of a long-awaited settlement with the federal government over its management as trustee of Individual Indian Money Accounts. The settlement, commonly known as Cobell v. Salazar, means the arrival of funds for Native Americans across the country. Cash payments like this can be a great opportunity for consumers to build up their assets—but we also anticipate scammers targeting settlement recipients, looking to separate these communities from their money.

    If you received money from the Cobell settlement, here are some simple steps you can take to protect your money:

    • Take your time. Beware of “opportunities” that force you to make a snap decision—high pressure “act now” offers are often used to keep you from understanding the true costs and risks of a product. Never sign anything without asking questions and understanding it first. If necessary, ask a trusted relative, friend, tribal official, or attorney for a second opinion before acting.
    • Pay off debt. If you took out a loan anticipating money from the settlement or use other expensive credit products, the settlement check is a good opportunity to pay down that debt.
    • Save. Consider using the settlement funds to start saving. People with savings are better prepared to handle financial emergencies—like a major car or home repair—and are less likely to rely on expensive debt.

    We also want to remind companies that are planning on doing business with Cobell recipients to conscientiously comply with all consumer protection laws. CFPB is charged with protecting consumers from unfair, deceptive, abusive, or discriminatory financial practices, which could impact Cobell recipients. The enforcement team will continue to be on the watch for scams and other harmful financial products that target Native Americans. Consumers and tribal leaders shouldn’t hesitate to let us know if they are seeing financial practices that are deceptive, unfair, abusive, or discriminatory.

    Report problems with payday loans, settlement anticipation loans, auto loans, or anything bought with credit. Submit a complaint online at consumerfinance.gov/complaint or call us at (855) 411-2372.

    You can also:

    If you think you’ve been scammed, report suspected fraud immediately. The longer you wait, the more difficult it could be to get your money back when appropriate.

    Responding to the Cobell settlement is one part of our broader ongoing collaboration with tribal governments and consumers across Indian Country. We’re excited about opportunities to advance consumer education and empowerment in tribal communities, carefully examine consumer protection concerns in Indian Country, and partner with tribal officials to prevent harmful practices targeting Native American consumers.

    Nick Rathod is the Assistant Director for Intergovernmental and International Affairs at the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. Kent Markus is the Assistant Director for the Office of Enforcement at the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau.

  • Looking back at the 2012 White House Tribal Nations Conference

    Ed. note: This is cross-posted from the DOI blog.

    For the fourth year in a row, President Obama invited leaders from all 566 federally recognized tribes to Washington, D.C. to participate in the White House Tribal Nations Conference.

    It has been my honor to host the conference at the Department of the Interior every year and to meet with so many dedicated, visionary leaders who are making a difference in Indian Country. I know how important this conference has become to give leaders an opportunity to speak directly with senior Administration officials, hear from the president himself, and discuss issues facing their communities.

    As we continue our important work to honor and strengthen our nation to nation relationship, the White House Tribal Nations Conference stands out for me as a special and meaningful day in 2012.

    Here’s a short video to give you a sense of what happened at the conference:

    Transcript available here.

    Click here for some photos from the opening and closing sessions, as well as some photos from the breakout sessions held with tribal leaders.

    Ken Salazar is the Secretary of the U.S. Department of the Interior

  • White House 2012 Tribal Nations Conference: Helping Indian Country Move Forward

    Editor's note: This is cross-posted from the Assitant Secretary of Indian Affairs' blog.

    On December 5, I had the tremendous honor and privilege of attending my first White House Tribal Nations Conference as the Assistant Secretary for Indian Affairs. The event was hosted by President Obama and Secretary Salazar at the Interior Department’s Sidney R. Yates Auditorium in Washington, D.C. It’s the fourth year in a row that the White House has provided tribal leaders this important opportunity to speak directly with officials at the highest levels of federal government, and hear from the president himself, about Indian Country issues. I was in listening mode, seeking their wisdom.

    Leaders from more than 300 federally recognized tribes attended the conference, and cabinet officials heard from them on a variety of important topics. In addition to Secretary Salazar, the leadership of the departments of Agriculture, Commerce, Education, Health and Human Services, Labor, Justice, Transportation, and Treasury, as well as the heads of the Environmental Protection Agency and the Small Business Administration, turned out to report to the tribal leaders on their efforts to help Indian Country move forward. Many others were in the audience, including several members of Congress.

    The White House coordinated breakout sessions with topics on “Strengthening Tribal Communities: Economic Development, Housing, Energy and Infrastructure,” “Protecting Our Communities: Law Enforcement and Disaster Relief,” “Securing Our Future: Cultural Protection, Natural Resources and Environmental Protection,” “Building Healthy Communities, Excellence in Education and Native American Youth,” and “Strengthening and Advancing the Government-to-Government Relationship” where tribal leaders could speak face-to-face with federal representatives about their peoples’ concerns and needs. Each session was well-attended (some with standing-room-only participation), and tribal leaders spoke frankly while federal officials listened, offered responses, and took notes.

  • Update on IHS Baby-Friendly Hospital Initiative

    Editor's note: This is cross-posted from the Indian Health Service Director's blog.

    The Rosebud IHS Service Unit has achieved designation as a Baby-Friendly® Hospital, which makes it the first hospital to achieve this designation in the Indian Health Service and in the state of South Dakota. This prestigious award is given to facilities that practice the Ten Steps to Successful Breastfeeding. Research shows that following the Ten Steps increases exclusive breastfeeding, and this helps to reduce obesity and diabetes in the population.

    Co-administered by the World Health Organization and the United Nations International Children's Emergency Fund, the Baby-Friendly Hospital Initiative is an evidence-based practice care model designed to protect and promote breastfeeding as the safest, healthiest way to nourish babies. Hospitals that achieve Baby-Friendly status are committed to promoting and protecting breastfeeding at all stages, including prenatal counseling, inpatient services, and community awareness. Core components of the initiative promote the benefits of breastfeeding, such as skin-to-skin contact between mom and infant, and non-separation of mother and infant.

    As a result of this initiative at Rosebud IHS Hospital, breastfeeding initiation rates are now consistently in the 90th percentile and exclusive breastfeeding rates have continued to climb.

    "The staff and providers at Rosebud have made this program a success, and their hard work and dedication to protecting breastfeeding is evident," says Clifton Kenon Jr., Maternal Child Health Program Manager for Aberdeen Area Indian Health Service.

    "Baby-Friendly at Rosebud is a reality because every single person made a commitment to making the program a success, which is an attribute we pride ourselves on at Rosebud," says Sophie Two Hawk, M.D., Chief Executive Officer at Rosebud Hospital.

    Rosebud's achievement started as a campaign to decrease childhood obesity, through the First Lady's "Let's Move in Indian Country" initiative. Our goal in the IHS Baby-Friendly Hospital Initiative is to have all 13 IHS hospitals with obstetric services achieve the designation.

    Please join us in congratulating Rosebud IHS Hospital for becoming one of the less than 5 percent of hospitals designated as Baby-Friendly in the U.S. Their work to promote breastfeeding will help improve the health of their community for generations to come.

    Dr. Yvette Roubideaux is the Indian Health Service Director at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services