Senators’ Bipartisan Legislation Enhances Tribal Self-Governance, Self-Determination
WASHINGTON – Senators John Hoeven (R-ND) and Tom Udall (D-NM), chairman and vice chairman of the Senate Committee on Indian Affairs, respectively, today announced the committee’s passage of their bipartisan PROGRESS for Indian Tribes Act (S. 2515). The legislation would amend the Indian Self-Determination and Education Assistance Act (ISDEAA) to streamline the Department of the Interior’s self-governance process and provide Indian tribes with greater flexibility to efficiently tailor, consolidate and administer federal programs.
“Promoting stronger tribal self-governance empowers Indian tribes and affirms the positive impact of local decision-making,” said Hoeven. “This legislation cuts red tape and brings greater certainty to the self-governance process. These key improvements will help ensure Indian tribes can efficiently and effectively administer federal programs to meet the unique needs of their communities.”
“Decisions made by Tribes for Tribes produce the best outcomes for their unique communities, and that’s why self-governance has been one of the most successful Indian policies in our nation’s history,” Udall said. “This important bipartisan bill will strengthen the core of Tribal sovereignty—the right to exercise self-determination and self-governance—by ensuring Tribal governments have the authority to tailor federal Indian programs to suit their own needs, while making welcome improvements to the self-governance process."
“The PROGRESS for Indian Tribes Act improves the Tribal Self-Governance program under the Self-Governance Act without cost to the Federal government and without change to its mandatory application to BIA programs and discretionary application to other Federal departments and agencies,” said Will Micklin, 2nd vice president of the Central Council of Tlingit and Haida Indian Tribes of Alaska and co-chair of the Tribal Self-Governance Title IV Task Force. “These administrative efficiencies have been proven successful by the Indian Health Service programs under a separate title for many years, while the limited reach of Federal programs subject to Self-Governance was carefully negotiated over the past several years.”
“Passage of the PROGRESS for Indian Tribes Act would represent a major milestone on the path towards Tribal Self-Governance and self-reliance,” said W. Ron Allen, tribal chairman/CEO of the Jamestown S’Klallam Tribe, chairman of the Department of the Interior Self-Governance Advisory Committee and co-chair of the Tribal Self-Governance Title IV Task Force. “The true import of these proposed amendments, however, cannot be understood without an appreciation of the unprecedented positive impact Self-Governance has had on Indian Tribes over the past 30 years. Self-Governance has proven to be one of the most successful options for Tribes to assume and manage programs, services, functions and activities at the local level that Congress has ever enacted for Indian people. While we have had our challenges to address, Self-Governance has given us the flexibility to provide services to our people in the most efficient and effective way possible. My deepest wish is that this Congress would enact a comprehensive package of amendments to Title IV.”
The ISDEAA intended to foster meaningful tribal control over federal Indian programs. Indian tribes have indicated that improvements to the ISDEAA would facilitate greater self-governance. The senators’ legislation provides clearer guidelines for compact negotiations and decision-making by the Secretary of the Interior, enhancing efficient tribal administration of federal Indian programs and services. Currently, there are over 270 tribes that participate in the Department of the Interior’s self-governance programs.
The committee unanimously voted to advance the bill, without amendment, to the full Senate.