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FCNL Hosts Briefing on Native American Affairs

January 20, 2010

Last Friday, the Native American program here at FCNL hosted a briefing for our interfaith colleagues on the hill. Our first speaker was Amber Ebarb from the National Congress of American Indians (NCAI). She gave us an overview of the federal budget as it relates to Indians, particularly Indian health care. One thing she emphasized was the incredible fluctuation in funding for the Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA) and Indian Health Services (IHS). She really brought home the point that it is extremely difficult to provide adequate services when these bodies have no idea what their funding will be like from year to year.

We also heard from Cindy Darcy and Jose Aguto from NCAI. Cindy gave us the history of the IHCIA as well as its current status in Congress. Her talk had an optimistic tone, noting that this Congress has been good about remembering tribes when considering state and local levels of government. The Senate HELP Committee (Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions) in particular has been very good about remembering tribal programs and the IHS.
From Jose Aguto we heard the happy news that the Senate Committee on Indian Affairs (SCIA) is working on a new Indian energy bill. As I learned at the hearing held by the SCIA in October, Indian country faces unique barriers to energy development, but has great potential for sustainable energy production. As Jose pointed out at our briefing, tribal wind potential can supply 40% of US energy, and solar potential could supply 4 or 5 times the total US energy use.
John Harte, Policy Director for the Senate Committee on Indian Affairs, came to speak about the Tribal Law and Order Act. He used powerful language in speaking out for the need for an overhaul in the public safety and justice system in Indian Country, calling the lack of funding “systematic.”

To learn more about any of these issues, visit our website, NCAI’s website, or the Senate Committee on Indian Affairs’ website.

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