Friday, January 30, 2009

NMAI to Launch Online Museum

On Monday, the National Museum of the American Indian will launch an online museum in the hopes of reaching more people who may never have the opportunity to visit the museum in New York or Washington, D.C. 

Even with three facilities – there is a third building in Suitland, Md., where the museum collection is stored and maintained – the NMAI is only able to display 1 percent of its 800,000 piece collection. 

The online project will begin with 5,500 items and photographs, according to this story in the Washington Post. The museum hopes to have all 800,000 objects on the Web site within four years.

Thursday, January 29, 2009

Indian Country Slated for Nearly $3 Billion in Economic Stimulus Package

The U.S. House of Representatives on Wednesday approved an $819 billion economic stimulus package that included nearly $3 billion for Indian Country programs. H.R. 1 will now go to the Senate, where a similar amount has already been approved for inclusion in the stimulus package.  

 Sen. Byron Dorgan, D-N.D., announced on Tuesday that the Senate Appropriations Committee had approved $2.8 billion in funding for improvements for Indian health services, education, roads and bridges, water, public safety, and housing.

 Here is a breakdown of the appropriation.


• Indian Health Facilities – $410 million
• New construction - $135 million 
• Maintenance and repairs - $155 million 
• Sanitation Facilities - $100 million 
• Medical Equipment - $20 million 
• Indian Health Services - $135 million
• Contract health care - $50 million 
• Health Information Technology activities - $85 million


• Department of Justice Grants (DOJ) - $300 million
• Indian Jails construction - $250 million 
• Tribal courts program - $25 million 
• Indian Alcohol Recovery program - $25 million 
• BIA Indian Jails repair (Interior) – $25 million


• Tribal and BIA new schools construction - $132 million 
• Tribal and BIA schools repair and improvement - $35 million 
• BIA School Modernization (Dept. of Education) – $160 million


• BIA roads improvement - $150 million
• Indian Reservation Roads (DOT) – $320 million
• Tribal Transit Set-Aside (DOT) – $16.8 million


• Bureau of Reclamation Tribal Water Projects – $274 million (approximate)
• BIA irrigation construction and repair - $40 million 
• BIA dams improvement - $25 million 
• Safe Drinking and Clean Water Revolving Funds – $120 million (the language “permits” the Secretary to fund the tribal set-aside under these revolving funds)


• Indian Housing block grants (HUD) – $510 million
• BIA Housing Improvement Program – $20 million


• Indian Reservation Food Distribution (USDA) – $5 million
• BIA major facilities improvement and repair – $115 million 
• BIA workforce training – $20 million
• Tribal Community Development Financial Institutions (Treasury) – $20 million
• Indian Loan Guarantee Program (Interior) – $10 million

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Wind Farms in Alaska Will be Little Help to Native Villages

Alaska is looking to spend $14 million to erect wind farms in six Alaska Native villages on the Yukon-Kuskokwim Delta, according to the Anchorage Daily News. But six wind projects right in their backyard will do little to reduce the cost of home heating fuel for the Alaska Native residents who live in those delta villages.

On the heels of a disastrous fishing season and with home heating fuel nearing $10 a gallon, strapped villagers are pleading with state officials for help getting through the frigid winter months ahead. But state officials are still deciding on an appropriate course of action. So far, they have declined to declare an economic state of emergency for the region or to take any action to provide relief. One state official has suggested the fuel vouchers may be an option for the region under the right circumstances.

The plight of village residents was brought to the attention of state officials in an open letter from Nicholas Tucker, a 63-year-old resident of Emmonak. Tucker took a survey in his village and found that most of his neighbors were in dire need. He described in heart-wrenching detail the conditions faced by each family. For his family of 10, which had paid $1,500 for fuel in just the past month, the choices had come down to fuel or food – the two mainstays of winter survival in the bush.

“For the first time, beginning December 2008, I am forced to decide between buying heating fuel or groceries,” Tucker wrote. “I had been forced to dig into our January income to stay warm during December. Again, for this month, same thing happens. I am taking away my February income this month to survive. Couple of weeks ago, our 8-year old son had to go to bed hungry. My wife and I provide for our family with disability, Veterans’ benefits, social security, and unemployment incomes. We are several months behind on our city water and sewer bills.”

Tucker’s letter, which was published in several rural newspapers, spurred donations and a demand for fuel pricing reform. Most Alaskan villages haven not been able to benefit from lower fuel costs because they had to lock in purchase contracts for their fall fuel deliveries while costs were at their peak. Making matters worse, the early onset of winter froze the river, preventing the bulk delivery of fuel by barge. Much of the fuel now must be flown in, which makes it even more expensive.

Monday, January 26, 2009

NIEA Seeks Blanket Design

The National Indian Education Association (NIEA) is inviting qualified artists and designers to submit a design to be incorporated onto the Pendleton Commemorative  Blanket marking the NIEA’s 40th anniversary.

The 40th Annual NIEA Pendleton Exclusive Limited edition blanket will be woven by Pendleton Woolen Mills. The design will bear custom labels stating the edition with reference to NIEA’s Ruby anniversary. This will be the first exclusive designed NIEA Pendleton Commemorative blanket. 

The blanket bearing the winning design will be showcased at he 2009 NIEA Convention to be held in Milwaukee from October 22-25. About 3,000 plus educators, tribal leaders and administrators from all across Indian Country are expected to attend. You may view the NIEA website for detailed information regarding the association, particularly the Mission, Background and Purpose of NIEA. 

For information, including a timeline, go to  this letter posted by  NIEA. Click here for an entry form.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

U.S. Supreme Court Denies Cert in MichGO v. Kempthorne

The U.S. Supreme Court today denied to hear an appeal from Michigan Gaming Opposition --a business group from Michigan opposed to Indian gaming -- that challenged the Interior Department’s authority to take land into trust for the Gun Lake Tribe based on the fact the tribe was not recognized in 1934 when the Indian Reorganization Act was passed. The group was attempting to block the construction of Gun Lake’s proposed casino.

The same argument was used in Carcieri v.Kempthorne, a case the Supreme Court heard on December 3, but has yet to issue an opinion in. The state of Rhode Island challenged the Interior Department’s decision to take 31 acres of land into trust for the Narragansett Indian Tribe, which was federally acknowledged in 1983. Twenty-one states joined an amicus brief supporting the state’s position in addition to briefs filed by the National League of Cities.

 For more on the background of MichGO v. Kempthorne and it’s implications for Carcieri v. Kempthorne, visit Turtle Talk.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

NCAI Asks Congress of $6.12 billion for Tribal Government Infrastructure

The following is from a press release issued by National Congress of American Indians.

In testimony before the U.S. Senate Committee on Indian Affairs, National Congress of American Indians (NCAI) Executive Director Jacqueline Johnson Pata requested $6.12 billion for tribal government infrastructure investment to be included in President-Elect Barack Obama's upcoming American Economic Recovery and Reinvestment Plan. 

“We can’t afford to be left out of President-Elect Obama’s economic recovery plan for the nation,” said Johnson Pata. “Eight of the ten poorest counties in the United States are home to Indian reservations so economic development and growth in Indian Country is essential as it impacts nearly every aspect of reservation life and tribal governance.” 

The Tribal Government Economic Recovery plan includes infrastructure spending for shovel-ready projects that will create over 50,000 local jobs. 

Johnson Pata stressed to the Committee two particular reasons tribes must included in the package. First, by investing in tribal governments, America will be meeting its moral obligation to ensure those populations that have persistently lived in the poorest economic conditions have the opportunity to go down the same path to recovery as the rest of America, she said. And second, tribal governments rely on revenue from economic development to provide core services to their citizens in lieu of a sustainable tax base. This reliance makes tribal governments much more vulnerable than other governments during economic downturns.   

“This economic downturn that is affecting us all is also having a dramatic effect on tribal governments who many times occupy the bottom end of the socio-economic scale,” Johnson Pata testified. “The U.S. government must not leave them behind.”

Real per-capita income of Indians living on reservations is still less than half of the national average. Unemployment is still double what it is for the rest of the country and many tribal governments lack the resources to provide the basic infrastructure most U.S. citizens take for granted, such as passable roadways, affordable housing, safe drinking water, plumbing, electricity and telephone service.

 “President-Elect Obama has promised a close working relationship with tribes so I am confident we will be included in the bill as it goes before Congress next month,” Johnson Pata said. “We are all anxious to go down the path to economic recovery with the rest of America.”

Obama's economic stimulus package is expected to include $300 billion in tax cuts and about $500 billion in spending.


Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Mohegan Sun Employees Facing Salary Cuts of Up to 10 Percent

In an effort to avoid layoffs, next month the Mohegan Sun will reduce staff salaries by up to 10 percent. The rollback affects all employees of the Mohegan Sun and its Connecticut affiliates. Senior management salaries – vice president and above -- will be cut by 10 percent, middle management salaries, 7.5 percent, and all line and hourly employees salaries will be cut by 4 percent. Read more here.

Friday, January 9, 2009

NCAI Seeks Infrastructure Funding for Tribal Governments in Economic Stimulus Package

The National Congress of American Indians is asking that President-elect Barrack Obama’s economic stimulus package include $5.4 billion specifically for infra-structure needs in Indian Country. NCAI is requesting that tribal governments be treated the same as state governments, in that money would be distributed directly to them and that they would be allowed access to capital. 

 “A tribal provision in the economic plan could mean funding for Indian health care programs, schools and job training projects,” said NCAI President Joe A. Garcia. “Indian Country needs a chance to develop the systems to grow their local economies and Indian people deserve the opportunity for a secure future.” 

Currently federal rules and regulations limit tribal government’s access to capital, expanding the use of tax-exempt bonds could leverage federal spending on infrastructure and economic development activities on reservations. A tribal economic recovery component could also expand loans and surety bonding for Indian businesses. 

Obama’s economic stimulus package, expected to be introduced soon, will include $300 billion in tax cuts and about $500 billion in spending. 

Don’t miss Falmouth Institute’s upcoming Indian Country Construction Conference for an up-to-date overview of how tribal governments can tap into the infrastructure funds available for Indian Country in the economic stimulus package. 

Thursday, January 8, 2009

Kempthorne's New Bathroom at Interior May Have Cost More than Your House

Washington Post columnist Al Kamen reported Monday that Dirk Kempthorne, the outgoing secretary of Interior, spent about $235,000 a few months ago to renovate his office bathroom. Although some renovation may have been justified, because the aging plumbing in the exiting bathroom needed to be replaced, most of the money was spent on lavish paneling and tile, installing a shower, a refrigerator and a freezer.  The Inspector General's office said there was no wrong-doing -- well at least none of this was illegal -- because the General Services Administration approved the project. Go here to read more and keep in mind that this is the same federal agency that won't appropriate enough money to renovate Indian schools or jails. 

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Alleged Criminals Escape Prosecution on Reservations

Yesterday the Great Falls Tribune reported on alleged sex offenders and other alleged criminals who have safe haven on the Blackfeet Reservation because law enforcement officials from neighboring jurisdictions are not able to serve warrants or extradite suspects for prosecution. 

Since the Blackfeet Nation is a sovereign entity, county deputy sheriffs lack the authority to enter the reservation to arrest the suspects. Rodney "Fish" Gervais, tribal spokesman, declined to address any specific case, but said that, in general, the tribe will decline to extradite its residents until it is able to negotiate government-to-government agreements with counties.

Warrants not being served to suspects on Indian reservations is an increasingly common problem, said outgoing Cascade County Attorney Brant Light. 

"In fact, I'd say it's the norm by now," Light told the Tribune. "It's getting so bad that we've discovered cases of people who have our bench warrants outstanding against them being arrested on tribal charges on the reservation, but even then our bench warrants have gone unserved."

Monday, January 5, 2009

How to Write a Grant Proposal

Grants are a crucial source of funding for many tribal organizations, but the competition for such funding is fierce. The Congressional Research Service is offering some help. It has prepared a report for Congress entitled “How to Develop and Write a Grant Proposal.” The 18-page document is available for free on line. It discusses  preliminary information to be gathered in preparation for writing a proposal, the actual writing of the proposal and includes a list of free grant-writing websites.