AUDIO: Indian Country leaders share funding priorities with Congress

By Acee Agoyo

The House Committee on Appropriations continued an annual tradition last week by inviting Indian Country leaders to share their funding priorities with key members of Congress.

But this year's sessions, which took place on March 6 and March 7, were arranged differently. Rather than hear from representatives of tribal governments, urban Indian providers and inter-tribal organizations by geographical area, the House Subcommittee on Interior, Environment, and Related Agencies organized the testimony by subject area.

The result was a diverse array of witnesses who focused on health care, education, public safety and justice, tribal government and human services and land, trust, and natural resource management issues, including climate change. Collectively, their voices called for greater funding levels in order for the federal government to meet its trust and treaty responsibilities.

"Being one of the youngest leaders, our struggles have always been the same," said President Julian Bear Runner of the Oglala Sioux Tribe. "Our numbers have always been the same but our population has grown and the disparity of our problems is growing."

Overall, more than 60 leaders appeared before the subcommittee, whose members write the appropriations bill that funds almost every single Indian Country program. The panel's goal is to enact a fiscal year 2020 budget by October 1 so that the Bureau of Indian Affairs, the Bureau of Indian Education, the Office of the Special Trustee for American Indians and the Indian Health Service can continue to operate without being threatened by a government shutdown or some other political crisis in the nation's capital.

"The shutdown gave me some gray hairs this year," said Esther Lucero, the chief executive officer of the Seattle Indian Health Board. Her organization is joining Indian Country's call to provided advanced appropriations to the BIA and the IHS, like those already provided to the Department of Veterans Affairs, in order to avert future crises.

During the four sessions over the two days last week, nearly 7 hours of testimony was provided by the witnesses. You listen to their stories on the Indianz.Com SoundCloud.

House Committee on Appropriations Notices
Public Witness Hearing — Tribal Programs: Day 1, Morning Session (March 6, 2019)
Public Witness Hearing — Tribal Programs: Day 1, Afternoon Session (March 6, 2019)
Public Witness Hearing — Tribal Programs: Day 2, Morning Session (March 7, 2019)
Public Witness Hearing — Tribal Programs: Day 2, Afternoon Session (March 6, 2019)

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