January 22, 2015 –
Washington, DC – In an address to members of Congress, senior Administration officials, and leaders of tribal nations, the President of the National Congress of American Indians called on Congress and the Obama Administration to follow through on a policy action plan to improve economic opportunity, education, and innovation in Indian Country.
During the annual State of Indian Nations address, NCAI President Brian Cladoosby, chairman of the Swinomish Nation, also called for the federal government to modernize trust relations with tribal governments and remove barriers to economic growth. Senator John Barrasso (R-WY), chair of the Senate Committee on Indian Affairs delivered the Congressional response.
“Indian Country is leading. Indian Country is innovating. Indian Country is growing. And the state of Indian nations grows stronger by the day,” said Cladoosby in the opening moments of the speech. Cladoosby is President of NCAI the oldest, largest, and most representative American Indian and Alaska Native organization in the country.
“Today, I bring a simple message from the tribes of the 21st Century: We must tear down barriers to growth, simplify regulations that are limiting opportunities, and acknowledge that tribes have the capability as governments to oversee our own affairs,” continued Cladoosby during the address delivered to a studio audience at the Newseum in Washington, DC. “Congress and the Administration need to find ways to help bring federal agencies out of the 19th Century and into the 21st Century. We need them to be partners for growth and not barriers to growth. “
Remarking on the historic visit by President Obama to the Standing Rock Sioux Nation last year, President Cladoosby extended a personal invitation to Speaker Boehner, Leader Pelosi, Majority Leader McConnell, and Minority Leader Reid – as well as every Member of Congress to visit Indian Country in 2015.
During the major policy address NCAI and Cladoosby outlined a clear plan and top-level priorities for Congress and the Administration that could attract bipartisan support:
FUNDING THE TRUST RESPONSIBILTY
- The organization released a 130 page report The FY 2016 Indian Country Budget Request; Promoting Self-Determination, Modernizing the Trust Relationship, outlining a plan for funding the federal government’s trust responsibility through the budget process.
- NCAI called on congress to advance tribal tax reform to enable tribes to raise tax revenue free from overlapping state taxation, and to create incentives for business and jobs.
- NCAI proposed the federal government accelerate work to partner with the private sector to expand broadband connectivity in Indian Country and ensure a comprehensive study of the digital divide facing tribal nations.
ACCESS TO CAPITAL
- NCAI proposed extending access to capital by recognizing the equal status of tribal governments to access tax exempt bonds and ensuring tribal inclusion in the New Markets Tax Credit Program.
- NCAI urged Congress to pass Indian energy legislation like that proposed by Chairman Barrasso that would provide tribes with greater control and flexibility to develop their traditional and renewable energy resources.
- NCAI called on Congress and the Administration to ensure that tribal nations have a seat at the policymaking table by consulting with tribes on all policy issues such as the Keystone Pipeline, renewable energy, health care, and education.
- NCAI called on Congress to reauthorize the Elementary and Secondary Education Act this year with tribal provisions to encourage tribal-state partnerships, strengthen local control of education, and begin to help every school deliver a high-quality education.
- NCAI proposed that Congress should enact legislation that supports Native language programs so education for our children is rooted in our history and culture.
- NCAI called on financial sponsors of the Washington DC football team to join “fair-minded Americans” by standing with NCAI, tribes, Native organizations, civil rights organizations, religious leaders, and others to change the mascot of the Washington DC football team;
- NCAI applauded the President’s proposal to make the first two years of tribal and community college free. NCAI promised to work with Congress & Administration to make this investment in assuring K-through-14 education in America.