In this update, you will learn about some of the ways in which President Obama and his Administration continue to address the interests, concerns, and needs of the American Indian and Alaska Native (AI/AN) community.
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Department of the Interior Offers Nearly $100 Million to Reduce Fractionation of Tribal Lands
On August 28, the Department of the Interior announced that purchase offers have been sent to more than 4,000 individual landowners with fractional interests at the Gila River Indian Reservation in Arizona and the Northern Cheyenne Indian Reservation in Montana. These offers, totaling nearly $100 million, will give eligible landowners with interests in tribal priority tracts the opportunity to voluntarily sell their land to be held in trust for each tribe.
With these offers, Interior’s Land Buy-Back Program for Tribal Nations (Buy-Back Program) has sent more than 37,000 purchase offers to owners of fractionated interests. The Program has successfully concluded transactions worth nearly $97 million and has restored the equivalent of almost 265,000 acres of land to tribal governments.
The Buy-Back Program implements the land consolidation component of the Cobell Settlement, which provided $1.9 billion to purchase fractional interests in trust or restricted land from willing sellers at fair market value within a 10-year period.
Treasury Department Awards More Than $195 Million to Organizations Serving Low-Income and Native Communities
On August 26, the U.S. Department of Treasury’s Community Development Financial Institutions Fund (CDFI Fund) awarded 185 organizations more than $195.4 million today through the fiscal year (FY) 2014 rounds of the Community Development Financial Institutions Program (CDFI Program) and the Native American CDFI Assistance Program (NACA Program). These awards will enable Community Development Financial Institutions (CDFIs) and Native CDFIs across the country to increase their lending and investments in low-income and economically distressed communities, including Native American, Alaska Native, and Native Hawaiian communities (Native Communities). The awards announced will help these CDFIs and Native CDFIs build their capacity in order to better meet the investment and lending needs of the communities they serve.
Department of Justice Releases Report to Congress on Indian Country Investigations and Prosecutions
On August 26, the Department of Justice released its second report to Congress entitled Indian Country Investigations and Prosecutions, which provides a range of enforcement statistics. The Department of Justice is required to issue this report to comply with the Tribal Law and Order Act of 2010. The report also serves to communicate the progress of the Attorney General’s initiatives to reduce violent crime and strengthen tribal justice systems.
The report details the voluntary progress three tribes have made implementing the Violence Against Women Act of 2013. The Pascua Yaqui Tribe of Arizona, the Umatilla Tribes of Oregon, and the Tulalip Tribes of Washington will be the first tribes in the nation to exercise special criminal jurisdiction over crimes of domestic and dating violence, regardless of the defendant’s Indian or non-Indian Status.
Associate Attorney General Tony West Speaks at the Four Corners Conference
Associate Attorney General Tony West speaks at the Four Corners Conference in Flagstaff, Arizona, August 26, 2014. (Photo by the U.S. Department of Justice)
On August 26, Associate Attorney General Tony West spoke at the Four Corners Conference. Mr. West detailed how the Indian community effectively confronted the reality of high rates of violence against Native women and girls in Indian country. Mr. West stated that the reauthorization of the Violence Against Women Act helped push forward legislative recommendations to help tribes protect Indian women from domestic violence. He detailed other initiatives and encouraged the Indian community to remain committed to this cause.
On the same day, Mr. West also announced the release of $3 million in grants to address violence against women in rural and tribal communities in the Bakken region. These grants are meant to increase local and tribal capacity to prosecute crimes of violence against women and provide services to victims of sexual assault, domestic violence, and stalking in the Bakken region of North Dakota and Montana.
FEMA Releases a New Tribal Consultation Policy
On August 26, Administrator Craig Fugate announced the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s (FEMA) Tribal Consultation Policy, which begins a new phase of engagement and collaboration with American Indian and Alaska Native tribes. The new policy establishes a process for regular and meaningful consultation and collaboration with tribal officials on Agency actions that have tribal implications, and it emphasizes the importance of consulting with Indian Country.
Department of the Interior Issues Secretarial Order Affirming American Indian Trust Responsibilities
Last month, Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell issued a Secretarial Order reaffirming the Department of the Interior’s trust responsibilities to federally recognized Indian tribes and individual Indian beneficiaries and providing guidance for Interior agencies in carrying out their obligations to them.
“This Order reaffirms the Department’s obligations and demonstrates our continuing commitment to upholding the important federal trust responsibility for Indian Country,” said Secretary Jewell, who chairs the White House Council on Native American Affairs.
Secretary of the Interior Jewell, Secretary of Education Duncan Visit Indian School in Maine
Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell and Secretary of Education Arne Duncan take a picture with students and faculty at the Beatrice Rafferty School in Perry, Maine, August 18, 2014. (Photo by the U.S. Department of the Interior)
In August, Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell and Secretary of Education Arne Duncan visited the Beatrice Rafferty School in Perry, Maine on the Passamaquoddy Tribe’s reservation to discuss ongoing educational reform initiatives to ensure students attending schools funded by the Bureau of Indian Education (BIE) receive a high-quality education delivered by tribal nations.
EPA Issues Policy Supporting Tribal and Indigenous Communities
On July 25, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) issued a new policy supporting environmental justice for tribal and indigenous communities. EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy signed the EPA Policy on Environmental Justice for Working with Federally Recognized Tribes and Indigenous Peoples, reinforcing the agency’s commitment to work with tribes on a government-to-government basis when issues of environmental justice arise.