Testimony

During the year, USET leadership steps to the microphone to advocate legislation on various issues, subjects, and initiatives.  Click on the year to view testimony made by USET leadership.

Topic Title
Budget USET SPF Testimony for the Record of SCIA Hearing on FY2020 President’s Budget Request
SUMMARY: The chronic underfunding of federal Indian programs continues to have disastrous impacts upon Tribal governments and Native peoples. As the United States continues to break its promises to us, Indian Country and Tribal citizens experience some of the greatest disparities among all populations in this country—including those in health, economic status, education, and housing. This is not a question about addressing poverty and needs across Indian Country. Our relationship is much more than this. This is ultimately a question about honor, about fulfilling commitments and promises. A nation’s exceptionalism is grounded in these principles. We are once again asking Congress to honor the commitments made to Tribal Nations by the United States. While USET SPF recognizes this Committee’s strong, long-standing commitment to Indian Country, we cannot accept funding for federal Indian programs that continues to fall far short of fiduciary trust obligations, and other failures to acknowledge our government-to-government relationship and sovereign status. This Committee must use its influence to ensure that Congressional appropriators uphold the fiduciary trust obligation to Tribal Nations in FY 2020 and beyond. In pursuit of a relationship more reflective of this obligation, USET SPF urges this Committee, Congress, and all branches of the federal government to ensure that full funding for the trust obligation is realized in our lifetimes. USET SPF looks forward to partnering with the Committee to bring this to fruition.
DOI Reorganization USET SPF Testimony to House Natural Resources Committee for the record on the Oversight and Investigations Oversight Hearing entitled, “No Road Map, No Destination, No Justification: The Implementation and Impacts of the Reorganization of the Department of the Interior 5.14.2019
SUMMARY: USET SPF supports the House Natural Resources Committee in its exercise of oversight authority regarding the Department of the Interior’s (DOI) proposed reorganization. Nearly a year and a half after its announcement, Indian Country continues to have more questions than answers from DOI on this massive undertaking. Our testimony summarizes DOI’s failure to meaningfully consult with Tribal Nations, as well as a lengthy list of outstanding questions regarding the reorganization and its implications for Indian Country. To date, DOI has not provided any sense of how the trust responsibility will be upheld through the reorganization, nor its benefits to Indian Country or even a clear sense of cost. The near-complete lack of information provided to Tribal Nations is unacceptable, regardless of whether the Bureau of Indian Affairs is included in the reorganization. We continue to urge DOI to provide clarity regarding reorganization logistics, purpose, and effects on Indian Country, and to consult with Tribal Nations on these details.

Economic Development USET SPF Testimony for the Record of SCIA Hearing on, “Building out Indian Country: Tools for Community Development” 4.24.2019
SUMMARY: In our testimony, we address many of the issues and bills raised during the hearing, as well as some major USET SPF priorities that were absent. Rebuilding of our Tribal Nations includes rebuilding of our Tribal economies as a core foundation of healthy and productive communities. Lack of parity with other units of government and limited access to capital often serve as our greatest challenges and interfere with our ability to pursue economic development opportunities, which has a ripple effect throughout Tribal communities. USET SPF supports current legislative and executive efforts to advance economic development in Indian Country in a way that is respectful of the federal trust obligation and our inherent sovereignty.
Land
Tribal Consultation / Trust
USET SPF Testimony for the Record of House Natural Resources Subcommittee on Indigenous Peoples Hearing on H.R. 375, H.R. 312, and the RESPECT Act 4.17.2019
SUMMARY: USET SPF asserts that the federal government’s objective in the trust responsibility and obligations to our Nations must be to support healthy and sustainable self-determining Tribal governments, which fundamentally includes the restoration of lands to all federally-recognized Tribal Nations, as well as the legal defense of these land acquisitions. It is vital that the land-into-trust process be available to and applied equally to all federally-recognized Tribal Nations. This parity is central to the federal government’s legal and moral obligations to all of Indian Country. With this in mind, USET SPF continues to call for the immediate passage of a fix to the decision in Carcieri v. Salazar that contains the two features necessary to restore parity to the land-into-trust process: (1) a reaffirmation of the status of current trust lands; and (2) confirmation that the Secretary has authority to take land into trust for all federally recognized Tribal Nations.USET SPF also supports the spirit and intent of the Requirements, Expectations, and Standard Procedures 3 for Executive Consultation with Tribes (RESPECT) Act, which would codify consultation requirements for all federal agencies and departments, including independent agencies. This is consistent with our efforts to modernize the federal trust relationship, including ensuring that Tribal Nations are full and equal participants in the shaping of federal Indian policy. We believe there are opportunities to further refine and strengthen this draft legislation, including addressing issues related to the achievement of Tribal Nation consent, as well as supporting inter-agency coordination and training, and the creation of an Indian desk at the Office of Management and Budget. In addition, we share some concern about the unintentionally narrow scope of the Act. We look forward to the opportunity to work with Chairman Grijalva to sharpen the legislative language and ensure the RESPECT Act is appropriately comprehensive.
Budget USET SPF Testimony for the Record on FY 2020 House Interior Appropriations Budget 3.15.2019
SUMMARY: Federal appropriations for Indian programs are a key part of the federal government’s trust responsibility, yet funding continues to be so inadequate in relation to the trust and treaty obligation owed to Native communities by the United States. While we do not have the President’s full FY 2020 budget, what we do have paints a disturbing picture of an Administration that has largely deemed Indian Affairs and the federal government’s trust obligation to be of minimal significance, especially in contrast to its other priorities. The Administration continues to send a powerfully negative message to Indian Country. In reducing, eliminating, and calling into question the constitutionality of federal Indian programs, this Administration is ignoring and undermining its trust responsibility to Tribal Nations. Bottom line, strong and vibrant Tribal Nations, sovereigns that exist within the domestic borders of the United States, ultimately have a positive impact on America.
Environment USET SPF Testimony for the Record on Subcommittee for Indigenous People Hearing: The Impacts of Climate Change on Tribal Communities 2.26.2019
SUMMARY: The Fourth National Climate Assessment (NCA4), published by the U.S. Global Change Research Program, which acknowledges Indigenous peoples in the United States as, “diverse and distinct political and cultural groups and populations” and affirms that, “Though they may be affected by climate change in ways that are similar to others in the United States, Indigenous peoples can also be affected uniquely and disproportionately.” We highlight three “Key Messages” within the NCA4 regarding climate change impacts on Indigenous economies, health, and adaptation, and those impacts on USET SPF Member Tribal Nations. We further discuss that successful adaptation for USET SPF member Tribal Nations will rely on use of Indigenous knowledge, resilient and robust social systems and protocols, and a commitment to principles of self-determination. However, it will also require the acknowledgment from federal, state, and local governments that the impacts of early colonial and United States history have created many of the institutional barriers USET SPF member Tribal Nations face today in adapting to climate change.