March 12, 2012

Senate Committee on Indian Affairs Hearing Examines the President’s Budget

Washington D.C. –
U.S. Senator Daniel K. Akaka (D-Hawaii), Chairman of the Senate Committee on Indian Affairs, held an oversight hearing on the President’s proposed Fiscal Year 2013 Budget for Native Programs.
The Committee heard testimony from Larry Echo Hawk, Assistant Secretary for the Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA); Yvette Roubideaux, the Director of Indian Health Service (IHS); and from representatives of the National Congress of American Indians, the Affiliated Tribes of Northwest Indians, the United South and Eastern Tribes Incorporated (USET), and the Great Plains Tribal Chairman’s Association.
“The testimony we heard today makes it evident that the President’s budget request for Native programs reflects a concerted effort to fulfill our federal government’s trust responsibility to its indigenous people,” said Chairman Akaka. “However, witnesses voiced significant concerns about the potential impacts that streamlining, sequestration, and balancing the budget could have on that responsibility
“This trust responsibility is especially important to remember if the sequester occurs at the beginning of 2013, which would require across-the-board cuts to the majority of programs carried out by government agencies. This could have a devastating effect on tribal programs — which are too often underfunded even in prosperous times.
“As it is, the average Native American’s life expectancy is five years shorter than any other race, suicide rates are nearly double that of their counterparts, and only thirteen percent of young Native adults earn an undergraduate degree. Cutting programs designed to help Native youth succeed will endanger their futures and dishonor our trust responsibility.”
Assistant Secretary Echo Hawk said, “The 2013 budget focuses on core responsibilities to Native Americans through programs and services that are vital to Indian Country and that benefit the greatest number of Indian people on a nationwide basis. Like he did for FY 2012, President Obama’s FY 2013 budget proposal includes Carcieri fix language signaling his strong support for a legislative solution to resolve this issue.”
In the Carcieri v. Salazar decision, the Supreme Court reversed 75 years of policy and practice. The Indian Reorganization Act (IRA) of 1934 authorized the Secretary of the Interior to take lands into trust for federally recognized tribes. The court threw all tribes into a tailspin of uncertainty by ruling that the Secretary did not have the authority to take land into trust for tribes that were not considered “under federal jurisdiction” when the IRA was enacted. The court did not define “under federal jurisdiction,” and in 1934 no official list of federally recognized tribes existed.
“In making this recommendation, the President acknowledges the unique trust responsibility that exists between the United States and tribal governments. Righting this wrong will cost taxpayers nothing and would instead create jobs and bring new economic development opportunities to Indian Country and surrounding communities,” said Chairman Akaka.
More information and an archived webcast is available on the committee’s website:
Contact: Emily Deimel
Contact Phone: 202-224-3667
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