Thursday, February 26, 2009

Budget has $4 billion for IHS

President Obama’s 2010 budget, released at 11 a.m., includes over $4 billion for the Indian Health Service. In a 140-page budget overview, Obama said the $4 billion would build on the $500 million in economic stimulus money already headed for health care in Indian Country.

The Bureau of Indian Affairs will see a $100 million increase for law enforcement and education. Additional funding through the department of justice is available. The budget overview also said there would be an increase in funding for tribal colleges and scholarships. The Bureau of Indian Affairs is also getting $490 million in stimulus money.

Obama is also proposing a 2 percent cap on pay raises for civilian federal employees and a 2.9 percent cap for the military.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Reaction to Carcieri Decision

On Turtle Talk, Matthew Fletcher offers his thoughts on how the Carcieri decision may impact Michigan tribes. Bryan Newland, also on Turtle Talk, offers his initial reaction as well.   Newland thinks that the term “under federal jurisdiction” does not mean the tribe had to be federally recognized in 1934. Richard Guest, a lawyer with the Native American Rights Fund, told the Providence Journal that tribes will ask Congress to fix the land into trust issue.  

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Tribes Lose in Supreme Court

The secretary of the Interior cannot take land into trust for tribes that were not under the jurisdiction of the federal government when the Indian Reorganization Act was enacted in 1934, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled today. 

The 6-3 decision is a huge loss for the Narragansett Tribe of Rhode Island which had hoped to have a 31 acres land to be taken into trust and used for a housing development.  But it is also raises questions about the status of some 250 other tribes that were not recognized by the federal government in 1934. 

The case is Carcieri v. Salazar, 07-526.

Monday, February 23, 2009

BIA Roads Program in Alaska “Rife with Mismanagement”; Poor Candidate for Stimulus Funds

Interior Inspector General Earl Devaney is warning Interior Department officials about distributing stimulus money to the Bureau of Indian Affairs Alaska Region Indian Reservation Roads Program. 

“We found that the Alaska region’s inattention to expenditures and failure to manage its programs has repeatedly jeopardized the success of the Alaskan Native community roads projects and caused millions of dollars to be wasted or unaccounted for,” Devaney wrote in is cover letter of a Flash Report

Among the findings in the report:

ü      Only $3 to $4 million of the $230 million in road projects administered by the Alaska BIA each year have any physical oversight or verification that work is completed.

ü      An Alaska Native community advanced more than $2 million to build and repair critical road areas used the money instead to perform unauthorized work on another road that was deemed unnecessary.

ü      Some wage-grade employees are earning more than $100,000 a year – far above the maximum pay for their grade -- without explanation 

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Police Officer Not Liable under FTCA or Self-D, Court Says

The U.S. District Court for the District of Nevada held that a tribal officer who employed deadly force could not be held liable for damages under the Federal Tort Claims Act or the Indian Self-Determination Act because he was enforcing tribal law.

In Boney v. Valline, the plaintiff Gaylene Boney sued officer Walter Valline, of the Walker River Paiute Tribe seeking damages for his alleged violation of her Fourth and First amendment rights in connection with her arrest following the shooting death of her son by Valline.

Boney argued that she has a right to action under Bivens v. Six Unknown Federal Narcotics Agents. In Bivens, the Supreme Court held that federal officers who acted under the color of law were liable for damages caused by their violation of the plaintiff's Fourth Amendment rights. To state a claim under Bivens, the plaintiff must allege that a federal actor violated a right secured by the Constitution.

In this case, the district court held that despite the fact that the tribe contracted with the Bureau of Indian Affairs to provide law enforcement under the Indian Self-Determination Act, Valline was not a federal actor for the purposes of the FTCA or the Self-Determination Act. The materials are available at Turtle Talk.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

$2.5 Billion for Indian Country in Stimulus Package

The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act approved by Congress Friday includes approximately $2.5 billion to create jobs and economic opportunity in Indian Country. Below is a summary of Indian Country provisions.


· Indian Health Facilities – $415 million

o New construction - $227 million

o Maintenance and improvements - $100 million

o Sanitation Facilities - $68 million

o Medical Equipment - $20 million

· Indian Health Services - Health Information Technology - $85 million


· BIA Office of Indian Programs - $40 million (housing improvement and workforce & training)

· BIA Construction - $450 million (schools, roads repair, jails, irrigation, dams)


· Department of Justice Grants (DOJ) - Indian Jails construction - $225 million (coordinate with BIA, consider violent crime rates and detention space needs)

· DOJ Community Oriented Policing Services – tribes eligible to compete - $1 billion program

· DOJ Violence Against Women Prosecution Grants - $22.5 million (result of a 10% tribal set-aside)


· Indian Reservation Roads (DOT) – $310 million

· Tribal Transit Set-Aside (DOT) – $17.25 million


· Indian Housing block grants (HUD) – $510 million (conference note to use funding to rehabilitate and improve energy efficiency in houses maintained by Native American housing programs)


· Head Start - $10 million (tribal set-aside)

· Early Head Start - tribes eligible for a portion of the $1.1 billion program

· Special Education (IDEA) – tribes eligible for a portion of the $12.2 billion program

· Impact Aid – language urges targeted funding to military and Indian reservations from the $100 million program


· Bureau of Reclamation Tribal Water Projects – $60 million for water intake and treatment facilities

· Safe Drinking and Clean Water Revolving Funds – $120 million (permissive set-aside)

· Tribal Energy Efficiency and Conservation Black Grants - $56 million (result of a 2% tribal set-aside)

· Weatherization Assistance Program – tribes are eligible to compete for competitive grants under the $5 billion program


· Indian Reservation Food Distribution (USDA) – $5 million

· Native Elder Nutrition (DHHS) - $3 million (Older Americans Act, Title IV)

· BIA Indian Loan Guarantee Program - $10 million

· Tribal Community Development Financial Institutions (Treasury) – $10 million


· Tribal economic development tax-exempt bonds - $2 billion in bonding authority

· Qualified Indian school construction bonds - $400 million in bonding authority


· Bill language permits Indian Tribes to contract and compact to build projects and create reservation jobs pursuant to the Indian Self-Determination and Self-Governance Acts

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Obama to Appoint Senior Policy Advisor on Native American Issues

Yesterday First Lady Michelle Obama told staffers that the President plans to appoint a policy advisor to his senior White House staff  dedicated to Native American issues. 

“He will soon appoint a policy adviser to his senior White House staff to work with tribes and across the government on these issues such as sovereignty, health care and education, all central to the well being of Native American families and the prosperity of tribes," Mrs. Obama said, speaking from prepared remarks. 

To read a blog on Mrs. Obama’s visit to Interior, go here.

Monday, February 9, 2009

Lower Brule Teen Featured in New York Times

Check out "A Fighting Chance" at the New York Times. It's a video about 18-year-old Cheryl Zeigler, a single mother on the Lower Brule Reservation who is trying to make a name for herself in boxing. 

The story talks about  Zeigler, her trainer Ray Hawk, founder of the Native American Warriors Pro Boxing Network, and Hawk's son, Shawn. All three are hoping boxing will help them stay on the right track and escape some of the hard times they face on the reservation. 

Leadership Chosen for Indian Affairs Committee

The Senate Committee on Indian Affairs, Thursday, elected its leadership for the 111th Congress, returning Senator Byron Dorgan (D-ND) for another term as Chair, and choosing Senator John Barrasso (R-WY) to succeed Senator Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) as Vice Chair. Murkowski stepped down from the Vice Chair post but will remain a member of the committee.  

Thursday, February 5, 2009

Falmouth Training now Online -- This Month: Indian Preference

Falmouth Institute is launching an online training program this month with a seminar on Indian Preference.  The first seminar is scheduled for February 19, 11 a.m. to 12 p.m. EST. It will be repeated on February 24, 1 to 2 p.m. EST and Feburary 26, 3 to 4 p.m. EST. 

With all the federal stimulus money that is expected to be available for construction in Indian Country, an understanding of Indian preference is particularly important. There are several laws and regulations that give tribes preference in contracting. Even when the tribe is not the prime contractor, in some instances prime contrators must comply with federal and tribal preference laws. Make sure you know your rights as a tribal official, a tribal employers or a federal employer.
Help us plan our next online seminar! Please let us know what types of training you would take online and we'll do our best to offer it as soon as possible. 

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Cherokee Want Federal Court to Decide on Freedmen

In a complaint filed Tuesday in Federal District Court in Tulsa, the Cherokee Nation asked a federal judge to declare that the descendents of freedmen – freed slaves that lived with the Cherokee Nation – have no federal rights to citizenship in the tribe. 

The Nation argues that the descendents of Freedmen lost their right to citizenship when Congress modified its treaty with the U.S. government in 1866 when it passed the Five Tribes Act. Read about it here.

Former Mille Lacs Chief Executive Charged in Tribal Court

Melanie Benjamin, former chief executive of the Mille Lacs Band, was charged in tribal court with 10 counts, including theft and extortion. Benjamin is accused of improperly obtaining a Diamond Players Club Card and using to rack up $34,000 in charges. She is also accused of coercing a Corporate Commission employee to place $800 on his/her person credit card and never paying the employee back.

 According to an article in The Mille Lacs Messenger, Benjamin denies all the allegations

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Daschle Withdraws as Secretary of HHS Nominee

Faced with questions over non-payment of back taxes, Thomas Daschle, President Obama’s pick for Health and Human Services, has withdrawn his name from consideration, according to the Washington Post

Daschle’s nomination drew praise from Indian Country leaders who felt he would have a better understanding of the health issues facing tribal governments. As a senator from South Dakota and as someone who had served on the Senate Indian Affairs Committee, Daschle had advocated for more health spending in Indian Country. 

Monday, February 2, 2009

Facebook "Real-name Culture" Runs up Against Native Culture

Robin Kills The Enemy is getting back in touch with her friends since her Facebook account was reinstated on Friday. For awhile she was banned from the social networking Web site – a communications lifeline for young adults – because it wrongly flagged her for registering under a false name. 

When news of Kills The Enemy’s ban got out, other people with Native American surnames emerged to share similar stories. Many just gave up on the idea of using Facebook because it would not accept their names. A Facebook group called “Facebook don’t discriminate Native surnames!!!” has more than 1,000 members.

Facebook spokesman Simon Axten, said this in an e-mail to The Argus Leader “Facebook is based on a real name culture . … ” Sometimes mistakes are made he said, and, as in the case of Kills The Enemy, people need to contact Facebook to be reinstated. Read the story here.