NCAI Joint Tribal Letter on the Sequester

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November 27, 2012

The Honorable Harry Reid         The Honorable Mitch McConnell
Majority Leader                           Minority Leader
United States Senate                    United States Senate
Washington, DC 20510              Washington, DC 20510

The Honorable John Boehner     The Honorable Nancy Pelosi
Speaker of the House                  Minority Leader
House of Representatives            House of Representatives
Washington, DC 20515               Washington, DC 20515

Dear Majority Leader Reid, Minority Leader McConnell, Speaker Boehner and Minority Leader Pelosi:

Our undersigned Tribes and Tribal organizations jointly urge action to protect tribal communities and the federal trust responsibility as the nation faces critical choices about how to address the deficit while preventing another recession. As Congress debates the "fiscal cliff," the term for a series of deadlines at the end of 2012 when tax cuts expire and sequestration will take effect, we urge you to avoid any more harmful cuts to Indian programs which would threaten the health and welfare of Indian people.

The federal trust obligation to Indian tribes must be honored and vital tribal programs must be sustained in any deal to reduce the national deficit. The obligations to tribal citizens funded in the federal budget are the result of treaties negotiated and agreements made between Indian tribes and the U.S. in exchange for land and resources, known as the trust responsibility. At the heart of the budget debate is the role and size of government. However, the authority to fund programs that fulfill the trust responsibility is founded in the Constitution, specifically the Indian Commerce Clause, the Treaty Clause and the Property Clause. This historic duty should not be sacrificed in any of the budget options or ultimate solutions. Congress must enact a plan to reduce the deficit through a balanced approach that includes new revenues and does not only rely on domestic spending cuts.

Due to the failure of a Super Committee agreement, sequestration was triggered, which consists entirely of spending cuts. Non-defense discretionary spending already has absorbed significant reductions through the 10-year spending caps in the Budget Control Act. By 2021, this category of spending will reach its lowest level in more than 50 years and account for just 2.8 percent of the U.S. gross domestic product. Using the estimate of 8.2 percent reductions just for the first year of sequestration, many Indian programs will face difficult reductions below FY2010 levels, when adjusted for inflation.

If sequestration is implemented, examples of the percentage cut from FY 2010 when adjusted for inflation include:
• Native American Job Training, cut by 23%
• Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP), Tribes, cut by 35%
• Vocational Rehabilitation State Grants, Tribes, cut by 25%
• Indian Housing Block Grant cut by 21%
• Indian Student Education cut by 13%
• Tribal Community Oriented Policing Grants cut by 25%
• Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA), Trust Natural Resources cut by 24%
• BIA, Operation of Indian Programs cut by 14%

We urge you to make thoughtful decisions to avoid disrupting important governmental responsibilities such as the trust obligations to tribes and addressing the public safety crisis throughout Indian Country. In October 2012, NCAI passed Resolution #SAC-12-051, “Supporting Federal Programs that Fund the Trust Responsibility and Urging the Sequester to be Averted.” The abrupt and arbitrary nature of the across-the-board cuts from sequestration will have damaging effects on the progress made in addressing the serious problems facing Indian Country. Cuts at the sequester level of 8.2 percent, or deeper, to investments in education, housing, roads, law enforcement, tribal courts, natural resources, energy development, job training, and health care would deal a devastating blow to the economic conditions in Indian Country. The blunt mechanistic savings from sequestration is not good public policy and should be averted. Please work together to find a balanced approach to deficit reduction that does not include further cuts to tribal programs as part of the non-defense discretionary budget.


Jefferson Keel 

President, NCAI

Tribes and Intertribal Organizations Standing Together in Support:

National Tribal Organizations
American Indian Higher Education Consortium (
Americans for Indian Opportunity (
Center for World Indigenous Studies (
Indian Nations Conservation Alliance (
Institute of American Indian Arts (
Intertribal Buffalo Council (
Intertribal Timber Council (
Intertribal Transportation Association
National American Indian Housing Council (
National Association of Tribal Historic Preservation Officers (
National Center for American Indian Enterprise Development (
National Indian Child Welfare Association (
National Indian Council on Aging, Inc. (
National Indian Education Association (
National Indian Gaming Association (
National Indian Health Board (
National Tribal Environmental Council (
Native American Contractors Association (
Native Community Development Financial Institutions Network
Native Public Media, (
Self-Governance Advisory Committee
Tribal Education Departments National Assembly (

Tribal Organizations and Native Corporations
Afognak Native Corporation (Alaska)
Alaska Federation of Natives (Alaska)
Aleutian Pribilof Islands Association (Alaska)
California Association of Tribal Governments (CA)
Four Bands Community Fund (South Dakota)
Great Plains Tribal Chairman's Association (ND, SD, NE)
InterTribal Council of Arizona
Midwest Alliance of Sovereign Tribes (IA, MN, MI, WI)
Northwest Indian Fisheries Commission (WA)
Sealaska Corporation (Alaska)
United South and Eastern Tribes (AL, CT, FL, LA, ME, MA, NY, NC, MS, TN, TX)
United Tribes of North Dakota

Tribal Governments
Bois Forte Reservation Tribal Council (Minnesota)
Central Council of Tlingit and Haida Indians (Alaska)
Cherokee Nation (Oklahoma)
Chickaloon Village Traditional Council (Alaska)
Chickasaw Nation (Oklahoma)
Choctaw Nation (Oklahoma)
Citizen Potawatomi Nation (Oklahoma)
Cowlitz Indian Tribe (Washington)
Forest County Potawatomi (Wisconsin)
Fond du Lac Band of Lake Superior Chippewa (Minnesota)
Hualapai Tribe (Arizona)
Jamestown S’Klallam Tribe (Washington)
Leech Lack Band of Ojibwe (Minnesota)
Lower Elwha Klallam Tribe (Washington)
Lummi Nation (Washington)
Menominee Indian Tribe of Wisconsin
Native Village of Afognak (Alaska)
Nez Perce Tribe (Idaho)
Pawnee Nation of Oklahoma
Penobscot Nation (Maine)
Pokagon Band of Potawatomi Indians (Michigan)
Red Lake Band of Chippewa Indians (Minnesota)
Sac and Fox Nation (Oklahoma)
Saginaw Chippewa Indian Tribe (Michigan)
Shawnee Tribe (Oklahoma)
Shoshone-Bannock Tribes (Idaho)
Sitka Tribe of Alaska (Alaska)
Skokomish Tribe (Washington)
Suquamish Tribe (Washington)
Swinomish Tribe (Washington)
Ute Mountain Ute Tribe (Colorado/Utah)