WASHINGTON – Senators John Hoeven (R-ND) and Tom Udall (D-NM), chairman and vice chairman of the Senate Committee on Indian Affairs, respectively, yesterday introduced bipartisan legislation to improve the Indian Self-Determination and Education Assistance Act (ISDEAA) and promote stronger tribal self-governance.
The Practical Reforms and Other Goals to Reinforce the Effectiveness of Self-Governance and Self-Determination (PROGRESS) for Indian Tribes Act (S. 2515) would 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 for their communities. The legislation is also co-sponsored by Senators John Barrasso (R-WY) and Lisa Murkowski (R-AK).
“Self-governance empowers Indian tribes by reducing bureaucracy, promoting local decision-making and ultimately strengthening programs to better serve tribal communities,” said Hoeven. “This legislation builds on the foundation of successful tribal self-governance policy and makes key improvements to enhance efficient tribal administration of federal programs and services.”
“Tribal self-governance has been one of the most successful Indian policies in our nation’s history, demonstrating that decisions made by Tribes for Tribes produce the best outcomes for their unique needs, cultures, and beliefs,” Udall said. “This important bipartisan bill strengthens the core of Tribal sovereignty—the right to exercise self-determination and self-governance—by enhancing Tribal authorities to tailor federal Indian programs to suit their own communities’ needs, while also improving efficiencies in the self-governance process.”
The ISDEAA is intended to foster meaningful tribal control over federal Indian programs. Indian tribes have indicated that improvements to the ISDEAA would facilitate greater self-governance and provide clearer guidelines for compact negotiations and decision-making by the Secretary of the Interior. The senators’ legislation would bring greater certainty to the self-governance process and help Indian tribes address the unique needs of their communities. Currently, there are over 270 tribes that participate in the Department of the Interior’s self-governance programs.
The bill text can be found here.
Specifically, the PROGRESS for Indian Tribes Act would:
Promote local control and administration of federal Indian programs under the Department of the Interior.
Require certain provisions, such as auditing principles, be included in compacts.
Clarify requirements for secretarial reassumption of programs, final offers in negotiating compacts and responsibilities in carrying out construction programs.
Set forth requirements for participating in tribal negotiated rule-making.
Allow tribes to reallocate funds during the fiscal year and carry over unexpended funds into the next fiscal year.
Promote accountability by maintaining that Indian tribes must demonstrate a high level of responsible governance and administration.
Clarify that the bill does not affect provisions of water settlements and their authorizing legislation; state responsibility or authority to regulate fish and wildlife; federal law protecting fish or wildlife or tribal treaty-reserved rights or other rights.
Clarify that the bill does not expand or limit the Secretary of the Interior’s authority for non-Bureau of Indian Affairs programs held the day before its enactment.