Donna Ennis: Obama budget supports tribal self-determination

The Min-No-Aya-Win Health Center on the Fond du Lac Reservation in Minnesota. Photo from University of Minnesota

Donna Ennis welcomes proposal to fully fund contract support costs by making it a mandatory part of the federal budget:
A historic event happened in Indian Country this month. As part of President Obama’s budget request to Congress, federal funding for tribal contract support costs (CSC) for three years beginning in 2017 will be moved from the "discretionary" to "mandatory non-discretionary" category within the federal budget. Contract support costs are critical to the administration of Indian Health Service and the Bureau of Indian Affairs. This is a huge step in recognizing self-governance efforts by tribes and recognition of the government-to-government relationship based on a trust relationship.

President Obama has shown that he is seriously committed to taking action on Indian issues. He has brokered passage of the reauthorization of the Indian Health Care Improvement Act, the Tribal Law and Order Act, and the $3.4 billion Cobell settlement. While other presidents have championed Indian causes that supported tribal sovereignty – most notably President Nixon who endorsed a self-determination plan for tribes that ushered in a new era in Indian Country – this effort will go a long way to support the trust relationship. Contrast that with George W. Bush who had this to say about his understanding of tribal sovereignty: “Tribal sovereignty means that. It’s sovereign. You’re… a...you’ve been given sovereignty and you’re viewed as a sovereign entity. And therefore the relationship between the federal government and tribes is one between sovereign entities.”

Beginning in 1787 and ending in 1871, nearly 400 treaties were signed between the United States and Indian tribes. The United States obtained the land that they wanted and promised to respect the independence of the tribes in exchange for food, supplies, health care, education and other services. This is known as the doctrine of trust responsibility and it has shaped federal Indian policy for many years. The trust responsibility is both a legal and a moral responsibility.

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Donna Ennis: Obama’s Budget Supports Tribal Sovereignty (Indian Country Today 2/26)

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