Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Treasury Department Seeks Comments on Tribal Economic Development Bond Provision

The Department of the Treasury is seeking comments from tribal governments on the Tribal Economic Development Bond provision in Section 7871(f) of the Internal Revenue Code, according to a notice published in the Federal Register on July 12.

The comments will assist the Treasury Department in developing recommendations regarding this bond provision for a Congressionally-directed study under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009, the notice said.

There are several questions the agency is seeking comments on, including whether the state or local governmental standard for tax-exempt governmental bond status should replace the essential governmental function standard and the types of projects and activities eligible for financing with private activity bonds.

The deadline for sending comments is Sept. 10, 2010. They can be sent via e-mail to Tribal.Consult@do.treas.gov. If sent via mail, they should be addressed to: Tribal Economic Development Bond Comments, Department of the Treasury, 1500 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW., Room 3454, Washington, D.C. 20220.

To read the full notice in the Federal Register, click here.

Monday, August 30, 2010

Begay Foundation Opens Soccer Field and Community Park in San Felipe Pueblo

The San Felipe Pueblo in New Mexico has a new community park and soccer field, thanks in large part to a $535,000 grant from the Notah Begay III Foundation, an organization founded by Notah Begay III, the only full-blooded Native American on the PGA Tour.

The $785,000 park and soccer field are a first for the pueblo. With its walking paths, the park provides an outlet for community members to become more physically fit. The centerpiece, though, is the synthetic turf soccer field, which will be home to the San Felipe Soccer Club, an after-school program that the Notah Begay III Foundation has operated since 2005. The club plans to host tournaments, camps and events to promote soccer and good health to neighboring pueblos as well as to help foster relationships with the larger soccer community in the Albuquerque and Bernalillo area.

“The Pueblo has waited nearly a decade for this facility, a park that will allow adults, youth and participants in the San Felipe Soccer Club to increase their physical activity,” said Begay in a press release issued on Aug. 24. “Tribal communities around the entire country are often lacking even the most basic amenities needed to keep their young people active and healthy. This incredible facility is an example of what’s possible when communities unite and work together in the interest of the health and wellness of Native people.”

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Oneida Nation Moving Cigarette Manufacturing Operations

The Oneida Indian Nation is moving its cigarette manufacturing plant from Buffalo to Oneida, N.Y., according to a press release issued by the tribe on Aug. 25.

In addition to creating 15 jobs in central New York, the relocation will ensure that customers of the tribe’s enterprises can still buy Oneida Indian Nation-manufactured cigarettes free of New York State taxes, the release said.

“By moving the plant to the Oneida homelands, the Nation is availing itself of a long-settled law that recognizes the right of Indian tribes to sell products they manufacture on their own reservations without interference from state tax laws. When an Indian nation manufactures its own products on its reservation, and sells those products on its reservation, federal law preempts state efforts to tax those products,” the tribe stated in the release.

The tribe purchased Sovereign Tobacco, its tobacco company, about two years ago. The cigarettes manufactured in the Oneida plant are the Niagara and Bishop brands, which are sold at the tribe's chain of SavOn stores in Oneida and Madison counties and at select retail shops at its Turning Stone Resort and Casino state tax-free.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

DOJ Needs a Medicine Man

If you’re Native American medicine man, one with experience conducting Native American ceremonies and familiar with medicine wheels, sweat lodges, sacred pipes and eagle feathers, the U.S. Department of Justice may require your services.

According to a piece published by The Smoking Gun on Aug. 19, the DOJ posted an announcement on FedBizOpps.gov web site with that title, though it was later changed to “Native American Services/Spiritual Guide” (after Drudge Report published a link to the announcement).

However the agency words it, the services are needed for Native American inmates at the federal prison in Duluth, Minn.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

San Manuel Tribe Signs Agreement with City of San Bernardino for Police Services

Under a new three-year intergovernmental agreement, the San Manuel Band of Mission Indians will pay $3.1 million to the City of San Bernardino to provide law enforcement services in city neighborhoods that surround the tribe’s reservation.

The agreement, signed last week, is an outgrowth of the tribal-state gaming compact entered into by the San Manuel Band, a press release issued by the tribe said. It provides a framework for the tribe and city to support a consistent level of law enforcement services in neighborhoods served by the San Bernardino Police Department through funding and ongoing cooperation between city police and the tribe.

The funds provided in the agreement will cover the cost of six San Bernardino police officers, one sergeant, a part-time detective along with crossing guards and support vehicles and equipment for the three-year period.

The San Manuel’s 800-acre reservation is located near Highland, Calif. The tribe owns/operates San Manuel Indian Bingo and Casino, which employs about 3,000 people.

The area covered in the agreement has always been within the jurisdiction of the City of San Bernardino, said Jerry Paresa, the tribe’s chief administrative officer; thus, the SBPD patrols and responds to this area.

Under the tribal-state compact, the tribe had paid into a Special Distribution Fund, Paresa said, and some of these funds went to the County of San Bernardino and were put into a special account to pay for any impacts to the community from gaming.

Under S.B. 621, signed into law in 2003, a committee was formed to distribute funds for services in the form of grants sponsored by the San Manuel. Since the 2003/04 fiscal year, Paresa said, some funds have been appropriated to offset the cost of policing in this area by the SBPD. There has never been a written agreement between the tribe and city for these services.

With a 2006 amendment to the compact, however, the tribe no longer has to pay into the Special Distribution Fund.

“The tribe, in turn, decided to assist the city with the on-going costs of policing in the neighborhood and did so at a level that eclipsed previous funding through the grant,” Paresa said.

Friday, August 20, 2010

Jemez Pueblo Creating Education Endowment

In partnership with the New Mexico Community Foundation, the Pueblo of Jemez is creating an education endowment to ensure that any pueblo member who wants to go to college can.

The endowment, named the Jemez Pueblo Foundation Fund, will be a permanent pool of money that will be managed by the NMCF, a press release issued yesterday by the pueblo stated.

The goal is for the pueblo to raise $50,000 in one year. The NMCF, with support from the W.K. Kellogg Foundation, will match half of what the pueblo raises at $25,000 if the pueblo reaches its goal by Aug. 20, 2011.

The endowment is being kicked off today with a fundraising drive at the Walatowa Visitors Center. The pueblo plans to create a tribal employee giving program as well as solicit area businesses to raise money. The Jemez Health Board and Health Department will kick off the drive with a $25,000 initial investment toward the fund.

“Every year approximately six college-bound students are denied funding because we do not have enough money for all of them,” Pueblo of Jemez Governor Joshua Madalena said in the release. “However, education is a priority, and this endowment will open new doors and provide some great opportunities for our people. It will also help support some of our innovative educational programs.”

The Jemez Pueblo, a non-gaming tribe, will become the second tribe in New Mexico and the 16th in the nation to establish an endowment, according to a report on Native American philanthropy by the First Nations Development Institute.

For information about the Jemez Pueblo Foundation Fund or to make a donation, go to www.nmcf.org/POJEF.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

FCC Establishes Office of Native Affairs and Policy

The Federal Communications Commission has established an Office of Native Affairs and Policy, according to a press release issued by the commission on Aug.12.

With its main agenda aimed at bringing the benefits of a modern communications infrastructure to all Native communities, the new office will work to promote the deployment and adoption of communications services and technologies throughout Indian Country by, among other things, ensuring robust government-to-government consultation with tribal governments and increased coordination with Native organizations.

“The Office of Native Affairs and Policy is a historic milestone and the culmination of many years of effort by leaders in Indian Country and at the FCC,” said Geoffrey Blackwell, who heads the office. “There is a lot of good hard work that remains on the path ahead. As tribal nations and Native communities exercise their sovereignty and self-determination to ensure a bright future for their generations, the entire agency now has a new capability to engage with them. Many people throughout the FCC have worked diligently on behalf of tribes for a number of years. …”

The office, which will be part of the FCC’s Consumer and Governmental Affairs Bureau, will handle ongoing consultation and coordination with American Indian tribes, Alaska Native villages, Native Hawaiian organizations and other Native and tribal entities and will be the official commission contact point for these activities.

Monday, August 16, 2010

Sacred Objects Returned to Yurok Tribe

More than 200 sacred objects that were in the possession of the Smithsonian Institution’s National Museum of the American Indian were returned last week to the Yurok Tribe in northern California, as reported in an Associated Press piece published by the Times Leader on Aug. 15.

The collection of items, which includes white deerskins, condor feathers and head dresses of woodpecker scalps, is one of the largest to be repatriated by the museum. Ranging from hundreds to maybe even thousands of years old, the objects were once part of the collection of George Gustav Heye, though the tribe does not know how he obtained them.

“It’s part of the fabric of who we are and why we are,” Javier Kinney, who helped transport the items from the Smithsonian’s facility in Suitland-Silver Hill, Md., told the AP.

The tribe, which has about 5,500 members, plans to use some of the objects in ceremonies, but some will be displayed in its cultural center.

To learn more about the law that requires museums and government agencies to repatriate Native American objects and remains, read Key Federal Agencies Not Fully Complying with NAGPRA, published on AIR on Aug. 6, 2010.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Sen. Ted Stevens a Champion to Alaska Natives

Former Sen. Ted Stevens, who died in a plane crash in Alaska this week at age 86, will be remembered by many as the longest-serving Republican in the U.S. Senate's history, a man who helped modernize Alaska and, yes, the guy behind that infamous “Bridge to Nowhere,” but he will also be remembered as a big supporter of Alaska Native people.

Stevens helped write and push through the Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act in 1971. The legislation provided nearly $1 billion and 44 million of acres of land to Alaska Natives, which would be managed by 13 regional corporations and more than 200 village corporations. ANCSA ultimately paved the way for the Trans-Alaska Pipeline.

In a statement sent to AIR yesterday, Don Kashevaroff, CEO of the Alaska Native Tribal Health Consortium, said Stevens’ contributions to the Alaska Native community are significant.

"He worked with Alaska tribal leadership to pass legislation that created the Alaska Native Tribal Health Consortium [ANTHC], to take over health care ownership and management back to the tribes,” he said.

ANTHC, a non-profit health organization owned and managed by Alaska Native tribal governments and their regional health organizations, was created in 1997 to provide statewide Native health services. It jointly owns and manages the Alaska Native Medical Center, a 150-bed facility in Anchorage that provides specialty, tertiary and primary care to Alaska Natives and American Indians in Alaska..

Kashevaroff said the former senator brought telemedicine to the state’s rural communities and championed other initiatives that modernized the Alaska Native health system.

“We will dearly miss our friend, our champion and our partner in tribal health," he said.

Andy Teuber, chairman and president of the ANTHC Board of Directors, said in a statement that Stevens was instrumental in creating “world-class health care delivery in a frontier environment.”

"One of his favorite programs was the Community Health Aide program, which he showcased in other countries, like China and Vietnam, as a model of the great things that can happen when local people take over their own health care,” Teuber said. “Our thoughts and prayers are with his family and with his staff, whom he treated as extended family."

Stevens became a U.S. senator for Alaska in 1968, though his political career started before that. In 2008, he lost his bid for reelection to Democrat Mark Begich. Stevens' was convicted in a corruption trial during the Senate race, but the charges were dropped in April 2009 due to “prosecutorial misconduct.”

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

City to Sue Pechanga over Costs Associated with Additional Slots

The city of Temecula plans to file a lawsuit against the Pechanga Band of Luiseno Indians in effort to get the tribe to pay millions of dollars to cover the costs associated the 2,000+ slot machines the tribe has added to its casino over the last few years, namely the costs of increased traffic and calls for police officers, Californian.com reported yesterday. The suit, approved unanimously at a city council meeting held yesterday, will be filed in around 45 days.

Under a new agreement with the city, signed earlier this year, the tribe agreed to pay $2 million annually for the next 21 years to offset the effects of the additional slot machines. The tribe did not make the first payment, which was due on June 30, as it says that there is a clause in the agreement that states the payment does not go into effect until a separate agreement is made with the county.

Tribal Chairman Mark Macarro had this to say in a statement issued after the meeting: "At a time when real leaders work together to solve problems, the Temecula City Council chooses a path of conflict, litigation and uncertainty. The absurdity of their action is beyond comprehension and jeopardizes millions for services that benefit the entire community. We will consider our options and proceed accordingly."

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Chickasaw Nation Opens Cultural Center

After six years of construction, the Chickasaw Cultural Center is finished and welcoming visitors, an Associated Press article reported today.

The facility, located in Sulphur, Okla., cost the Chickasaw Nation $40 million, and it was paid for with tribal gaming revenues. The grand opening was held on July 24.

The center, the AP reported, “traces the tribe's life from its ancestral homelands in what is now the southeastern United States, then along the Trail of Tears, then to its emergence in recent years as one of Oklahoma's most prominent American Indian tribes.”

Occupying a 109-acre site, it features a 350-seat theater with a 2,400-square-foot screen, an exhibit center and a replica of a traditional Chickasaw village. There is also a cafe serving traditional Chickasaw cuisine; a garden, where the tribe's hall of fame is honored; and a research center.

Friday, August 6, 2010

Key Federal Agencies Not Fully Complying with NAGPRA

Despite having about 20 years to comply with the Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act, key federal agencies still have not completely complied, a report published last month by the U.S. Government Accountability Office concluded.

The 106-page report focuses on eight federal agencies: the Department of Interior’s Bureau of Indian Affairs, Bureau of Land Management, Bureau of Reclamation, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and NPS; the Department of Agriculture’s U.S. Forest Service; the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers; and the Tennessee Valley Authority.

These agencies have significant collections of historical objects that were acquired before NAGPRA’s enactment in 1990 through various means, such as construction projects and archaeological excavations. The number of items in each agency’s possession is in the millions.

The law requires federal agencies and museums to “return certain Native American cultural items — human remains, funerary objects, sacred objects or objects of cultural patrimony — to lineal descendants and culturally affiliated Indian tribes and Native Hawaiian organizations.”

It established a process to return the remains and objects. Agencies and museums were to identify cultural items in their collections that are subject to NAGPRA and prepare inventories and summaries of the items; consult with lineal descendants, tribes and Native Hawaiian organizations on the identification and cultural affiliation of the cultural items in their inventories and summaries; send notices to lineal descendants, tribes and Native Hawaiian organizations describing cultural items and lineal descendancy or cultural affiliation and stating that the cultural items may be repatriated (the Secretary of the Interior is required to publish these notices in the Federal Register). The inventories were to be done by Nov. 16 1995, and the summaries were due two years before that.

As the report reveals, there may have been too much work and not enough time to do it.

“Many federal agencies faced a monumental task in trying to identify all of their NAGPRA items and culturally affiliating them, to the extent possible, within the statutory deadlines. The difficulty of the task was compounded at some agencies by overall poor management and oversight of their museum collections over the years,” the report said.

Among the issues, there have been delays in publishing notices of inventory completion, and some agencies have not published all required notices, which have complicated efforts of Indian tribes or Native Hawaiian organizations to make repatriation requests.

The report said that as of Sept. 30, 2009, only 55 percent of Native American human remains inventoried by agencies had been published in notices of inventory completion.

“While agencies compiled hundreds of summaries and inventories, generally by the statutory deadlines, the amount of work conducted and the quality of the documents prepared varied widely and in some cases did not provide reasonable assurance of compliance with the act,” the report said.

Overall, the report found, the Corps, Forest Service and NPS did the most work to identify their NAGPRA items; BLM, BOR and FWS did some; and BIA and TVA have done the least amount.

The report said that policy makers will have a tough time determining how much work agencies have left to be in compliance because the agencies themselves don’t really know, nor do they know what they need in terms of staffing and resources to complete the required work.

Jack F. Trope, executive director of the Association on American Indian Affairs, which had a part in the drafting of NAGPRA, said of the report: “I knew that not all agencies had fully complied with NAGPRA, but was surprised by the extent of the lack of compliance by some of the agencies, such as the BIA and TVA.”

Trope also said that one issue the report did not address is how well the process is or is not working for new discoveries on federal lands, particularly inadvertent discoveries.

The report is on the agenda for the 12th annual meeting of the National Association of Tribal Historic Preservation Officers, which will be hosted by the Oneida Tribe of Wisconsin Aug. 9-13 in Green Bay, Wis.

Representatives from the GAO, including lead auditor Jeff Malcom, assistant director of the GAO Natural Resources and Environment Team, will be there on Aug. 11 to discuss their findings, conclusions and recommendations.

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Center for American Indian Community Health to be Created at KU Medical Center

Researchers from the University of Kansas Medical Center and the American Indian Health Research and Education Alliance have joined forces to create the Center for American Indian Community Health, according to a press release issued by KU on July 30.

The initiative, which is being funded by a $7.5 million grant from the National Center for Minority Health and Health Disparities, will set up a pipeline to attract American Indian high school and college students to the KU School of Medicine’s master’s of public health degree program and other graduate programs to increase the number of Native people entering the health professions and conducting health research. Medical center faculty are already working with Haskell Indian Nations University to identify potential students for the master's of public health program.

Five years ago, there were no American Indian students in the program, the release said. Three Native students have already earned degrees; five more are now enrolled and several more have applied for the fall semester.

The new Center for American Indian Community Health will enhance work that began in 2005, when KU Medical Center joined with seven other academic and community organizations to form AIHREA. AIHREA, whose mission is to improve the health of American Indians through quality participatory research and education, has partnerships with government agencies and institutions involved in Native American health and health research.

“Our goal is to train and educate the next generation of Native health researchers and health care professionals, hoping that they will return to their communities and help to address health disparities,” said Christine M. Daley, associate professor of preventive medicine and public health at the School of Medicine, the director of AIHREA and one of the principal investigators on the project.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Pascua Yaqui Start Issuing Enhanced Tribal Cards to Members

Late last month, the Pascua Yaqui Tribe began issuing its new Enhanced Tribal Card (ETC) to its members, according to a press release jointly issued by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security and the tribe.

The ETC, which includes security features and radio frequency identification technology, was designed to be a Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative (WHTI)-compliant document. It formally recognizes tribal membership and U.S. citizenship for the purpose of entering the United States through a land or sea port of entry.

WHTI is a joint initiative between DHS and the Department of State. It implements a key 9/11 Commission recommendation and Congressional mandate to establish document requirements for travelers entering the United States who were previously exempt, including citizens of the United States and Canada. WHTI requires all U.S. and Canadian citizens ages 16 and older to present a valid, acceptable travel document that denotes both identity and citizenship when entering the United States by land or sea.

The tribe, located approximately 60 miles from the U.S.-Mexico border, has more than 17,000 members, many of whom have relatives residing on both sides of the border. Both the tribe and its Yaqui cousins in Mexico regularly visit each other for religious, cultural and tribal purposes.

The Pascua Yaqui became the first tribe in Arizona to sign a Memorandum of Agreement with U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) for the development of an ETC in May 2009. Since then, CBP has signed similar agreements with the Kootenai Tribe of Idaho, the Seneca of New York, the Tohono O'odham of Arizona and the Coquille of Oregon to develop WHTI-compliant ETCs. CBP is also currently working with about 15 other tribes across the country on the ETC initiative.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Navajo Voters to Narrow Down List of Presidential Hopefuls

Today, Navajo Nation voters will decide which two out of a dozen hopefuls will contend for the presidency next year, according to an Associated Press story published on Aug. 2.

In the running are: Deputy Attorney General Harrison Tsosie; former state Rep. Daniel Peaches; Council Delegate Rex Lee Jim; Vice President Ben Shelly; Lynda Lovejoy, a New Mexico senator; Sharon Clahchischilliage, former director of the Navajo Nation Washington Office; Arbin Mitchell, who has worked for three separate Navajo presidents and now serves as the tribe's director of community development; Shiprock Chapter Vice President Donald Benally; mechanic Jerry Todacheene of Shiprock, N.M.; Salt River Project employee Dale Tsosie; George Herrera of Ojo Encino, N.M., who is running as a write-in candidate; and Anthony Begay, the youngest of the candidates at 37.

Current Navajo President Joe Shirley Jr. had sought re-election to a third consecutive term, the AP article reported, however, the Navajo Nation elections office disqualified him, basing its decision on Navajo law that limits tribal presidents to two consecutive terms. The decision was upheld by the Navajo Supreme Court.

More than one-third of the Navajo Nation’s 300,000 members are registered to vote in the primary, and around 65 percent are expected to turnout today, the AP article said.