Tribes: Congress And Trump Administration Are Violating Treaties

By Claire Caulfield
Published: Wednesday, February 21, 2018 - 8:28am
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(Photo by Kyley Schultz/Cronkite News)
National Congress of American Indians President Jefferson Keel in the annual State of the Nations address renewed calls for a more-direct government-to-government relationship between federal and tribal governments.

The National Congress of American Indians said Congress and the Trump Administration have been ignoring recommendations of tribal governments and failing to provide resources promised in treaties.

During his annual State of Indian Nations address President Jefferson Keel said the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act, passed last December, is “completely unacceptable” because tribes were not included in the decision making process.

"We want to be engaged in all aspects of federal policy, and we have a right to be a huge participant in these matters," Keel said in his speech.

Another area of concern is the Trump Administration’s recently released budget.

Although this has to be approved by Congress, it does show where the administration’s priorities lie, said Amber Ebarb, budget and policy analyst for the National Congress of American Indians.

“We want Congress to know that if some of these proposed cuts to tribal governmental services were enacted it would represent a clear retreat from federal commitments and treaty promises made to tribes,” Ebarb said.

Trump's budget cuts half-a-billion dollars from various tribal support services, and the National Congress of American Indians said this violates the federal promise to provide resources to tribes in exchange for land given to the United States Government in treaties.

Particular areas of concern for tribes in the Southwest include social services programs, the Indian child welfare program, housing improvement, education programs, scholarship programs and funding for road maintenance, criminal investigations, police services and tribal courts.

“These were identified by western region tribes as some of their top-ranked areas needing infusion of federal support, and they gave those concerns to the Department, and yet all of those areas would see decreases,” Ebarb said.

The president’s budget would completely eliminate:

It also proposes significant funding reductions for:

And a general $453 million cut to the Bureau of Indian Affairs. However, the National Congress of American Indians said they have Congressional support in returning funding to some of these programs.

“A number of members of Congress who spoke to Indian Country earlier this week said that this is not their budget,” Ebarb said. “They might be Republicans and this is their president but they don't necessarily support the proposed reductions.”

Congress also has the option to use non-defense discretionary funding to pad-out BIA’s budget, which tribes will be lobbying for in the coming weeks.

Trump's budget does include almost $712 million for certain Native-focused projects including:

Additionally Trump’s budget proposes the creation of the Interior Public Lands Infrastructure Fund, part of which would provide money to restore infrastructure in Bureau of Indian Education-funded schools. A move the director of BIE said he was “excited” about during a House committee.

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