SENATE COMMITTEE ON
INDIAN AFFAIRS HEARING EXAMINES THE PRESIDENT’S BUDGET
U.S. Senator Daniel K. Akaka (D-Hawaii), Chairman of the Senate
Committee on Indian Affairs, held an oversight hearing on the
President’s proposed Fiscal Year 2013 Budget for Native Programs.
The Committee heard testimony from Larry Echo Hawk, Assistant Secretary
for the Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA); Yvette Roubideaux, the Director
of Indian Health Service (IHS); and from representatives of the National
Congress of American Indians, the Affiliated Tribes of Northwest
Indians, the United South and Eastern Tribes Incorporated (USET), and
the Great Plains Tribal Chairman’s Association.
“The testimony we heard today makes it evident that the President’s
budget request for Native programs reflects a concerted effort to
fulfill our federal government’s trust responsibility to its indigenous
people,” said Chairman Akaka. “However, witnesses voiced significant
concerns about the potential impacts that streamlining, sequestration,
and balancing the budget could have on that responsibility.
“This trust responsibility is especially important to remember if the
sequester occurs at the beginning of 2013, which would require
across-the-board cuts to the majority of programs carried out by
government agencies. This could have a devastating effect on tribal
programs -- which are too often underfunded even in prosperous times.
“As it is, the average Native American’s life expectancy is five years
shorter than any other race, suicide rates are nearly double that of
their counterparts, and only thirteen percent of young Native adults
earn an undergraduate degree. Cutting programs designed to help Native
youth succeed will endanger their futures and dishonor our trust
Assistant Secretary Echo Hawk said, “The 2013 budget focuses on core
responsibilities to Native Americans through programs and services that
are vital to Indian Country and that benefit the greatest number of
Indian people on a nationwide basis. Like he did for FY 2012, President
Obama’s FY 2013 budget proposal includes Carcieri fix language signaling
his strong support for a legislative solution to resolve this issue.”
the Carcieri v. Salazar decision, the Supreme Court reversed 75 years of
policy and practice. The Indian Reorganization Act (IRA) of 1934
authorized the Secretary of the Interior to take lands into trust for
federally recognized tribes. The court threw all tribes into a tailspin
of uncertainty by ruling that the Secretary did not have the authority
to take land into trust for tribes that were not considered “under
federal jurisdiction” when the IRA was enacted. The court did not define
“under federal jurisdiction,” and in 1934 no official list of federally
recognized tribes existed.
“In making this recommendation, the President acknowledges the unique
trust responsibility that exists between the United States and tribal
governments. Righting this wrong will cost taxpayers nothing and would
instead create jobs and bring new economic development opportunities to
Indian Country and surrounding communities,” said Chairman Akaka.