Rep. Gwen Moore (D-Wisconsin) addresses the National Congress of American Indians executive council winter session in Washington, D.C., on February 24, 2016. Photo by Indianz.Com
Some highlights from the third and final day of the National Congress of American Indians 2016 executive council winter session in Washington, D.C. Another Plea for NAHASDA
Rep. Gwen Moore (D-Wisconsin) came to the National Congress of American Indians with a big message: Tribes need to lobby the Senate to reauthorize the Native American Housing Assistance and Self Determination Act. NAHASDA expired in September 2013 and the House has voted twice to renew it, most recently by passing H.R.360 nearly a year ago. Action has been stalled in the other chamber. "We are running out of time folks," Moore told tribal leaders on Wednesday morning. "We are between a rock and a hard place." On Monday, NCAI executive director Jackie Pata traced the delay to Sen. Mike Lee (R-Utah), who has placed a hold on NAHASDA because it includes programs for Native Hawaiians. Moore didn't go into that issue but she said tribes have the power to overcome the obstacle. "I know you guys know how to throw a punch and now is the time to do it," Moore said. She said tribes need to support S.360 rather than S.710, which she described as a "not viable" package for Indian housing.
Rep. Mark Pocan (D-Wisconsin) addresses the National Congress of American Indians executive council winter session in Washington, D.C., on February 24, 2016. Photo by Indianz.Com
Marijuana and Self-Determination
Very few tribes have entered the marijuana industry due to significant uncertainties but that didn't stopped Sen. James Lankford (R-Oklahoma) from dropping a bomb on Indian Country last year. S.1984, the Keeping out Illegal Drugs Act, bill bars tribes that cultivate, manufacture or distribute marijuana from receiving federal funds. To counteract that threat, Rep. Mark Pocan (D-Wisconsin) is working on a bill to respect tribal self-determination and ensure that tribes are treated the same as states. He said tribes should not be punished for developing their own marijuana laws and policies. "This is not an attempt to legalize marijuana on all tribal lands but rather an attempt to ensure parity and guarantee sovereignty of tribal governments," Pocan said "This bill would explicitly prohibit federal agencies from considering a tribes' marijuana policy when disbursing self-determination funds," Pocan added. Pocan didn't say when he will introduce the measure but he said that colleagues from both parties are clamoring to join as co-sponsors. "In fact we have a bit of a bidding war of people who want to be the leads on it," he told NCAI.
Tribal leaders listen to a video message from Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders at the National Congress of American Indians executive council winter session in Washington, D.C., on February 24, 2016. Photo by Indianz.Com
Another Presidential Campaign
As a non-partisan organization, NCAI invited all of the 2016 presidential candidates to present their platforms to tribal leaders but only two accepted the offer: Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders, both Democrats. Sanders was up on Wednesday morning and was represented by Nick Carter, the campaign's national deputy political outreach director. Also in attendance were two of the campaign's Native advisors: Nicole Willis, a member of the Confederated Tribes of the Umatilla Reservation, and Tara Houska, a member of the Couchiching First Nation. Sanders beat Clinton by announcing the outlines of his Native American policy through a post by Jacqueline Keeler last week. Clinton officially disseminated her document, Growing Together: Hillary Clinton’s Vision for Building a Brighter Future for Native Americans, on Tuesday at NCAI. Both candidates are promising to continue the annual White House Tribal Nations Conference, strengthen tribal jurisdiction and promote opportunities for Native youth. Carter expanded on the Sanders policy by outlining four more specific goals. As president, Sanders will ensure that all federal agencies maintain a high-level Indian affairs position, expand Executive Order 13175 on tribal consultation, establish a tribal position at the White House Office of Management and Budget and open all federal grant programs to tribes, he said. "Tribal governments must be treated on par with state and local governments," Carter said. Sanders also discussed his platform in a video message played for conference attendees. He plans to include tribes in a climate change summit within the first 100 days of his administration and to protect sacred sites from development and he specifically mentioned Oak Flat, a sacred Apache site in Arizona. He is sponsoring S.2242, the Save Oak Flat Act, a bill that repeals a controversial rider that authorized a copper mine at the site. "The United States' government's relationship with the Native Americans has been a disaster from day one," Sanders said. Although the Democratic contests are just beginning, Sanders has been garnering more support from Native voters, based on returns in Nevada and Iowa. Upcoming primaries on Super Tuesday on March 1 will take place in states with significant numbers of Native Americans. Related Stories:
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