For Immediate Release
April 11, 2019
Contact: Ned Adriance
202.228.6870 | email@example.com| @SenatorTomUdall
VIDEO: Udall Examines Federal Resources Available to Tribes to Promote Community and Economic Development
Questions Assistant Secretary for Indian Affairs on administration’s proposed budget cuts to vital Indian Country programs
WASHINGTON – U.S. Senator Tom Udall (D-N.M.), vice chairman of the Senate Committee on Indian Affairs, led a committee oversight hearing entitled “Building out Indian Country: Tools for Community Development.” The committee heard from Department of the Interior’s (DOI) Assistant Secretary for Indian Affairs Tara Sweeney, Acoma Pueblo 1st Lieutenant Governor and Indian Pueblo Cultural Center Board Member Mark Thompson,Department of Treasury’s Community Development Financial Institutions Fund, Commerce Department’s Minority Business Development Agency, and Department of Agriculture’s Rural Development.
“Whether it’s access to financial capital or reliable infrastructure such as housing, water and sewer systems, roads and bridges, it’s no secret that Native communities face ongoing – and often unique – challenges when it comes to growing business development opportunities. The federal agencies represented here today all have programs aimed at easing these challenges for Tribes and Native business owners. However, these agencies must also ensure that Tribes are getting the resources they need and the technical assistance they deserve to use the programs effectively,” Udall said in his opening statement.
Udall has led numerous efforts in Congress to provide Tribes access to resources for community and economic development. This Congress, Udall reintroduced S. 294, the Native American Business Incubators Program Act, to establish and maintain business incubators that serve Native entrepreneurs and Tribal communities.
“My bill promotes investor confidence while also filling a critical gap for Native entrepreneurs, who not only need access to workspace and opportunities to build professional networks, but also access to community expertise, particularly as it applies to doing business on trust lands,” said Udall.
During questioning, Udall highlighted the success of DOI’s Indian Loan Guarantee Program administered by the Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA), which has distributed $1.6 billion across Indian Country since its creation.
“The loan guarantee program has long been essential to the success of Native borrowers, including Picuris Pueblo, which used the program to build the Hotel Santa Fe, and the Indian Pueblo Cultural Center, which used the program to build a convenience store, a coffee shop, and a world-class museum that educates visitors about the history and culture of New Mexico’s Pueblos. Yet, despite these and many other success stories, the President has proposed eliminating this loan guarantee program in his FY 2020 budget,” said Udall.
Assistant Secretary Sweeney responded that the loan guarantee program is not part of Indian Affairs’ “core mission” and that, in any event, the program is “duplicative.”
Udall followed up with Sweeney on her statement, asking if she was aware of any other federal program that enables Tribes to use trust lands as collateral to secure financing for business development activities. She was unable to provide a response, so her deputy, David Johnston, confirmed for the committee that the Indian Loan Guarantee Program is the only federal program that enables Tribes to use Tribal lands as collateral.
Lieutenant Governor Thompson agreed that the loan guarantee program is unique, and added that the Indian Pueblo Cultural Center’s success is due in large part to the capital it was able to acquire through the DOI’s Program. He went on to recognize that BIA in particular has specialized knowledge to help tribes navigate the complexity of doing business on trust lands: “The Bureau of Indian Affairs [BIA] has local agencies that every tribe works with and those agencies have developed capacity and capability over decades to understand the nuances of doing business on Indian land . . . [this] capacity and capability is housed within the BIA through those agencies and through programs like the BIA loan guarantee program . . . nobody else does that . . . [T]his program works.”
Despite the clear need and overall success of the Indian Loan Guarantee Program, Udall urged the Assistant Secretary to fight for Indian Country’s budget priorities.
“Ms. Sweeney, we here at the committee believe your role is to advocate for Indian Country’s priorities before the President’s budget comes out, and we expect you to be outspoken about what’s working in Indian Country,” said Udall.
Udall expressed the importance of protecting Chaco Canyon from oil and gas development due to its cultural importance to Tribes in the Southwest. This week, Udall introduced legislation to protect the greater Chaco region. Late last year, Pueblo leaders met with BIA officials to discuss ways Tribes and the administration could work together to protect the Chaco Canyon area. The BIA invited the Tribes to submit a proposal for an ethnographic study of the region in order to incorporate Pueblo religious leaders’ knowledge of significant sites to guide responsible oil and gas development in the future. Udall asked for Sweeney’s assurance that she is involved in the ongoing discussions.
“As the highest ranking Tribal official in the administration, I’d like you to stay on top of this. It’s important that the Pueblos have a voice within the administration,” Udall concluded.