Tribal Unity Gathering Encourages Congress to Stand on Common Ground with Indian Country

Published on Sep 17, 2013

Washington D.C. – For a third time in as many years, Indian Country advocates and leaders came together in Washington, DC with unified messages and policy priorities for the start of the fall session of Congress. Tribal Unity Impact Days has been instrumental in communicating the key Indian policy priorities for Congress to address.  In recent years, the effort was critical to advocating for successful amendments to the Stafford Act and the Violence Against Women Act. This year tribal leaders stood together to remind Congress of the federal trust responsibility and that, amidst partisan division in other areas, Indian Country is common ground for all Americans.

NCAI joined the Alaska Federation of Natives, California Association of Tribal Governments, Coalition of Large Tribes, Eight Northern Pueblos Council, Great Plains Tribal Chairman’s Association, Midwest Alliance of Sovereign Tribes, Navajo Nation, and the United South and Eastern Tribes in hosting the events. This year, Tribal Unity focused on the protection of treaty promises in the federal budget, tribal tax policy, and land restoration – including a Carcieri fix . 
Tribal Unity Impact Days kicked off in the Senate Committee on Indian Affairs hearing room with over 130 attendees participating in the tribal briefing. Tribal leaders heard from Senators Begich (AK), Heitkamp (ND), and Tester (MT) and Representatives Becerra (CA), Cole (OK), McCollum (MN), Pearce (NM), and Ruiz (CA). Many Members thanked tribal leaders for their dedication in traveling to the nation’s capital to share how policy decisions are affecting tribal communities, especially impacts of sequestration on health, education, public safety, and other tribal governmental services. Representatives Cole and McCollum emphasized their support for protecting tribal treaty obligations from indiscriminate reductions.
NCAI and its partners also sought broad support from Congress to assist in providing more fair treatment for tribal governments under the tax code.  The Internal Revenue Code has included Indian tribes in a piecemeal fashion, which chooses when and where to acknowledge tribes’ taxing authority.  Several tribal tax bills have been introduced during the 113th Congress:  H.R. 2332; H.R. 3030; and H.R. 3042.  Each of these bills is the result of effective outreach from tribal leadership on key tax issues affecting tribal self-governance.  Tribal leaders asked Members to co-sponsor in the House, and encouraged Senators to introduce companion bills in the Senate.
Tribes also urged Congress to reject the language similar to the Administration’s proposal to unfairly limit payment of contract support costs in the Continuing Resolution. If adopted by Congress, the provisions would set back Indian self-determination and self-governance decades. They would also undo four recent Supreme Court decisions confirming the United States’ obligation to pay the full amount of Contract Support Costs owed to Indian Tribes, by denying Tribes the right to recover damages under the Contract Disputes Act when full CSC payment is not made.  

Everyone was in agreement on the importance of protecting Indian land.  President Keel ended his speech with “As our ancestors before us, we must rally to the defense of our land.  We must fight for the land rights of all Tribes, including the overturning of Carcieri with the Carcieri fix, and the advancement of the Patchak Patch. Only together can we protect our lands.”  

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