Statement on Tribal Nations Concern on the President’s FY2019 Budget

Published on Feb 14, 2018

WASHINGTON, D.C. | On Wednesday, February 14, 2018, more than 500 tribal representatives from across the United States raised a unified voice in opposition to the FY 2019 President’s Budget during the Third General Assembly at the National Congress of American Indians (NCAI) 2018 Executive Council Winter Session (ECWS) in Washington, DC.

NCAI President Jefferson Keel, on behalf of the NCAI Executive Committee, voiced concern for the untenable cuts proposed for programs that directly uphold the treaty and trust obligations of the federal government to tribes.

“We seek only those things promised to us and every citizen by the U.S. Constitution, and the solemn treaties and agreements reached between our Tribal Nations and the United States. At the founding, the United States dealt with our tribal governments as sovereign equals. In exchange for federal protection and the promise of certain benefits, our ancestors gave forever to the people of the United States title to the very soil of our beloved country.  To settle the process for admission of new states, the thirteen original states agreed to transfer western land claims to the United States under the principles in the Northwest Ordinance, including:

The utmost good faith shall always be observed towards the Indians; their land and property shall never be taken from them without their consent; and, in their property, rights, and liberty, they shall never be invaded or disturbed, unless in just and lawful wars authorized by Congress; but laws founded in justice and humanity, shall from time to time be made for preventing wrongs being done to them, and for preserving peace and friendship with them.

These provisions signify the intent of the Framers to provide for the governance of Indian Country, a compact between the original states and all that followed. We have never asked anything except that these protections be continued. Today the federal government is threatening to limit this protection and these benefits.

The proposed budget cuts to tribal governmental services, if enacted, would represent a clear retreat from the federal commitments and treaty promises made to tribes.

This week, we see the President’s budget would cut the Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA) by about half a billion dollars, or 15%. BIA Social Services would be reduced by more than 30%, Indian Child Welfare by more than 25%, and critical human services programs, law enforcement and courts programs, environmental protection, housing, and education programs would face unconscionable reductions. Infrastructure programs such as the Indian Community Development Block Grant would be eliminated, and the Indian Housing Block Grant and road maintenance would be reduced.

We support proposals that treat tribal governments equitably, such as the proposed budgetary set-asides in the Department of Justice for tribes. Tribal parity should be the guiding principle for every other department or initiative as well, including addressing the opioid epidemic and building and repairing infrastructure.

We call on Congress to uphold the federal government’s trust responsibility to tribal nations. When tribal nations agreed to accept a smaller land base, the federal government promised to safeguard our right to govern ourselves and to enable tribal governments to deliver essential services, and provide them resources to do so effectively. That is the trust relationship embodied in the U.S. Constitution. Congress and the Administration are responsible for carrying out that trust in the federal budget.”

NCAI released the Indian Country FY2019 Budget Request and provided and in-depth analysis of the impact of the President’s proposed budget on tribes. To learn more, read the initial NCAI FY2019 Budget Analysis here.

Contact NCAI Communications Associate Erin Weldon with any questions at


About the National Congress of American Indians:
Founded in 1944, the National Congress of American Indians is the oldest, largest and most representative American Indian and Alaska Native organization in the country. NCAI advocates on behalf of tribal governments and communities, promoting strong tribal-federal government-to-government policies, and promoting a better understanding among the general public regarding American Indian and Alaska Native governments, people and rights. For more information visit

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