Native Sun News: Tribes call attention to funding discrepancies

The following story was written and reported by Karin Eagle, Native Sun News Staff Writer. All content © Native Sun News.

RAPID CITY, SOUTH DAKOTA –– Economic development and independence are key words being bandied about by tribes in the U.S. as the way toward improving the lives of tribal members across the country. Contract work on tribal lands is being lauded as an avenue leading toward that goal.

At a conference held at Best Western Ramkota Hotel & Convention Center, the Native American Contractors Association brought together tribal leaders and small business owners from several tribes and Native communities across the country. NACA hosted the conference in conjunction with the Small Business Administration and Great Plains Tribal Chairman’s Association.

During a special meeting of the GPTCA, which was unable to conduct official business due to lacking a quorum, a presentation of a Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP) study brought attention to what GPTCA Chairman Tex Hall, who is also chair of the Three Affiliated Tribes in North Dakota, called a disturbing finding.

The discrepancy between what the state of South Dakota receives and what the tribes receive to provide assistance to families in need was the issue that raised concerns among the chairman and other attendees.

A meeting with U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius was called for by GPTCA Vice Chairman John Yellow Bird Steele, who also serves as leader of the Oglala Sioux Tribe.

“We should have a meeting with the secretary and ask that this be looked at. Not just a consultation, but a true negotiation between Secretary Sebelius and the tribes,” said Steele.

Statistics were presented that showed tribes are providing over 34 percent of LIHEAP assistance overall yet are receiving only 17 percent of the funding from states. The federal government issues the funding to states, which in turn allocate the funding to counties and tribes.

The last negotiation for allocation of funding was held over 19 years ago.

“We need to look into the possibility of the tribes receiving that funding directly, rather than the state receiving it and funneling it to us,” Hall said.

A. Gay Kingman, a member of the Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe who serves as executive director of GPTCA, mentioned that the U.S. government has allowed for tribes to deal with it on a government-to-government basis on other issues and that this might be another instance in which this established relationship will work to the benefit of tribal members. Steele was charged with coordinating that meeting.

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