Thursday, April 30, 2009

10th Circuit Says Churchrock Navajo Land

The 10th Circuit Court of Appeals in Denver upheld the decision of the Environmental Protection Agency and the U.S. Department of the Interior that the Churchrock Section 8 uranium project is located in Indian Country and is part of the Navajo Nation.  

The decision means that the Texas based company that wants to operate an underground injection uranium mine there will have to obtain its underground injection control permit from EPA rather the New Mexico Department of the Environment.  

The Navajo Nation enacted a ban on uranium mining and milling in April 2005. 

The 10th Circuit decisions also may apply to other uranium mining states, including ColoradoUtah, and Wyoming. Read more here.

Native Company Makes a Better Hot Dog

Next week, Native American Natural Foods, will unveil its new product, the Tanka Dog, a healthier hot dog created from buffalo and wild rice. According to the company’s blog, the Tanka Dog, will be larger than a regular hot dog and initially it will only be available to cafes, restaurants and other food services establishments. 

Native American Natural Foods is based on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation. Founded in 2005 by Karlene Hunter and Mark Tilsen, the company company’s initial product line featured, the Tanka Bar -- an energy bar made from buffalo meat and cranberries -- the Tanka Mix and Tanka Bites. This year, in addition to the Tanka Dog, Native American Natural Foods plans to introduce, the Tanka Bar Spicy Pepper Blend, the Tanka Bites multipack, and the Tanka Bites Spicy Pepper Blend multipack.

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

NIGC Not Compiling a “Carcieri” List

The National Indian Gaming Commission is not drawing up a list of tribes recognized after 1934, according to NIGC Chairman Philip Hogen. In an interview with Indianz, Hogen said  that although he had expressed a need for a such a list, the NIGC was not leading the effort. Matthew Fletcher, of Turtle Talk argues that it would be a mistake for federal agencies to start compiling such lists, which could be subject to the Freedom of Information Act and could disadvantage tribes that are wrongly identified for the list.  Such a list could be significant in light of the Supreme Court’s decision in Carcieri v. Salazar, which restricts the land into trust process to only those tribes that were federally recognized in 1934. 

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Are auditors allowed to access medical records?

During a recent Falmouth class, someone raised a question about allowing auditors access to medical-related records when they are conducting single audits. The main concern was how allowing the auditor access to medical records would square with HIPAA Act privacy requirements.

 When testing grants or contracts for A-133 Major Program compliance in the Health and Social Services functions, a level of access is required.  In the course of testing, an auditor usually encounters information considered confidential under HIPAA. According to John Friel CPA and Falmouth consultant, who conducts single audits for tribal organizations, auditors are required to sign a HIPAA disclosure agreement when they are going to be reviewing health records. In addition, they are bound by the Code of Conduct of the American Institute of Certified Public Accountant to keep all records, particularly health records, locked in a secure place.  

So an auditor would have access to health records, but only to certify compliance to federal regulations.

California Faulty in ICWA Notifications to Tribes

California courts hear more Indian Child Welfare Act cases than any other state in the country, because the state social workers are not complying with the ICWA notification provision, according to a study presented last October at the American Indian Identity Conference held at Michigan State University. The study was the topic of a recent blog post on Turtle Talk. The author of the study, Kathryn Fort, found that California is doing a poor job of notifying Indian tribes that Indian children have entered the court system. Among other things, the study suggests that social workers do not have a sufficient understanding of ICWA or tribal membership requirements.  Also noted in the post was another paper by Matthew Fletcher on the legislative history of the Indian Child Welfare Act. 

Friday, April 24, 2009

Robideaux Indian Affairs Hearing Available

Yesterday's Senate Committee on Indian Affairs confirmation hearing for Indian Health Service nominee Dr. Yvette Roubideaux is available for viewing on the committee's website.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

GOP Blocks Vote on Sebelius for HHS

Saying they needed more time to consider her record, Senate Republicans Thursday refused to allow confirmation vote on Gov. Kathleen Sebelius (D-Kansas), President Obama’s nominee to head the Department of Health and Human Services. Read more in the Washington Post.

Law and Order for Western Michigan Tribes

Interlochen Public Radio recently produced a report on how diligent federal prosecutions of crimes committed on Indian lands the Western District of Michigan has improved law and order for the 11 Indian nations there. Assistant United States Attorney Jeff J. Davis is the liaison between the United States Attorney's Office and the eleven federally recognized Tribes in the Western District of Michigan. Davis, who is a member of the Turtle Mountain Band of Chippewa, is interviewed in the report about the importance of working with tribal governments and tribal law enforcement.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

FLSA Applies to Indian-Owned Smoke Shop on Reservation

As reported at Turtle Talk, the U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals has ruled that the Fair Labor Standards Act applies to Indian-owned businesses operating on Indian reservations and that the Secretary of Labor has the right to inspect the books of such businesses. 

The case, Solis v. Matheson, centers around a smoke shop owned by a member of the Puyallap Tribe and operated on the Puyallap Reservation in Washington. The Secretary of Labor subpoenaed the books of the smoke shop and determined that the owners failed to pay overtime wages to its employees, as required by the FLSA. The district court agreed. The 9th Circuit affirmed the decision on appeal.

Friday, April 17, 2009

Are Changes Ahead for the Single Audit Process?

State, local and tribal governments have long been subject to the Single Audit Act, which requires that entities expending more than $500,000 in federal funds in a year be subject to an annual audit to determine that the funds were spent properly. Now a recent report by the Government Accountability Office questions the effectiveness of those audits. 

In a report issued last month, the GAO noted that little spenders, those spending between $500,000 and $2 million, are getting a lot more attention from federal agencies than big spenders, those expending $50 million or more. The report points out that 2.6 percent of the audits conducted covered more than 85 percent of the federal money spent by non-profits and state, local and tribal governments. Conversely, more than 50 percent of the audits conducted covered just 2 percent of the federal award expenditures.    

The law, as it is currently written, imposes the same audit standards on a non profit spending $600,000 in federal funds as it does on a city that spends $23 million in federal funds. The GAO questions whether the process of implementing the Single Audit Act is placing an unfair burden on the smaller entities, while it doesn’t focus enough attention on the larger ones.

 "Without a mechanism in place to monitor on an ongoing basis how the single audit process is implemented government-wide, OMB and federal stakeholders are unable to measure the efficiency and effectiveness of this process, as well as its usefulness as an accountability tool over federal grant awards,” the report says. “The variations we found on how federal agencies we reviewed perform key functions of the single audit process demonstrate the need to assess whether federal agencies carry out their single audit responsibilities in an efficient and effective manner."

 This report could result in different audit standards for smaller entities. What the standards might be is unknown however auditors through their associations should be prepared to provide input into this process.

 Tribal governments that might benefit from relaxed federal standards would have the option as a government entity to adopt their own audit standards. The question is, would the cost associated with implementing these standards be an allowable indirect cost as the single audit fees now are. The GAO report did not discuss potential savings or if that was even a consideration, however it appears there would be a savings to those entities classified as small.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Still Time to Get Stimulus Money

Almost every day, a new American Recovery and Reinvestment Act funding opportunity notice is issued. Coming almost as quickly are the deadlines to apply. In fact, quite a few have come and gone, and the federal agencies setting them have already announced the award recipients.

How can tribes keep up? There is $787 billion in economic stimulus money being handed out, and they do not want to miss their shot at getting some of it. Read the rest at American Indian Report.

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

More Than 50 Trailer Parks Operate Illegally on Tribal Land in California

More than 50 trailer parks operate illegally on tribal land in Southern California, according to attorneys trying to stop the Bureau of Indian Affairs from shutting down a park on the Torres-Martinez Desert Cahuilla Indian Reservation. The park, known as Duroville, is home to more than 4,000 poor migrant workers. 

Chandra Gehri Spencer, a lawyer for the tenants, asked BIA Southern California Superintendent James Fletcher how many other trailer parks operated on Indian land with no leases. He said four. She informed him that there are “in excess of 50 parks on tribal land without leases.” Read the story here.

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Calif. Health Clinics Struggle In Face of State Cuts

The Native American Health Center in Sacramento is the only community clinic in California’s capital city that is still providing full dental services, but with funding cutbacks the clinic will soon have to turn away adults. The clinic, which serves any race, will continue to serve children and will serve adults only in emergencies. 

The state’s decision to eliminate adult dental benefits, know as Denti-Cal, has the Indian clinic and other cash-strapped community health centers struggling to survive at a time when their cliental is growing most. Read more about it here

Monday, April 6, 2009

$248 million Available for Indian Country Criminal Justice

Associate Attorney General Thomas J. Perrelli announced today that more than $248 million is available for Tribes to assist with addressing the Indian Country’s criminal justice needs. These funds are part of $4 billion in American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (Recovery Act) funds managed by the Justice Department to assist tribal, state, and local law enforcement and for other criminal justice activities that help to prevent crime and improve the criminal and juvenile justice systems in the United States, while supporting the creation of jobs and providing much needed resources for states and local communities.

Of the $248 million in Recovery Act funding available for Tribes, $225 million is available for Correctional Facilities on Tribal Lands grants, $20.8 million for Indian Tribal Government grants, and $2.8 million for Tribal Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault Coalitions grants.

In addition to these funds, Tribes are also eligible to apply for several Department of Justice Recovery Act competitive grant programs that are available to states, local governments and other entities depending upon the eligibility requirements in the solicitations. Application, registration and deadline information are available on the Department’s website at

Interior Internet Security Remains an Issue

The Washington Post reported yesterday that despite warnings that its computer network was vulnerable to hackers, the Interior Department “persistently failed to meet minimum standards in information security.”

The information was disclosed in a report written last spring by then-Inspector General Earl Devaney. The report was made public last week when it was filed with a federal appeals court as part of the Cobell lawsuit.

The Bureau of Indian Affairs was reconnected to the Internet last year after several years of a court ordered disconnection because of security concerns.

Thursday, April 2, 2009

Johnson Bill Would Help Tribal Wind Development

Associated Press reports that Sen. Tim Johnson will introduce a bill that would let tribes transfer their unused share of federal wind production tax credits to their private partners without having to give up their portion of project ownership. 

$17 million Allocated for Tribal Transit Program

Last month the Department of Transportation allocated $17 million in federal funding under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, 2009 for the Federal Transit Administration’s Tribal Transit Program.

The ARRA tribal transit funds will provide grants to Indian tribes for capital expenditures including transit equipment and facilities.  A notice soliciting project proposals was published March 23 in the Federal Register.  The notice includes application procedures, the criteria that FTA will utilize to select projects, and grant terms, conditions, and reporting requirements.

Tribes will have 60 days to submit project proposals.  The Federal Register notice can be found at:

Once projects are selected and funding is awarded, tribal recipients must obligate funds by September 30, 2010.  Interested parties are encouraged to contact the nearest FTA Regional Office for additional information on the ARRA Tribal Transit Program.  A contact list of FTA regional offices may be found at