Source: United States House of Representatives – Congresswoman Deb Haaland (NM-01)
Washington, D.C. – Today, Congresswoman Deb Haaland (NM-01) turned Congress’ attention to chronic underfunding in Indian Country during a subcommittee hearing on the U.S. Commission of Civil Rights’ pivotal Broken Promises Report. The witnesses who testified before the committee included tribal leaders, tribal organizations, advocates, and Administration witnesses.
As Congress debates the budget, Haaland asked newly elected National Congress of American Indians’ President Fawn Sharpe about the impacts government shutdowns and sequestration have on Native Nations’ abilities to provide services. In response, President Sharp noted an underlying barrier that Tribes are not at the table when funding cuts are being debated and government shutdowns are being waged, which only exacerbates the impacts of unpredictable funding.
During her line of questioning, Haaland highlighted points where solutions could be found. She asked the Director of Natural Resources and Environment at the U.S. Government Accountability Office, Dr. Anna Maria Ortiz, in which areas investment would be most critical to serve native communities. Dr. Ortiz outlined three main areas: economic development, infrastructure, and tribal justice.
Congresswoman Deb Haaland requested the oversight hearing to review the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights’ pivotal report that details the chronic underfunding of housing, education, health care, economic development, and public safety programs.
Based on Tribes’ and tribal organizations’ feedback, expert and public input, and extensive research and analysis, the USCCR’s Broken Promises report, released on December 20, 2018, evaluated the extent to which the federal government is meeting its trust and treaty responsibilities. The report also examined resources provided by the federal agencies that administer programs for American Indians and Alaskan Natives, and Native Hawaiians, including the Departments of Health and Human Services, Interior, Housing and Urban Development, Justice, and Education, and concluded that federal programs designed to support the social and economic wellbeing of tribal nations and Native peoples remain chronically underfunded and often inefficiently structured at the federal level. The report put it bluntly: “The United States expects all nations to live up to their treaty obligations and it should live up to its own.”
In August, Congresswoman Deb Haaland (D-N.M.) and Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) released a proposal for a forthcoming bill, the Honoring Promises to Native Nations Act. The legislation will address chronic underfunding and barriers to sovereignty in Indian Country and hold the federal government accountable for honoring America’s legal promises to Native peoples.
The proposal’s five titles-mirroring the five chapters of the Broken Promises report-highlight areas where the federal government has failed to fulfill its Trust Responsibility, including criminal justice and public safety, health care, education, housing, and economic development, and propose options for addressing the chronic underfunding of programs associated with these areas to strengthen the wellbeing of all Native American communities and their ability to function as self-governing entities.