Stacy Bohlen, center, the Chief Executive Officer of the National Indian Health Board, provides testimony to the House Subcommittee for Indigenous Peoples of the United States in Washington, D.C., on November 19, 2019. Photo: House Committee on Natural Resources Democrats

Indian Country awaits latest budget proposal from Trump administration

WASHINGTON, D.C. -- With tribal leaders in town for a big week of meetings and hearings, President Donald Trump is releasing his fiscal year 2021 budget request, a document that signals his administration's commitment to fulfilling trust and treaty obligations.

For the past three years, the request has made it look as Trump isn't that interested in meeting the needs of the first Americans. He's repeatedly sought cuts to key programs at the Bureau of Indian Affairs, the federal agency with the most responsibilities to tribes and their citizens.

Other agencies haven't fared much better. Indian programs at the Department of Education, the Department of Housing and Urban Development and the Environmental Protection Agency are among those that haven taken hits since Trump took office in January 2017.

“We have a vision for how we go," President Fawn Sharp of the National Congress of American Indians told key lawmakers at a hearing that examined the U.S. government's many "Broken Promises" last November, "to a path of prosperity."

“But in that path there are multiple barriers," Sharp said, pointing to federal policies, such as inadequate funding, that hinder Indian Country.

The only place where Trump hasn't been seeking drastic cuts is at the Indian Health Service. But tribal advocates point out that the agency has never been funded at the level it needs to help improve outcomes and conditions among American Indians and Alaska Natives.

"In 1955, Congress established the Indian Health Service in partial fulfillment of its constitutional obligations for health services," Stacy Bohlen, a citizen of the Sault Ste. Marie Tribe of Chippewa Indians who serves as Chief Executive Officer of the National Indian Health Board, said in testimony to Congress. "Yet at no time since the founding of IHS has Congress fully funded health care in Indian Country at the level of need."

The White House Office of Management and Budget typically posts the budget request in the morning. The documents provide a high-level look at the entire government.

Individual agencies will follow with their own budget documents. The Department of the Interior, which includes the BIA, usually updates doi.gov/budget with the latest request.

The Department of Health and Human Services, which includes the IHS, typically posts the request at .hhs.gov/about/budget. IHS documents should be available at ihs.gov/budgetformulation/congressionaljustifications.

Trump's request, though, isn't the end of the story. It is up to Congress to appropriate the funds for the BIA, the IHS and other agencies, and members from both parties frequently work together to reverse the president's cuts.

To help make the case, members of the House Committee on Appropriations will be hearing from dozens of tribal, Indian and Native leaders this week. Starting on Tuesday morning, they will hold four sessions of public witness testimony.

House Committee on Appropriations Notices
American Indian and Alaska Native Public Witness Day 1 AM Session (February 11, 2020)
American Indian and Alaska Native Public Witness Day 1 PM Session (February 11, 2020)
American Indian and Alaska Native Public Witness Day 2 AM Session (February 12, 2020)
American Indian and Alaska Native Public Witness Day 1 PM Session (February 12, 2020)

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