November 5th, 2015 Last Updated on: November 5th, 2015
Today, the White House will bring together tribal leaders from federally recognized tribes to participate in the 7th Annual White House Tribal Nations Conference. The President and members of his Cabinet will discuss issues of importance to tribal leaders, with an emphasis on ways the Administration can continue to make progress on improving the nation-to-nation relationship and ensure these gains continue in future Administrations. In addition, 24 youth delegates will participate in the Conference to share their unique perspective.
The White House Tribal Nations Conference builds on the President’s travel this year to Alaska and the Choctaw Nation in Oklahoma. During his recent visit to Alaska, the President met with tribal and community leaders in Anchorage to discuss ways to strengthen cooperation between the federal government and Alaska Native tribes, and announced the restoration of the Koyukon Athabascan name of Denali to the tallest mountain in North America, previously known as Mt. McKinley. The President also visited tribal communities in Dillingham and Kotzebue, where he announced new investments to combat climate change and assist remote tribal communities.
In July, the President traveled to the Choctaw Nation in Oklahoma where he launched ConnectHome, an initiative designed to make high-speed Internet more affordable to residents in low-income housing units across the country.
Under the President’s leadership, his Administration committed to improving coordination across the federal government to promote strategic and efficient programming for Indian Country. Through the White House Council on Native American Affairs, the Administration is reinforcing the message that the federal trust responsibility is held by the entire federal government. With this all-of-government approach, the Administration is developing cross-agency partnerships to promote information sharing and better leverage existing programs to promote meaningful outcomes for Indian Country.
Throughout the year, Native youth remained at the forefront of the Administration’s effort to fulfill our promises to tribal nations. The launch of the Generation Indigenous (Gen-I) initiative last December is a recognition that tribal communities thrive when their youth are safe and healthy, have access to a quality education, housing, and meaningful job opportunities, and can learn their native languages and cultures. In July, the White House hosted the first-ever Tribal Youth Gathering, bringing together over 1,000 Native youth representing 230 tribes from 42 states to engage with the Administration on these issues.
And through the Cabinet Native Youth Listening Tour, top administration officials traveled to Indian Country to engage with Native youth to identify challenges they face and potential solutions, including opportunities to bolster federal policies and programs that will help youth reach their potential. In the ten months since the tour began, eight Cabinet members and two members of the Subcabinet answered the call the engage with Native youth from twelve tribal communities across nine states. Today the President is pleased to announce the following measures to help promote Gen-I:
· Independent Support for Tribal My Brother’s Keeper Efforts. Casey Family Programs and PolicyLink will work together to provide in-depth technical assistance for all tribes who took the My Brother’s Keeper Community Challenge and are pursuing their own independent plans to ensure their young people can reach their full potential. Tribal leaders will come together with Casey Family Programs and PolicyLink to share their progress and helpful strategies for implementing their goals for the youth in their communities.
· Generation Indigenous 2015 Update Report. This report details the efforts to shine a spotlight on American Indian and Alaska Native youth, make targeted federal investments that will benefit them, increase public awareness of Native youth, and provide opportunities for Native youth to connect with each other.
The President is also pleased to announce the following advances and commitments in support of tribal nations:
ALL-OF-GOVERNMENT APPROACH TO INDIAN AFFAIRS
Central Website for Government Resources. Native One Stop is a central online location for American Indians and Alaska Natives to locate resources from 17 federal agencies, all of whom are Benefits.gov partners. The site includes over 100 different resources, including scholarships, vocational training, and loan repayment, from categories such as education, employment, environment, food, loans, and youth. American Indians and Alaska Natives may answer a series of questions on the site to determine eligibility for any of these resources. The number of resources is expected to grow in the coming months as the site continues to include additional programs from across the government.
Reducing Systemic Homelessness. The Departments of Interior (DOI), Labor (DOL), Veterans Affairs (VA), Health and Human Services, (HHS), Education (ED), Agriculture (USDA), and Housing and Urban Development (HUD) and the U.S. Interagency Council on Homelessness entered into a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) to implement strategies that set a path to end homelessness among Native Americans. The MOU commits the participating agencies to improving access to work together to improve housing and services through Administrative action, improve data collection, and elevate awareness of the crisis of homelessness among Native Americans through improved interdepartmental coordination and communication, and continually engage with tribal leaders and experts.
Collaborating to Increase Protections for Sacred Sites. In 2012, the Departments of Defense, Interior, Energy, and Agriculture and the Advisory Council on Historic Preservation signed an Interagency MOU on Sacred Sites. This year, the agencies collaborated to provide the following: a statement to offer guidance to federal agencies about protecting sensitive sacred sites information from public disclosure, a paper providing information to the public about the importance of protecting sacred sites, and comprehensive training for federal employees regarding sacred sites.
Interagency Indian Child Welfare Act Memorandum of Understanding. By the end of 2015, HHS, DOI, and the Department of Justice will enter into an interagency MOU to solidify collaboration and actions supporting implementation of and compliance with the Indian Child Welfare Act.
Coordinating and Leveraging Federal Energy Resources to Tribes and Alaska Natives. The Department of Energy and DOI expect to finalize and execute a MOU in December 2015, to facilitate coordination of efforts and resources to promote deployment of energy projects on tribal lands focused on local economic development. The MOU represents a historic collaboration between the agencies joining forces to improve delivery of federal government services and programs in Indian Country.
PROVIDING OPPORTUNITIES FOR NATIVE YOUTH
Documenting the Unique School Climate Issues Facing Native Youth. In October, ED released the School Environment Listening Sessions Final Report: a summary of findings from the listening sessions. ED held nine school environment listening sessions last year that focused on the unique educational and culturally-related academic needs of Native American students. Throughout the sessions, ED collected information about challenges related to school climate, including bullying, student discipline, potentially harmful Native imagery and symbolism, and the implications of all of these school climate issues.
Bridging the Digital Divide in BIE-Funded Dorms. A partnership with Microsoft and Verizon to improve technology and internet access in Bureau of Indian Education (BIE) schools led to the installation of wireless data service in ten BIE run and/or funded dormitories. Students residing in the dorms also received wireless tablet devices loaded with educational applications, along with two years of free cellular service.
Educational Preparation Tools for Native Youth. The Small Business Administration (SBA) is partnering with Management Leadership for Tomorrow (MLT) to provide Native American youth with coaching and curriculum toward success in school and in the workplace through MLT’s Career Prep, MBA Prep, and Ascend programs.
Locally-Tailored Education Interventions. Under the new Native Youth Community Projects (NYCP) program, ED awarded the first-of-its-kind grants to a dozen recipients in nine states that will impact more than thirty tribes and involve more than 48 schools. NYCP provides grants to support community-driven, comprehensive strategies that address in- and out-of-school barriers to improve college and career-readiness among Native youth.
Increasing Tribal Education Capacity. In September, ED made five new awards to tribal education agencies (TEAs) under the State Tribe Education Program (STEP). The STEP grant program is designed to promote increased collaboration between TEAs, state educational agencies (SEAs), and local educational agencies (LEAs), to build the capacity of TEAs, and to support tribes’ efforts to meaningfully participate in the education of Native youth. Today, DOI awarded four tribes a total of $650,000 in funds to support the development and operation of Tribal Education Departments (TEDs) to advance educational outcomes for students and improve the efficiency and effectiveness of Bureau of Indian Education (BIE)-funded schools. TED Grants provide funds for tribes and their education departments to develop educational advancement projects.
Native Youth STEM Challenge. This month, Bureau of Indian Affairs’ (BIA) Division of Energy and Mineral Development will announce its top five finalists for the Energy Challenge (EC). The EC is intended to encourage high school students to see how they can make a difference in their communities utilizing science, technology, engineering and math through a creative, hands-on, problem solving and engineering process.
Expanding Job Opportunities for Native Youth in the Federal Government. DOI is invested in recruiting and offering job skills training to Native youth within the agency. The BIA’s Office of Trust Programs is recruiting youth for up to 94 paid internships within the BIA. The 21st Century Conservation Service Corps recently began the First Stewards Wilderness Corps, an all Native youth corps that participates in field work alongside the Forest Service. The program also broadens career opportunities by offering job skills training at the University of Arizona.
Recruiting Tribal Colleges to Address Environmental Issues. The Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) Tribal ecoAmbassadors Program partnered with Tribal Colleges and Universities (TCUs) to solve environmental problems most important to the participating TCUs’ tribal communities. This year, the Tribal ecoAmbassadors Program expanded to fund STEM-based projects on six TCU campuses across the nation.
Strengthening Tribal Colleges. Today, USDA announced 13 new awards totaling $2 million through the Tribal Colleges Research Grants Program (TCRGP) to assist 1994 Land-Grant Institutions (Tribal Colleges) in building institutional research capacity through applied projects that address student educational needs and solve community, reservation or regional problems. These competitive awards are made in collaboration with 1862 or 1890 Land-Grant Institutions. These new funds, along with continuation and formula funds awarded, are part of an overall investment of $14.2 million for FY15.
STRENGTHENING TRIBAL CONSULTATION AND SOVEREIGNTY
Streamlining Rights-of-Way Rules on Indian Land. Today, DOI’s new Rights-of-Way rule replaces regulations that were last updated over 30 years ago and relied on a patchwork of statutory authorities specific to certain uses of rights-of-way, rather than the general statutory authority applicable to all uses. The new rule is better suited to the modern requirements for rights-of-way and the need for faster timelines and a more transparent process for BIA approval.
Advancing Tribal Consultation Policy on Indian Education. ED developed a new tribal consultation policy pursuant to the Administration’s consultation policy and in recognition of the federal government’s trust responsibility. ED will further strengthen its relationship with Indian tribes by implementing a process that ensures meaningful consultation and collaboration with Indian tribes when developing ED policies and actions that have tribal implications.
Professional Development for Tribal Leaders. SBA will sign a Strategic Alliance Memorandum with The New School to provide tribal leaders with executive education and introduce Native American business cases into the institution’s existing business curriculum, encouraging dialogue about the issues facing tribal communities nationwide.
Expanded Tribal Consultation for 2020 Census. The Census Bureau is conducting tribal consultation meetings across the country to discuss tribal enrollment, land into trust, data needs for the tribes, new modes of data collection, and the tribal government liaison program to increase the accuracy of census takers in Indian Country.
SUPPORTING HEALTH AND SAFETY IN INDIAN COUNTRY
Interagency Partnership to Train Law Enforcement. The Federal Bureau of Investigation’s (FBI) Indian Country Crimes Unit has partnered with the BIA and the Federal Law Enforcement Training Center to develop a training course for Special Agents new to Indian Country. The three-week course features small group, hands-on instruction. The course will be taught by both FBI and BIA mentors, who will focus on curriculum and preparatory instruction on investigations common to Indian Country.
Providing Tribes with State-of-the-Art Law Enforcement Tools. DOJ launched an initial phase of the Tribal Access Program for National Crime Information (TAP) to provide tribes access to national crime information databases for both civil and criminal purposes. TAP will allow tribes to more effectively serve and protect their communities by ensuring the exchange of critical data. TAP will also provide specialized training and assistance for participating tribes.
Reinforcing and Enhancing Tribal Law Enforcement. In September, DOJ announced 206 awards, totaling more than $97 million, to American Indian tribes, Alaska Native villages, tribal consortia and tribal designees to enrich law enforcement practices, victim services and sustain crime prevention and intervention efforts.
Engaging Tribal Youth in Behavioral Health. The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) Tribal Youth Leaders (STyL) Initiative includes engagement with Native youth to develop their behavioral health knowledge, peer-to-peer engagement on behavioral health topics, activities to create a network for support and learning among youth, and development of leadership skills to support their efforts to be the generation for change in their communities. Native culture, music, and traditional practices will be infused into STyL efforts to strengthen engagement and sustainability of the Initiative.
Supporting the Behavioral Health Needs of Native Youth. SAMHSA provided $3.8 million for Tribal Behavioral Health Grant (TBHG) continuation grants. The TBHG program was established to prevent and reduce suicidal behavior and substance abuse and promote mental health among American Indian and Alaska Native young people up to and including age 24. The program allows tribal entities maximum flexibility to plan and implement programs that best meet their community’s needs.
Advancing the Arctic Region. HHS will develop a Federal-Tribal Workgroup through the “Executive Order on Enhancing Coordination of National Effort in the Arctic.” This workgroup will comply with the Intergovernmental Exemption to FACA. The timeline for consultations and review of consultation will be in early 2016.
Expanding Health Coverage in Indian Country. The Affordable Care Act extended Federal Employee Health Benefits (FEHB) to employees of certain Indian tribes, tribal organizations, and urban Indian organizations, administered and promoted by Office of Personnel Management. As of November 2015, 79 participating tribal employers in 20 states offer FEHB coverage to their employees with total enrollment of over 16,000 employees. Beginning August 1, the administrative fee was waived for the remainder of FY15 as FEHB revenue exceeded projected expenses.
Increasing Leverage for Tribal Housing Projects. DOI issued a final rule aligning the Housing Improvement Program with other Federal requirements to allow leveraging of housing funds to increase the number of families served, and promotes tribal sovereignty and self-determination by providing tribes with more flexibility in determining how to address waiting lists of tribal members awaiting housing assistance.
PRESERVING NATIVE AMERICAN LANGUAGES AND HERITAGE
Dedication to Preserving Native American Languages. HHS recently proposed the Community Coordination Demonstration Project, an effort that would assist tribal communities in their efforts to create a cradle to career native language education system. The initiative will build upon successful language programs and also address gaps in community coordination to bring together key drivers of program effectiveness.
Supporting Protection of Native American Graves and Repatriation. To better implement the Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act of 1990, DOI is issuing regulations to properly repatriate and protect unclaimed human remains, funerary objects, sacred objects, or objects of cultural patrimony.
Photos courtesy of the White House – Official White House Photo by Pete Souza
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