Schumer and Udall: Senate Democrats Are Committed to Expanding Tribal Self-Determination

“Tribes and Senate Democrats agree: we must build on the successes of tribal self-determination by creating opportunities for further expansion of the Indian Self-Determination and Education Assistance Act”
Jul 27, 2018

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NEWS FROM THE UNITED STATES SENATE

 

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: July 23, 2018

 

Schumer and Udall: Senate Democrats Are Committed to Expanding Tribal Self-Determination

 

“Tribes and Senate Democrats agree: we must build on the successes of tribal self-determination by creating opportunities for further expansion of the Indian Self-Determination and Education Assistance Act”

 

Last week, the Democratic Steering and Oversight Committee convened a meeting between tribal leaders and Senate Democrats

 

WASHINGTON – Today, U.S. Senator Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.), Senate Democratic Leader, and U.S. Senator Tom Udall (D-N.M.), vice chairman of the Senate Committee on Indian Affairs, penned a joint op-ed on Indianz.com about Senate Democrats’ commitment to expanding tribal self-determination and fulfilling the federal government’s trust and treaty obligations to Indian Country.  

 

“Certainly, through our work in the Senate with tribal leaders, we understand that what may work well for the Seneca Nation in New York may not work as well for the Pueblos of New Mexico -- or for any other federally-recognized tribe to which the United States has a treaty and trust responsibility to provide federal programs and services,” Schumer and Udall wrote. “That is why the policy of tribal self-determination stands as one of the most successful federal Indian policies in our nation’s history. At its core, tribal self-determination recognizes that tribes have the right to govern themselves and that decisions made for Indians by Indians produce the best outcomes for the unique needs, cultures, and beliefs of their communities. Tribes and Senate Democrats agree: we must build on the successes of tribal self-determination by creating opportunities for further expansion of the Indian Self-Determination and Education Assistance Act (ISDEAA).”

 

Last week, the Democratic Steering and Oversight Committee convened a meeting between tribal leaders and Senate Democrats to discuss Indian Country’s legislative priorities.

 

Read Schumer and Udall’s full op-ed below or HERE

 

Senate Democrats: Committed to Expanding Tribal Self-Determination

By Sen. Tom Udall (D-New Mexico) and Sen. Charles Schumer (D-New York)

 

Last week, the Democratic Steering and Oversight Committee convened a meeting between tribal leaders and Senate Democrats to discuss Indian Country’s legislative priorities. Tribal leaders and advocates underscored two overarching points throughout their comments:

 

1. Congress must uphold federal treaty and trust responsibilities to Tribes by ensuring that Native communities have access to federal resources.

2. Taking a “one size fits all” approach to developing legislation that impacts tribes does not work.

 

These points served as an important reminder that Congress must remain committed and attentive to fulfilling the United States’ obligations to Indian Country.

 

Certainly, through our work in the Senate with Tribal Leaders, we understand that what may work well for the Seneca Nation in New York may not work as well for the Pueblos of New Mexico -- or for any other federally-recognized Tribe to which the United States has a treaty and trust responsibility to provide federal programs and services.

 

That is why the policy of tribal self-determination stands as one of the most successful federal Indian policies in our nation’s history. At its core, tribal self-determination recognizes that tribes have the right to govern themselves and that decisions made for Indians by Indians produce the best outcomes for the unique needs, cultures, and beliefs of their communities. Tribes and Senate Democrats agree: we must build on the successes of tribal self-determination by creating opportunities for further expansion of the Indian Self-Determination and Education Assistance Act (ISDEAA, Pub. L. 93-638).

 

Passed by Congress in 1975 and expanded several times since, the ISDEAA authorizes the Secretaries of the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) and Department of the Interior (DOI) to transfer administrative control of certain federal programs – established for Indian Tribes in fulfillment of federal trust responsibilities – to Tribes through contracts and compacts, known as “638” contracts and self-governance compacts. Initially limited in scope to the HHS Indian Health Services and DOI Bureau of Indian Affairs, Congress amended ISDEAA to expand “638” contracting and compacting authority to additional DOI and HHS agencies and to the Secretary of the Department of Transportation.

 

ISDEAA signaled an historic end to decades of disastrous federal policies aimed at terminating the federal trust relationship and dismantling tribal governments. It ushered in a modern era of Indian Affairs policy that respects and honors the government-to-government relationship that exists between the U.S. and Tribes, recognizes the inherent sovereignty of tribal self-rule, and provides Tribes with the flexibility to adapt federal programs to suit their own communities’ needs. No other law has proven more effective than the framework originally set out in the ISDEAA.

 

In each of our roles—Vice Chairman of the Committee on Indian Affairs and Democratic Leader—we are committed to fulfilling the U.S Government’s trust responsibility to Indian Tribes and will consult with tribes to develop legislation that extends “638” contracting authority to additional federal programs that benefit American Indians and Alaska Natives.

 

Earlier this year, we sent a letter to our Republican counterparts that requested swift consideration of bills important to Indian Country – including, the PROGRESS for Indian Tribes Act (S. 2515), which would create consistency and build efficiencies for tribes that operate both DOI and HHS self-governance programs. Since then, we have also joined our Democratic colleagues to push for expansion of “638” contracting to programs at the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) as part of the Farm Bill Reauthorization – a successful effort that saw the Senate Farm Bill package include the first ever authorization of a self-determination demonstration program at USDA.

 

With the self-determination door open at USDA, we will continue working with Tribes to push for even greater self-determination authority at the Department. We will engage with the Secretary of Agriculture, our Republican counterparts, and other stakeholders to look for a path forward on “638” contracting authority of key USDA Forest Service and Food Service programs –priorities for Tribes across the country that want to improve resource management and address food insecurity in their communities.

 

As self-determination expands across federal agencies, inter-agency coordination will be critical to its success. That is why we strongly believe the federal government would benefit from the establishment of a Federal-Tribal Council, which would be responsible for identifying best practices, working to implement ISDEAA at new agencies, and ensuring that tribes are meaningfully consulted throughout the entire implementation process. We envision the Council would also inform Congress’s work in support of tribal self-determination by identifying additional programs on an annual basis for expansion of “638” contracting authority.

 

The legacy of bipartisan cooperation is woven into the history of ISDEAA, so we urge all Senators to join us in advancing these important ideals. In the meantime, we will continue working hand-in-hand with Indian Country to expand tribal self-determination under ISDEAA. And, above all, we will hold fast to the principles of tribal sovereignty, self-determination, and meaningful consultation in our work in the Senate.

 

Sen. Tom Udall, Democrat from New Mexico, serves as vice chairman of the Senate Committee on Indian Affairs in the 115th Congress. Sen. Charles Schumer, Democrat from New York, is the Democratic leader in the Senate.

 

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Contacts: Ned Adriance (Udall) 202.228.6870 / Matt House (Schumer), press@schumer.senate.gov