U.S. Rep. Deb Haaland is sponsoring legislation that she said will help the federal government live up to its promises to Indian County.
The New Mexico Democrat is introducing the Honoring Promises to Native Nations Act with U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., a bill she said will hold the government accountable.
“The U.S. government has chronically underfunded various programs in Indian Country,” Haaland told the Journal. “This legislation will be made to remedy that.”
She said the proposal outlines options for implementing the recommendations of last year’s U.S. Commission on Civil Rights (USCCR) report, “Broken Promises: Continuing Federal Funding Shortfall for Native Americans,” which Haaland views as a call for action by Congress.
“It addresses several areas: housing, health care and public safety,” she said.
Based on tribal feedback, expert and public input, and extensive research and analysis, the USCCR’s Broken Promises report, released Dec. 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 Native Americans and Native Hawaiians, including the Departments of Health and Human Services, Interior, Housing and Urban Development, Justice and Education.
Haaland said the legislation would particularly highlight public safety issues.
She cited the lack of law enforcement resources as a factor in the high rate of cases involving murdered and missing Native American women.
“The Navajo Nation is larger than some states, but it only has 200 police officers,” Haaland said. “The tribal court, the police, it’s all intertwined.”
But she said other areas would be addressed as well. At the recent Freedom and Justice Conference held at the University of New Mexico, she said there were tribal areas without running water and electricity, and little access to broadband internet service.
“Our goal is to get all of the areas fully funded,” said Haaland, who is a member of Laguna Pueblo.
She said input will be sought from Native tribes across the country. The feedback will be used to put together the legislation, she said.
“Congress will have an opportunity to address the longs-tanding failures of the federal government,” Haaland said. “This legislative proposal is the vehicle to further the conversation about what Indian Country needs for these promises to be adequately fulfilled, and to empower tribal governments to serve their people. The federal government must honor its promises.”
In a release last week, New Mexico Republican senatorial candidate Gavin Clarkson criticized Warren’s involvement with the proposal, saying it didn’t make notice of her disputed heritage.
Clarkson, a member of the Choctaw Nation, said much of the proposal already has bipartisan support, but much of it seeks centralized solutions from D.C. rather than truly empowering tribal innovation at the local level.
“The infrastructure deficits she (Warren) identifies are real, but she fails to address their biggest cause, the double taxation of non-tribal economic activities on tribal lands that denies tribes a meaningful tax base,” he said.