Native American Issues
The 567 sovereign tribal nations in the United States have a unique trust relationship with the federal government recognized in the Constitution and through treaties that must be honored and respected.
As part of this relationship, the federal government has the responsibility to provide health, education and law enforcement, among other services, for American Indian and Alaska Native people.
Since the founding of the U.S., federal policy has ranged from relocation, assimilation, reorganization and termination of Indian nations. Now we are in an era of Indian self-determination, where federal agencies interact with tribes on a government-to-government basis with the focus on tribal priorities. Still, the federal government has significant work to do to fully meet its obligations to Native people.
For too long, Indian programs have been chronically underfunded. I am committed to work with tribal leaders and communities to ensure appropriate funding is available for the Indian Health Service, Indian Education, Indian School Construction and Native American Housing Block Grants. Federal investments in Native youth, elders, economic development programs, and housing are vital to making families and communities stronger.
Another important priority is for Congress to resolve the Carcieri issue by clarifying its intent that all federally recognized tribes, regardless of their recognition date, can ask the Secretary of Interior to take land into trust on their behalf.
The lack of funding reaching Native communities is in part because services are dispersed across almost all federal agencies, which makes accountability difficult. To monitor and evaluate funding at all levels, I urged the Office of Management and Budget to compile and release a comprehensive Native budget to examine spending on Native programs across the entire budget. It took a year before I was successful, but it can now be viewed on the OMB website here.