Published on Feb 14, 2014
WASHINGTON, DC – For the first time in decades, tribal nations will receive full payment on contracts signed with the federal government. The Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA) and the Indian Health Service (IHS) have submitted plans to pay their 2014 contracts with tribes in full.
Many issues face Indian Country but one of the most far-reaching is the fiduciary relationship between tribal nations and the federal government. In setting out plans to pay their contract support cost requirements in full, the federal government will begin to treat tribal nations with the respect and honor due to them.
Under the Indian Self-Determination Act, the United States enters into inter-governmental contracts with tribes under which tribes administer federal programs for the benefit of tribal members. The Indian Self-Determination Act represents the cornerstone of this nation’s federal policy toward tribes for more than a third of a century and represents one of the most successful policy eras for tribes in US history.
Yet, time and time again, BIA and IHS have failed to pay the contract support costs in full while expecting the programs to be fulfilled completely. This cycle of negotiating contracts and then refusing to pay the agreed upon amount has prevented tribes from achieving self-determination and progress towards self-sufficiency. When Indian contract and self-governance compact contract support costs are short funded, tribes are actually penalized for exercising their self-determination rights, by being compelled to reduce program operations to cover these unavoidable costs.
While this recent development is a positive step for future contracts, federal agencies must also speed up the settlement of past claims. Agencies owe tribal nations millions of dollars in unpaid contract support costs – money that is critical for tribes to achieve full self-determination.
The National Congress of American Indians is committed to working with tribal nations and the federal government to ensure full payment of future contracts and to resolve the millions of dollars of debt owed to tribes.
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