Indian Country politics and public policy

Commentary by Mark Trahant

Mark Trahant / Trahant Reports

What does a landslide look like? And, more important, what would that mean for Native American candidates?

First: Hillary Clinton is peaking at the ideal moment. And, at the same time, Donald Trump’s campaign is imploding. He had a bad week, a poor debate, and he’s out of time to change the conversation. But more important than all of that there is no Trump organization, people on the ground methodically reminding people to vote. Instead of running a campaign designed to build a winning coalition, Trump chose to defy math and narrow his base of support.

One hint at what’s to come on Election Day is found in the data of early voting.

According to CNN, working with a data company, Calalist, says more than 3.3 million Americans have already voted. And based on demographic profiles, Democrats are stronger now than they were four years ago in North Carolina, Nevada, Arizona and Utah.

“Democratic early turnout has stayed steady in North Carolina compared to 2012, while Republicans have dropped by about 14,500. In Nevada, Democrats have a smaller early voting deficit today than they did at this point in 2012,” CNN reports. “And Democrats are slightly ahead in Arizona in the early vote so far, though they are lagging Republicans in the tally of how many Arizonans have requested ballots.”

The U.S. Elections Project publishes the most comprehensive collection of data, a spreadsheet of early voting statistics from across the country. Already there are some interesting numbers (spreadsheet here). North Carolina breaks down returned early voting ballots by gender and 56 percent of them so far are from women. In 2012 53 percent of the state’s electorate was female. 

To put that number in perspective: Across the country women were 53 recent of the total electorate in 2012 and were the key bloc for President Obama’s re-election. A three percent increase would produce a landslide.

We don’t know the break down by gender in other states but there is data about the number of ballots received.

In Montana, where Denise Juneau is running for Congress, requests for early ballots are up by 15 percent from four years ago. As of 310,990 ballots have been mailed or requested and 43,639 have been returned.

And, in North Dakota,  there have been 67,837 requests for ballots and 25,662 people have already voted (including me.) Chase Iron Eyes is a candidate for Congress, Marlo Hunte-Beaubrun is runnng for the North Dakota Public Service Commission, and Ruth Buffalo is on the ballot for the state’s insurance commissioner.  They are running on the Democratic-NPL ticket.

South Dakota did not have early voting in 2012, but it’s now available, and 48,564 ballots have been requested. Henry Red Cloud is the Democratic candidate for Public Utilities Commissioner.

There are no early voting numbers for Washington state (where most people vote by mail) or in the Oklahoma congressional districts. (Republicans Tom Cole and MarkWayne Mullin are in seats that are not competitive.)

Back to my lede: What would a landslide mean for the Native American candidates? If women vote in higher percentages than in 2012 that would be really good news for Juneau, Joe Pakootas in Washington, and for Iron Eyes, Hunte-Bueaubrun and Buffalo. Would it be enough to erase a Republican advantage? That remains the open question.

But a presidential landslide could be a factor. What happens is that some voters like to be associated with victory, so they switch to the winning teamside. And, at the same time, other voters are disillusioned and just stay home. That really impacts down ballot races. (Northern Idaho often has this problem because networks “call” the state when the polls close in the Mountain time zone while there is still an hour to vote in the Pacific time zone.)

Of course not every presidential election results in a down ballot landslide. Ronald Reagan’s 1984 landslide did not flip the House and Republicans picked up 16 seats.  Democrats would need 30 to control the House.

Mark Trahant is the Charles R. Johnson Endowed Professor of Journalism at the University of North Dakota. He is an independent journalist and a member of The Shoshone-Bannock Tribes. On Twitter @TrahantReports

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Denise Juneau at the Frazer debate. She is running for Montana’s only seat in Congress. (Trahant photo)


Mark Trahant / Trahant Reports

A new poll in Montana shows Denise Juneau trailing Rep. Ryan Zinke by a wide margin. “Despite record fundraising and polling solid support among Democrats, Juneau, the current state Superintendent of Public Instruction, will need to make big moves in the final weeks of campaigning to close the gap with the freshman Republican, analysts said,” in The Missoulian. Lee Newspapers commissioned the survey. “Among registered and likely Montana voters polled, 40 percent said they’d cast their ballot for Juneau and 53 percent for Zinke. Only 6 percent reported being undecided in the race, and the poll has a margin of error of 3.2 percentage points.”

I’m skeptical and here’s why: The best way to read polls is to look at a number of the surveys. The best data comes from several rounds of snapshots because you can throw out the high, ignore the low, and get a sense of the electorate. This is a single poll that seems to me to fit the outlier category. The 15-point gap is just too wide. Juneau’s own polling shows her trailing by 3 points. That’s probably an outlier, too. A Zinke poll shows an 11 point lead. (Previous: Juneau’s Debate Answer: First Get Elected.)

Who’s right? We might have to wait for election day to know that answer. But the good thing about any polls is that it tells candidates where they ought to spend more resources. And, according to Lee’s survey, that’s Independent voters. “The numbers on Independents parallel those in the presidential race, where Trump leads Hillary Clinton 50-28 among those voters. Another 13 percent said they would vote for Libertarian Gary Johnson.”

There are two other reasons why I am skeptical about this poll. The first is that the results so closely match the final result in 2014 when Zinke defeated John Lewis for the open House seat by a 55 to 40 percent margin. But that was an off-cycle election and only 373,831 people voted (or 55.44 percent of those registered to vote). This is a presidential election cycle. In 2012 the Montana turnout was 72.4 percent. According to the Lee newspapers, “The Mason-Dixon statewide poll included calls to landlines and cell phones Oct. 10 through 12. The results included 1,003 Montanans who reported they were both registered and likely to vote. The number of people polled in each county is proportionate to the historical voter turnout. The margin of error for statewide figures is plus or minus 3.2 percentage points but higher for numbers broken down by gender, region, or party.”

Ah. I would like to know more about that last sentence. Of course American Indian voters won’t be counted or statistically relevant. We live in the land of The Other. Damn it. And a poll of a thousand people cannot accurately reflect what Native Americans are thinking or if we will vote. But what if the statewide turnout remains near 72 percent and the turnout from Indian Country is 90 percent? That still would not be enough to overcome a 15 point gap.

But what about the numbers broken down by gender? Lee’s report implies that Juneau has a slight lead (the phrase used in the story:”48 percent of female voters said they support the Republican.”) There are two things here: First this survey doesn’t reflect the rising discontent with the Republican presidential ticket; and, more important, it doesn’t measure the intensity of women who will vote. In other words: What if women vote in higher percentages than men? Nationally that’s already the case. Women out vote men by nearly 4 percent. And that number is growing. What if in Montana that gap shoots up to 8, 9, or even more?

As the blog FiveThirtyEight reports: “Men are treating 2016 as a ‘normal’ election; women aren’t.” The post reports a huge gender gap in the presidential race. “We haven’t seen anything like Clinton’s 20-point lead over Trump among women in decades. The last time women favored either party’s nominee by more than 20 percentage points was in 1972, when Republican Richard Nixon crushed Democrat George McGovern among both sexes. The only Democrat ever to win women by more than 20 points was Lyndon Johnson in 1964 — also in a blowout. Four years ago, President Obama carried women by only about 12 points. Even when he first won the White House, in 2008, by about double his 2012 margin, his margin among women was only 14 points.”

I also don’t think you can discount how a blowout election could impact states like Montana. Johnson in 1964 is a good example because he carried all of the Western states (except Arizona). A one-sided election often discourages the losing side, making it more difficult for other candidates from that same party.

My guess — and this certainly runs counter to the poll I’ve been citing — is that this election will be close. It’s Juneau’s history. She only won her last election by 2,231 votes (out of 468, 563). It also fits Montana’s history during a presidential election year. And one additional factor that’s impossible to poll: The number of people who’ve already voted (something that is especially critical in Indian Country).

This election is unlike any other in our generation. So the only poll that matters will be that November surprise.

Mark Trahant is the Charles R. Johnson Endowed Professor of Journalism at the University of North Dakota. He is an independent journalist and a member of The Shoshone-Bannock Tribes. On Twitter @TrahantReports

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From Tom Cole’s Twitter feed: “Great to see @ChickasawNation citizen @TomColeOK04 & former @Osagenation Chief Jim Gray at White House Tribal Nations Conference. #WHTNC”

Mark Trahant / Trahant Reports

Early on I decided to focus this #NativeVote16 project on American Indians and Alaska Natives running for office. (Instead of a broader look at the election and its impact on Indian Country.) That’s made it easier for me to ignore so much of the nonsense that’s surfaced in this presidential election year. From time to time I still write about the White House race, but it’s through the lens of a democracy that must include more Native voices.

Oklahoma’s Tom Cole, a member of the Chickasaw Tribe, is one such voice. It’s not that I, or even we, always agree with him. I sure don’t. I see the world from a different perspective. He is a conservative Republican and represents his constituents world view (and as such often tries to dampen the concerns about harsh Republican budgets, Paul Ryan, or even Donald Trump.)

He told CHNI Oklahoma News this week that he was “absolutely appalled” by Trump’s comments on tape. “It’s disgusting. It’s crude. It’s vile. There’s no defense for it whatsoever. People shouldn’t be shy about saying that.” However, Cole said he would not back away from supporting the GOP nominee. And that position he’s been steady ever since Trump won the party mantle. He also said there are people “of good character and good opinion” on both sides of the presidential race and questioning Trump’s fitness is a fair concern.


When the issues involve tribes, and especially, tribal sovereignty, Cole has been one of the most important members in the history of Congress.

What makes Cole so important? He can argue the case within the Republican caucus, and, even better, with the House Republican leadership. He is a measured, reasoned voice, not just for Indian Country, but for his idea of what a conservative party should be. And that means being inclusive.

So Cole has history of being the consistent inside-the-party voice calling for more money for the Indian Health system. “We have a lot of people on both sides of the aisle who recognize the Indian country has been historically underfunded,” he told Indian Country Today Media Network in 2012. He’s sided with tribes over Democrats on the issue of labor unions and government operations, pointing out that a lot of states run businesses from hotels at parks to insurance programs. Yet it’s only tribal governments that are pressed to allow union representation in tribal enterprises. And, most important, he was the architect of building a coalition in the House of Representatives to enact the Violence Against Women Act. He told WNYC radio that bill was “a very, very difficult issue because there were divisions within his own conference that prevented (then Speaker John Boehner) from getting to 218.” So Cole found enough Republicans and Democrats to pass the measure into law.


Rep. Tom Cole writes in Oklahoma Humanities why tribal sovereignty should not be seen as a partisan issue, but as American issue.

Cole once again makes the case for tribal governments in the Winter edition of Oklahoma Humanities. “A tribe is a living, breathing entity that exists organically. Its purpose is to improve the lives and preserve the identities of its members. If a tribe fails at this, it eventually ceases to exist. Tribes are recognized as sovereign entities in the U.S. Constitution. That means that membership in a tribe gives one a political identity as well as a cultural heritage,” he writes. “It is an extraordinary time in which we live— for Indian Country and the broader culture of our nation—a time of tribal renaissance and self-determination. In Oklahoma, tribal governments are helping drive the economy, creating tens of thousands of jobs, and generating hundreds of millions of dollars for the state government. There is amazing vitality in Native American culture and a great deal of interest and respect for Native Americans that is uncharacteristic of our history. Without question, I believe tribal sovereignty must be defended; but more than that, it often needs to be explained. As I remind my fellow lawmakers in Congress, the same oath we take to uphold the Constitution is an oath to defend tribal sovereignty.”

Powerful words.

Mark Trahant is the Charles R. Johnson Endowed Professor of Journalism at the University of North Dakota. He is an independent journalist and a member of The Shoshone-Bannock Tribes. On Twitter @TrahantReports

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Photo post on Facebook by Stevens County Democrats. Incumbent Republicans have a new challenge: Rejecting Trump (and making their base mad) or sticking with Trump (making it that more difficult to build a majority margin.)

Mark Trahant / Trahant Reports

Early in the election cycle I made a prediction: I said if Donald Trump was the Republican nominee, the House would be in play for the Democrats. The reaction (and more than once) was 30 seats? Not likely. (Previous: Native candidates could help flip Congress).

Not likely are the words of the day. It’s a possibility now because Donald Trump’s war against Republicans has not only doomed his bid for the White House, but it’s making it more likely that Democrats will win the Senate and unlikely as it was, the House. The polling data backs up this idea (certainly good news for Denise Juneau, Joe Pakootas, and Chase Iron Eyes.)

Let’s look at the numbers, shall we?

A survey for the Democrats Congressional Campaign Committee shows a seven-point advantage for Democrats in the generic poll (49 to 42 percent). This is a question asked every cycle, basically would you vote for a Democrat or a Republican? It’s usually close. It usually favors Democrats, slightly. (Remember more people vote for Democrats for Congress. Republicans win because of the district system.) Two years ago before the election the same question showed Republicans with a two-tenths of one percent lead. The final result: Democrats 49.2 percent; Republicans 48 percent. (Previous: Will Republicans stand by Trump? Watch congressional races).

But it’s now seven points. That’s sweep territory. And the prospect of the House of Representatives shifting from Paul Ryan’s leadership to Nancy Pelosi.

The Trump campaign has created an impossible political dilemma for Republican candidates because he’s now attacking Republicans and forcing them to stand with him or against him.

That leaves Republicans with three choices. Hide. Denounce Trump. Or continue supporting Trump as a flawed candidate.

Washington’s Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers picked door number three. In a statement on Spokane’s KXLY she said: “I have said all along that I absolutely disagree with some of Donald Trump’s statements – especially the video released on Friday. I will be voting for Mr. Trump because I believe that we must defeat Hillary Clinton who has a record of deliberately misleading the American people.”

Democrat Joe Pakootas  is relentless on this issue.

“Sexual assault remains a prevalent issue in our country. 1 out of 5 women and one out of 71 men will be sexually assaulted in their lifetime. These estimates are likely very low because rape is one of the least reported crimes. Few are reported, even fewer are prosecuted, and even fewer find the rapist guilty,” Pakootas posted on his campaign web site and on Facebook. “First of all, we need to stop normalizing rape culture. This means not tolerating any talk that encourages sexual assault. We need to make sure the burden is on the perpetrator, not the victim. We need to teach individuals NOT to assault, as well as safety to victims.”

So what does Door Number Three look like politically?  According to the national survey, when Running against a Republican “who continues to endorse Donald Trump” the Democratic margin moves from a 7-point advantage to a 12-point advantage. Voters, especially mainstream voters, don’t like that approach.

The logic behind that spread is simple. To reach a majority, fifty percent plus one, a candidate needs consensus. A broad coalition of voters. So ignoring those who think Trump crossed the line will not accomplish that. And, at the same time, if you do denounce Trump, his hardcore supporters will not forgive you and stay home, vote Libertarian, or write in another name.

Who else is in this camp? Rep. Kevin Cramer in North Dakota, who is being challenged by Chase Iron Eyes.

In Montana Rep. Ryan Zinke also says he still prefers Trump over Clinton. He told Breitbart:  “What Mr. Trump said was wrong. There is no other way to say it. He should be ashamed. But, that doesn’t make Hillary any better a candidate. What we face everyday is a bureaucracy that’s grown out of control, a government that have become separated and is no longer held accountable to the people,” he said. “This is a unique election in the history of our country.”

Dozens of senior Republicans, including Speaker Ryan and Sen. John McCain, have distanced themselves from Trump. But that choice doesn’t inspire voters either, according to the DCCC survey. “Even against a ‘Republican candidate who never formally endorsed Donald Trump and now says they won’t vote for him’ the Democratic margin moves from a 7-point advantage to a 10-point advantage.” The reason? The survey reports only 39 percent of voters say: “That these Republicans are showing character and integrity for finally standing up to Donald Trump.”

Update: Some of the Republicans who wanted Trump to withdraw have now changed their minds and are back as supporters. At least voters know where they stand. For the moment.

Republican Representatives Markwayne Mullin and Tom Cole have so far been quiet, sticking with Door Number One. For now.

These are significant numbers. In a recent  Montana poll Denise Juneau trailed Zinke by three points and another by 11 points. So a 12-point swing would change everything. Same story in Washington state. And, if Iron Eyes can get his message out, even in North Dakota.

Mark Trahant is the Charles R. Johnson Endowed Professor of Journalism at the University of North Dakota. He is an independent journalist and a member of The Shoshone-Bannock Tribes. On Twitter @TrahantReports

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Denise Juneau marching in the University of Montana homecoming parade campaigning for votes. She is running for the state’s only congressional seat. (Photo via Denise Juneau’s Facebook page.)

Mark Trahant / Trahant Reports

Denise Juneau had the perfect answer. At debate in Great Falls each of the congressional candidates were asked, what would you do to protect the rights of gay, bisexual and transgender individuals?

“Number one, get elected,” she said.

That’s right on so many levels. This country cannot be the country it wants to be, the one that it says it is, or the one that’s changing fast, without including more voices who are as diverse as the country.

Montana figured this out a century ago. Sort of. As Juneau pointed out Montana elected the first woman ever to Congress, Jeanette Rankin in 1906  as a Republican (who was on and off the state’s ballots through 1940. A pacifist, she was the only vote against both World War I and World War II. She was courageous to the end, campaigning late in life against the Vietnam War.)

And, no state has ever elected a Native American woman to Congress. “With me at the table, in Congress, the discourse changes,” Juneau said. “We make sure that everybody’s looked out for.”

Rankin won office before women had the right to vote. And, perhaps, that’s important to think about in a country where the demographics are rapidly changing faster than the Congress which remains 80 percent male and nearly 80 percent White in the House (and even more than that in the Senate).

Juneau, of course, is a member of the Mandan Hidatsa and Arikara Nation and grew up on the Blackfeet Nation in Montana. She also happens to be gay. And, as said in the debate, these are voices that are too often missing from our national conversations.

But then there’s Juneau’s answer ringing true: “Number one, get elected.”

Juneau’s fundraising and polling remain on track.

She raised more than $875,000 between July 1 and September 30 and her total has exceeded $2 million. That’s the more than any other Democrat who has ever run for Congress from Montana.

That money shows that Juneau is competitive against an incumbent, always an uphill climb.  A recent poll by Harstad Strategic Research of 403 likely Montana voters, showed that Juneau narrowed the gap between herself and Rep. Ryan Zinke to just 3 points (42-45), well within the margin of error of 4.9%. The Libertarian candidate drew 3 percent of the vote, with 9 percent of voters still undecided in this race. A Republican commissioned poll shows Zinke ahead by 11 point, 49 percent to Juneau’s 38 percent (with a margin of error of 5 percentage points).

What this tells me: This election will be about who can get their voters to the polls.

This should be especially daunting for Zinke because he has to convince disillusioned Trump supporters to turn out and then split the ticket, while at the same time, holding on to the folks who still like Trump. (Gary Johnson and the Libertarians could have been a factor, until, well Johnson failed the test of being presidential.)

Juneau needs strong turn out from the urban areas and from every Native community across the state.

You have to be tough to run for office in Montana because elections are often that close. Juneau won her last race earning 235,397 votes, a winning margin of four-tenths of one percent in a pool of 468,563 ballots.

Remember: “Number one, get elected.” Then the discourse can change for the better.

Mark Trahant is the Charles R. Johnson Endowed Professor of Journalism at the University of North Dakota. He is an independent journalist and a member of The Shoshone-Bannock Tribes. On Twitter @TrahantReports

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Chase Iron Eyes in Fargo for state’s congressional debate. He said: “We are creating a 21st century North Dakota.” (Photo via Facebook)

Mark Trahant / Trahant Reports

We’re about a month away from this election season being over — and so there is a lot going on in the #NativeVote16 universe. (Previous: Make no mistake, Standing Rock is on the ballot.)

Let’s start in North Dakota where three Native American candidates are on the ballot statewide, plus five more for state legislative offices. Chase Iron Eyes, Ruth Buffalo and Marlo Hunte-Beaubrun are essentially running as a team. Almost a Indigenous version of the Democratic Party (which says something about the regular party). To me this race shows how much better our politics would be if campaigns were publicly funded because then it would only be a debate about the issues. And there would be a more equal platform for that discourse.  As it stands: Iron Eyes and his colleagues are campaigning by selling t-shirts and small donations. While their opponents have all the resources they need (plus a very Republican state as a base of support). On Facebook, Iron Eyes posted, “Congressional races are just as important as the presidential race. If I can hit you up for 5$ go here I need some basic ads to make this real.”

Last week the one moment of equality was Face To Face: North Dakota US House Debate on Prairie Public Broadcasting. This was important because the difference between U.S. Rep. Kevin Cramer, R-North Dakota, and Iron Eyes could not be more stark. Cramer was pitch perfect in his support of big oil and the Dakota Access Pipeline. said that the Standing Rock Tribe did have consultation, nine times, but that was not the same as consent. He said his biggest concern is that the administration changed the rules after they were followed. (My view of that logic in an earlier piece, “Who gets to tell the Standing Rock story about what happens next?”)

“I just think we need to be respecting each other,” Iron Eyes said in the debate. “I just don’t feel we should be putting our water resource at risk … pipelines need to move our oil to market, but Energy Transfers lied to the American people saying this was American oil to be consumed on American soil, and they have since backed away from that.”

Ruth Buffalo is running to be the state’s Insurance Commission. She also debated last week on Prairie Public Television.  She said it’s a critical post because it’s the advocate for the people of North Dakota to hold insurance companies accountable for following through on their promises. Her campaign is largely public appearances (she crosses the state a lot, and that’s not easy in North Dakota) as well as social media. Her campaign manager recently posted on Facebook: “Election day is less than FIVE weeks away! Our page has over 3,000 likes, which is phenomenal! This is a true grass roots effort. Today, and for the rest of the campaign, I am going to ask you a favor: spread the word to your contacts about Ruth and her vision as Insurance Commissioner of North Dakota. If everyone who likes this pages reaches and convinces at least 50 new people, we will have a real shot to bring Ruth’s experience in health and business, as well as her unique and compassionate voice, to the insurance branch of North Dakota.”

Marlo Hunte-Beaubrun is campaigning for the office that would regulate pipelines such as the Dakota Access Pipeline. In a campaign video she said many North Dakotans know that the regulatory process is unfair and she’s like to restore balance. “But I can’t do that alone. I need your vote,” she said. “Let’s give North Dakota a chance at success.”

The world is watching what is happening at Standing Rock. And these campaigns represent a chance for those same voices to have a say in the political process from pipelines to health care. And if you think it’s impossible for the impossible to happen, consider this, with the Trump-implosion, all bets are off. Seats that were supposed to be safe might not be. Elections are all about who shows up.

Mark Trahant is the Charles R. Johnson Endowed Professor of Journalism at the University of North Dakota. He is an independent journalist and a member of The Shoshone-Bannock Tribes. On Twitter @TrahantReports

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Rep. Ryan Zinke, R-Montana, and State Supt of Public Instruction Denise Juneau at an August debate in Frazer. (Trahant photo)

Mark Trahant / Trahant Reports

Let’s start with the big picture. Donald Trump’s recorded revelation of felony intent — and yes, it’s that serious — ought to disqualify him from the presidency. There is no excuse. We are not talking about lewd behavior, consensual relationships, or being boorish. Trump said he can engage in criminal behavior. “When you’re a star, they let you do it,” he said. “You can do anything.”

In less than 24 hours we’re seeing Republicans disinvite Trump from events (as is the case with Paul Ryan) and others reverse their endorsement (as happened in Utah) along with calls for Trump to drop out of the race. This is unprecedented. And expected. We knew this was Donald J. Trump. This tape is only conformation.

Denise Juneau, who’s running for Montana’s only House seat, called on her opponent Rep. Ryan Zinke to withdraw his  endorsement of Trump. “Donald Trump has shown his complete disrespect for women since the beginning of his campaign, but that didn’t stop Congressman Zinke from backing him from day one,” Juneau said in a news release. “Just this week, Congressman Zinke laughed off Trump’s sexist behavior, calling him an ‘equal opportunity offender.’ I’m calling on Congressman Zinke to denounce Trump’s violent remarks, withdraw his endorsement, and apologize for joking about Trump’s consistently offensive language. Montana’s 500,000 mothers, daughters and sisters are watching.”

Watch this discourse play out in every congressional race in the country, including where five Native Americans are on ballots.

Of course most politicians will try to talk about something else. North Dakota’s Kevin Cramer would prefer to talk about energy policy. He sees himself as a key voice for a Trump energy policy. Cramer said this week that the Paris Agreement on climate change is “is unilaterally disarming the American economy at the behest of the world.” And that statement is exactly why he’s on the side of the Dakota Access Pipeline project and ready to roll over the sovereignty or legitimate concerns of the Standing Rock Sioux.

But how can any candidate now be legitimate when talking about Donald Trump? There is no energy policy for a disqualified presidential candidate.

Even before the Trump tape surfaced, Chase Iron Eyes in a debate was pressing Cramer about his views on women. “Today in my debate with Kevin Cramer I said we are creating a 21st century North Dakota; a North Dakota where women earn the same as men for the same work! Where women’s sovereignty over their own bodies must be respected,” Iron Eyes posted on Facebook. Audio of the debate his here.My perceptions of patriarchy are skewed but I have daughters and I was happy to be able to use the word patriarchy in a US Congressional debate, maybe the 1st time in ND history, for a man anyways. For Trump to even suggest or for a man to even ask or consider whether or not a woman should be “punished” for her own serious health care decisions, is conceptually repulsive.”

In Oklahoma, neither Rep. Tom Cole nor Markwayne Mullins have weighed in on the Trump tape yet. However in recent weeks, Cole called Trump  a work in progress. We will see if that is still the line after a few days.

In Washington state, Democrat Joe Pakootas immediately denounced the Trump tape. “As a husband, father & grandparent I am appalled & sickened by the vulgar comments spoken by my opponent’s presidential candidate Donald Trump about women today,” Pakootas posted on Facebook. “Most Americans are outraged & disgusted by this sick behavior. However, last night my opponent again expressed her unwavering support for Mr. Trump. It is beyond time for my opponent to demonstrate some moral courage & put integrity above party politics. I call upon her to stand up for women as a Christian & a leader & condemn this reprehensible behavior. He is not fit to be president & anyone who endorses a man like that does not deserve another term in the United States House of Representatives.”

That last sentence sums up the debate ahead.

Mark Trahant is the Charles R. Johnson Endowed Professor of Journalism at the University of North Dakota. He is an independent journalist and a member of The Shoshone-Bannock Tribes. On Twitter @TrahantReports

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President Barack Obama congratulates Senior Advisor Brian Deese on the first day of the implementation of the Paris Agreement on climate change, in the Oval Office, Oct. 5, 2016. Deese worked with Secretary of State John Kerry and EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy to make the agreement possible. Chief of Staff Denis McDonough watches at left. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

Climate math requires fossil fuel subtraction

Mark Trahant / TrahantReports

Ten months ago the United States told the world it was ready to do something about climate change. Enough talk. Time to act. And because of the nature of the crisis, the world’s governments are moving quickly. Well, at least as measured by governments. On Wednesday President Barack Obama said the global agreement will begin implementation on Nov. 4 after being ratified by European nations.

“Today, the world meets the moment.  And if we follow through on the commitments that this agreement embodies, history may well judge it as a turning point for our planet,” the president said.

And the Paris agreement formally begins on Nov. 4, four days before the U.S. presidential election in which Republican Donald Trump opposes the deal as well as science, while Democrat Hillary Clinton strongly supports it.

“Now, the Paris Agreement alone will not solve the climate crisis.  Even if we meet every target embodied in the agreement, we’ll only get to part of where we need to go,” the President said.  But make no mistake, this agreement will help delay or avoid some of the worst consequences of climate change. It will help other nations ratchet down their dangerous carbon emissions over time, and set bolder targets as technology advances, all under a strong system of transparency that allows each nation to evaluate the progress of all other nations. And by sending a signal that this is going to be our future — a clean energy future — it opens up the floodgates for businesses, and scientists, and engineers to unleash high-tech, low-carbon investment and innovation at a scale that we’ve never seen before.  So this gives us the best possible shot to save the one planet we’ve got.”

The test of those words is found at Standing Rock. If, the president, the government, the world, really believe that the agreement will only get us part of where we need to go to avoid the worst consequences of climate change, then stopping the Dakota Access Pipeline is essential.

A recent report by Oil Change International, and a consortium of environmental organizations, calls for a “managed decline of fossil fuel production.” The logic is simple, math. The study measures potential carbon emissions from “where the wells are already drilled, the pits dug, and the pipelines, processing facilities, railways, and export terminals constructed.” Add those numbers up and “the potential carbon emissions from the oil, gas, and coal in the world’s currently operating fields and mines would take us beyond two degrees Celsius of warming.”

In other words: Keep it in the ground is not just a slogan but the answer to the math question, “how does the world meet its target of limiting global warming to 2°C?” Remember, and this is important, two degrees Celsius is supposed to be the upper limit. The Paris agreement calls for nations to work toward a limit of 1.5 degrees Celsius warming, a much more difficult goal.

“Scientists say that to have even a two-thirds chance of staying below a global increase of two degrees Celsius, we can release 800 gigatons more CO2 into the atmosphere,” writes Bill McKibben in The New Republic. “But the Rystad data shows coal mines and oil and gas wells currently in operation worldwide contain 942 gigatons worth of CO2. So the math problem is simple, and it goes like this: 942 > 800.” That’s just to hit the 2 degree target. To reach the more difficult, stretch goal? McKibben says “to have even a 50–50 chance of meeting that goal, we can only release about 353 gigatons more CO2. So let’s do the math again: 942 > 353.”

Even that number. challenging as it is,  does not mean we give up fossil fuels over night. (One of the first dismissals of what was occurring at Standing Rock was by industry supporters who said, “oh, but they drive cars and trucks there …”) As the report puts it: “This does not mean stopping using all fossil fuels overnight. Governments and companies should conduct a managed decline of the fossil fuel industry and ensure a just transition for the workers and communities that depend on it.”

That’s really the key in North Dakota — and beyond. Starting the transition by saying that Dakota Access Pipeline represents our past and a mistake. And as part of a managed decline, major fossil fuel infrastructure projects — this pipeline — are no more.

But what about the jobs? What will this do to North Dakota? Actually it could be a great thing. Data from Stanford researchers shows that the transition to clean energy could happen faster than projected — and benefit a state almost immediately. In North Dakota the Solutions Project says an transformation “plan pays for itself in as little as 2 years from air pollution and climate cost savings alone.” Two years? Imagine the intellectual activity, the construction, the jobs, the fresh investment, all that would come together to make that so. It would be mind-blowing.  The Stanford data says such a transition would create 8,574 permanent operations jobs and 21,744 construction jobs.

The White House listed its accomplishments on climate change Wednesday. A couple of pages of investments in clean energy, new pollution rules, car standards, and generally creative thinking. But there was no plan for a managed decline. There was no math behind the numbers.

But this global challenge, the data of climate change, adds up to one thing: Standing Rock is a test. The United States cannot meet its obligations to the world if it continues business as usual. It’s just not possible, the math of carbon emissions cannot be wished away. The people who are camped at Standing Rock are giving President Obama the opportunity to show how a managed decline is possible. And, if done right, inspiring. As the president said, “this gives us the best possible shot to save the one planet we’ve got.”

Mark Trahant is the Charles R. Johnson Endowed Professor of Journalism at the University of North Dakota. He is an independent journalist and a member of The Shoshone-Bannock Tribes. On Twitter @TrahantReports

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Report by Oil Change International scientifically grounds the growing movement to keep carbon in the ground by revealing the need to stop all new fossil fuel infrastructure and industry expansion.


Politics as unusual. A car parked at the big camp at Standing Rock. Voters, especially younger voters, are not happy with their presidential options in 2016. But if young voters don’t turnout, that could be as important as actually casting a ballot. (Trahant photo)

Will Standing Rock stir younger Native voters?

Mark Trahant / TrahantReports

Will young people vote in 2016? And, more important, at least for our purposes, how about the younger generation of American Indians and Alaska Natives?

Let’s explore the first question.

Younger voters are perplexing. They are, or should be, the largest group voters, some 75 million. And the data shows they are far more likely to vote for Democrats than other generations. Except there is an “except.” Young voters are less likely to vote.

In 2008 they were a key constituent bloc helping to elect Barack Obama as President of the United States. In fact, in 2004, 2006, and 2008 young voters were the majority of Democratic party votes; the most supportive group. And, according to Pew Research, in 2008 some two-thirds of those under 30 voted for Barack Obama “making the disparity between young voters and other age groups larger than in any presidential election since exit polling began in 1972.”

But after 2008, well, not so much.

A report by the Census Bureau on voting patterns said: “In 2012, the voting population 45 years of age and over increased, while the number of voters 18 through 44 years old decreased. Between 1996 and 2008, there was only a single example of an age group showing a decrease in net voting from one presidential election to the next, yet in 2012 significant decreases occurred for two age groups. Younger voters 18 through 29 years of age reported a net voting decrease of about 1.8 million, while voters between the ages of 30 through 44 reported a decrease of about 1.7 million.” The bottom line: A decrease of 1.9 million voters between the ages of 30- through 44-year-olds in 2012.

votingratesThe data backs up the idea that young people were excited by Obama’s first presidential campaign. He changed the conversation. But then the hard slog of politics, the fights with Congress, the slow pace of change, and so many compromises by Obama turned off younger voters. That’s a problem that goes beyond any single candidate. How do you convince younger voters that politics and policy are more complicated than an election slogan?

Hillary Clinton has been trying to figure out younger voters. But as The New York Times pointed out this week that’s not so easy. As a group they do not watch television and “they tend not to be motivated by any single, unifying issue, making the job of messaging harder. They are declaring themselves unaffiliated with either party at a rate faster than any other generation. They say the political process and the two-party system are unresponsive to their concerns.”


This is true in Indian Country, too. It’s reflected on Facebook where younger American Indian and Alaska Native voters equate Clinton with the establishment and do not understand why Bernie Sanders is no longer an option. For his part, Sanders has campaigned with Clinton. He wrote in The Los Angeles Times: “My supporters and I began a political revolution to transform America. That revolution continues as Hillary Clinton seeks the White House. It will continue after the election. It will continue until we create a government which represents all of us and not just the 1 percent – a government based on the principle of economic, social, racial and environmental justice.”

There are even some younger Native American voters who see Donald Trump as an agent of change and worth the risk (all the while proclaiming support for Standing Rock or calling for more federal action on climate change.)

Part of the problem is that Clinton does not understand the priorities of younger voters. Recent hacked audio conversations between Clinton and high-value donors back in February explain that gap. “There’s just a deep desire to believe that we can have free college, free healthcare, that what we’ve done hasn’t gone far enough, and that we just need to, you know, go as far as, you know, Scandinavia, whatever that means, and half the people don’t know what that means, but it’s something that they deeply feel,” she said according to Politico.

That’s where the Standing Rock story comes into play.

Clinton has been silent about Standing Rock and the Dakota Access Pipeline dispute. The narrative from the camps is that she doesn’t care. I suspect the real issue is that her staff sees this as another pipeline dispute similar to Keystone XL pipeline. She was not eager to weigh in on that issue either. They don’t see this as unique moment in history when all of North America’s indigenous people are speaking with one voice.

The Clinton generation, and that includes the Obama administration, cling to the idea that we can continue to drill and transport oil the same way we have been doing it for decades. They say climate change is real, but back away from the hard decisions required to limit consumption of fossil fuels. In a lot of ways they play the same “either, or” game as the extractive industry equating oil and gas production with a strong economy (and votes). But I think younger voters would understand a call to sacrifice. A Harvard study last year found that three-out-of-four see climate change as real and caused by humans.

To my way of thinking: The single best thing Clinton could do to connect with younger voters would be to visit the camps at Standing Rock, learn from what’s going on, and take a stand. The evidence for why such an approach would work with younger voters is found across social media. When there is a report of an event, a prayer, or direct action, it spreads via social media by the hundreds of thousands. Imagine what it would mean to any campaign to collect the data from likes and reactions from that potential pool of voters.

So what about younger American Indian and Alaska Native voters? As the NativeVote.Org web site reports: “The Native youth population is growing at a rate higher than the rest of the country. Native Vote in partnerships with other youth non‐profit organizations will be working to reach out to these new and future voters. Part of this effort will include the development of a youth curriculum to encourage civic engagement and get them involved and be part of making a difference in their communities.”

But those numbers remain a promise and a concern. How many will take the steps necessary to vote?

I recently wrote this about the potential voters from the camps at Standing Rock: “Many of the water protectors arrived about a month ago and say they were willing to stay as long as it takes. That means (or it could mean) that they are residents under North Dakota law and could vote in the next election. How would that work? There would have to be some mechanism in place to certify the “new residents” either by identification or more likely by affirmation. If that is done now, then people at the camps can vote in the November election because North Dakota does not require voter registration. Imagine adding 2,000, 3,000 people or more to the voter rolls in Morton County, ND. There could even be a write-in campaign for county offices (members of the county commission are currently running unopposed). This would send a message to those in office that the people at the camps are constituents, too.”

Beyond the Standing Rock camps another potential pool of voters could come from tribal colleges.

In North Dakota there are some 3,500 tribal college students enrolled across the state, including 1,500 at United Tribes Technical College.  Residential college students can vote using a campus address (or by absentee with their home address). Either way imagine a turnout goal of 90 percent.

Across the country that’s nearly 30,000 students or 27,000 voters at 90 percent.

Then a goal of 90 percent Native youth turnout, lofty as it is, could be set for colleges and universities, tribal communities, and in urban areas. This election has a loud call to action that transcends normal politics and that’s a resolution to the Standing Rock issues as well as the next White House getting more serious about climate change action.

Will younger voters show? We don’t know. But we do know this: Older voters will be there. “Presidential elections have been dominated by voters of the Baby Boom and previous generations, who are estimated to have cast a majority of the votes,” notes Pew Research Center. And that “election reign” may come to an end this November … that is only if younger voters are present.

Mark Trahant is the Charles R. Johnson Endowed Professor of Journalism at the University of North Dakota. He is an independent journalist and a member of The Shoshone-Bannock Tribes. On Twitter @TrahantReports

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This is President Barack Obama’s last White House Tribal Nations Conference.  These meetings have really raised the level of discourse between tribal governments and the federal government. It seems to me this is how government-to-government should have worked all along.

That said: It will be impossible for the White House to be successful unless it comes up with a framework to solve the issues issues raised at Standing Rock (and reading below, it seems someone gets that.)

Office of the Press Secretary


FACT SHEET: The 8th Annual White House Tribal Nations Conference
Today, the White House will host the 8th Annual White House Tribal Nations Conference, bringing together leaders from federally recognized tribes to Washington, DC. The President and members of his Cabinet will discuss a range of issues important to tribal leaders, with an emphasis on ways the federal government can continue to strengthen the nation-to-nation relationship and ensure that progress in Indian Country endures for years to come.

The Tribal Nations Conference delivers on a promise the President made during a visit to the Crow Nation in Montana in May 2008, where he pledged to host an annual summit with tribal leaders to ensure that tribal nations have a seat at the table when facing important decisions about their communities. This year’s Conference – the President’s eighth and final of his Presidency – marks the historic progress his Administration has made to strengthen the nation-to-nation relationship and build a more prosperous and resilient Indian Country.

In addition to today’s Conference, the second annual White House Tribal Youth Gathering will be held on September 27, 2016 as part of the Generation Indigenous (Gen-I) initiative. The gathering will bring together approximately 100 Native youth leaders who will participate alongside tribal leaders and senior federal leaders in breakout sessions, panels, and youth-specific programming. Since the President launched Gen-I in 2014, thousands of American Indian and Alaska Native Youth have mobilized to address the most pressing needs facing their communities. Through youth engagement and strategic investments and policies, Gen-I has helped cultivate a new generation of tribal leaders and improve the lives of Native youth.
In recognizing that despite the incredible work completed in Indian Country over the past eight years, challenges still persist for Native Americans, today’s Tribal Nations Conference will bring together tribal leaders and agency officials to identify key issues to address during the next chapter of the nation-to-nation relationship. These conversations will serve as a platform for tribal leaders to develop relationships with the federal government that will serve them in the coming weeks, months, and years. Today, the Administration is pleased to share highlights of the progress made in 2016 and announce new steps forward:


Public Safety and Justice Subgroup of WHCNAA. The U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) and the Department of the Interior (DOI) will co-chair the Public Safety & Justice Subgroup (Subgroup) of the WHCNAA. The Departments formed the Subgroup at the September 6, 2016 WHCNAA principals meeting in response to the needs expressed by tribal leaders for the WHCNAA to concentrate on the unique legal and public safety concerns facing Indian Country such as jurisdictional matters, violence in Indian Country, infrastructure, training and capacity for tribal police and judicial systems, and more. The Subgroup will coordinate with other agencies to address public safety issues from an inter-agency perspective, and will ensure input from tribal representatives.

Interagency Trauma Initiative of the WHCNAA Health Subgroup. The federal government plays an important partnership role with tribal nations in improving the health and well-being of American Indian and Alaska Native communities. An area where this partnership is vital is in addressing traumatic events, some which may have been experienced historically and intergenerationally. The effects of trauma can be long-term and have effects on individuals, families, and communities. A few of the symptoms and effects are psychological distress, poor overall physical and mental health, and unmet medical and psychological needs.

These health impacts can be significant for American Indians and Alaska Natives who may also face disparities related to socioeconomic status, education, employment, access to services, the physical environment, food security, and physical activity, among others. To strengthen efforts focused on improving the well-being of tribal communities, the Health Subgroup is working to improve awareness on the impacts of trauma among executives, senior leaders, and employees; initiating collaborations across programs; and building the capacity for supporting trauma-informed services and practices.

Reinforcing the National Historic Preservation Act and Self Determination. The National Historic Preservation Act includes a provision for the Advisory Council on Historic Preservation (ACHP) to enter into agreements with Indian tribes to substitute a tribe’s historic preservation regulations for the ACHP’s regulations, commonly called the Section 106 process. Under such an arrangement, an Indian tribe has the ability to determine how federal agencies meet the requirements of Section 106 for projects on its lands. In March 2016, the ACHP entered into a substitution agreement with the Seminole Tribe of Florida whereby the tribe will carry out all historic preservation work on its tribal lands, a full expression of its sovereignty and self-determination. The agreement with the Seminole Tribe is only the second agreement the ACHP has entered into. The first was with the Narragansett Tribe in 2000. To both encourage other Indian tribes to consider such arrangements and to help them navigate the decision making process, the ACHP, in consultation with Indian tribes, will issue formal guidance in 2017.
The United States, Canada, and Mexico Commit to Improve Coordination on Violence Against Indigenous Women and Girls. On June 29, 2016 President Obama traveled to Ottawa, Canada for the North American Leaders’ Summit, where he met with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau of Canada and President Enrique Peña Nieto of Mexico. The three presidents made a tri-lateral commitment to address the scourge of violence against indigenous women and girls that exists across North America. The commitment encompasses knowledge-sharing on best practices to prevent and respond the needs of indigenous women and girls, including enhancing cooperation between the three nations, improving judicial and social service provision, and strengthening the capacity of government health services to provide culturally sensitive services to all indigenous recipients.

Gathering Gen-I Native Youth. On September 27, the Administration will host the second annual Tribal Youth Gathering. Tomorrow’s gathering builds upon a series of six events hosted by the White House, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), and the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), which engaged over 500 youth in providing an understanding of the Generation Indigenous (Gen-I) Native Youth Challenge and providing participating youth the opportunity to share their perspectives on topics including health and wellness, community, education, culture, and leadership with the federal government. These events also included activities to promote youth leadership, skill building, and education all in an effort to provide participating youth with the tools to reach their full potential. 
Measuring the Success of our Native Youth Programming. As a part of the Generation Indigenous (Gen-I) initiative, the WHCNAA and the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) are working with federal agencies to establish metrics and collect data about challenges and disparities faced by Native youth. These metrics will be used to help track the effectiveness of federal efforts to close opportunity gaps, and will help identify where we are making progress, where we are falling short, and progress that can be made when the federal agencies take a coordinated approach in addressing issues that affect Native youth.
Enhancing Support for Consistent Climate Change Education for Native Youth. In 2015 and 2016, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA), the National Park Service (NPS), and other partners hosted the first two Tribal Youth Climate Leadership Congress (Congress) to promote youth engagement and positive community action for climate resilience for 89 native youth. The Congress is supported partly through the BIA’s Tribal Climate Resilience Program to support Tribal youth working on climate change research. Additionally, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is continuing its Tribal Eco-Ambassador Program, which partners with federal scientists and tribal college and university students to address environmental problems, many of which are related to the impact of climate change.

Supporting Education and Community Development through Tribal Colleges and Universities. In 2016, USDA’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture invested $13.9 million in 34 Tribal Land Grant Institutions. The new awards support institutional research, education, and extension outreach capacity through projects that address student educational needs, provide positive tribal youth development experiences, and help to solve other locally identified tribal community, reservation, and regional development issues

Engaging Native Youth. In 2015, the Advisory Council on Historic Preservation (ACHP) adopted the Native Youth Strategic Plan. In 2016, the agency sought input from tribal leaders and historic preservation staff on their priorities and how best to reach out to Native youth. Based on stakeholder input, the ACHP has produced an information packet about historic preservation geared for both Native youth and adults. The information is intended to introduce Native youth to historic preservation, both in general and as a potential career path. A report will also be issued and will include recommendations based on input from Native youth, tribal leaders, and tribal preservation professionals. It will be available at in the summer of 2017.

Increasing Support for Locally-Tailored Education Interventions. The Department of Education recently announced that it will make $17.4 million in new awards for the Native Youth Community Projects (NYCP) grants in FY 2016, which is triple the $5.3 million that was provided in FY 2015. NYCP supports preschool through college-level projects that help American Indian and Alaska Native youth prepare for college and careers. President Obama’s FY 2017 budget request expands NYCP funding to $53 million. Technical assistance has been provided and will support these and the State-Tribal Education Programs STEP programs from pre-application through the implementation of their grants.
Investing in the Future of Youth in Indian Country. In FY 2016, the Corporation for National and Community Service (CNCS), a federal agency that administers AmeriCorps, will invest a record $3.5 million in tribally sponsored AmeriCorps programming and $1.25 million in education scholarships. The majority of the scholarship recipients are from Indian Country – who in exchange for their service will receive the scholarship to help pay for college or to repay student loans. AmeriCorps members will tutor and mentor youth, teach nutrition and physical activity, preserve language and cultural heritage, protect the environment, connect veterans and their families to job opportunities, prepare for disasters, and tackle substance abuse issues.

Training Community Changemakers. In September 2016, 120 Native Youth Ambassadors, ages 14-17, will participate in the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development’s (HUD) National Native Youth Summit in Washington, DC, with the goal of developing the next generation of Native community leaders. Youth will explore what community means and the impact homes have on personal health, education, energy conservation, and finances. The youth will design a Local Empowerment Project, such as community beautification, community-based gardens, clean-up programs, mapping sacred spaces, distributing information about energy efficiency in the home, or creating a community youth health club to implement upon their return home. 
Promoting Economic and Social Development through Career Technical Education Pathways. The Bureau of Indian Education (BIE) Sherman Indian High School accepted a generous donation from the San Manuel Band of Mission Indians to continue a Career Technical Education Pathways Program that supports students attending the school. The funds support five distinct career technical education clusters. Students learn skills to work in agriculture, construction, health care, culinary arts, hospitality, tourism, and other careers. The program allows students at the boarding school to gain skills in industries promoting economic and social development for American Indian and Alaska Native communities.
“Culture & Meth Don’t Mix” Initiative. DOI’s Office of the Assistant Secretary of Indian Affairs in collaboration with BIA’s Office of Justice Services (OJS), BIE, and the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), has created a program called “Culture and Meth Don’t Mix” to provide a culturally appropriate approach for meth prevention among Native American youth through community and inter-agency involvement. The program includes a speaker series that will take place in BIE schools. The speakers will consist of speakers from OJS, a health professional recommended by SAMHSA, and one person from the community. There will be a different theme each month educating youth about the dangers of meth, focusing on the fact that Native culture does not have a place for meth use. 

Employment Opportunities for Tribal Youth through Conservation Corps. In 2016, the Gulf Coast Ecosystem Restoration Council began funding Tribal Youth Conservation Corps focused on coastal cleanup, restoration and community construction projects. Part of the Obama Administration’s 21st Century Conservation Service Corps, the Tribal Youth Conservation Corps invests in the next generation of tribal leaders by providing job training skills to enhance these young people’s ability to engage in the long-term Gulf restoration effort to help families, bolster local economies, and lead to a more resilient coast. $500,000 was specifically set aside to engage tribal youth in the region in these opportunities.


United States to Assume Concurrent Criminal Jurisdiction. In January 2016, DOJ granted a request by the Mille Lacs Band of Ojibwe for the United States to assume concurrent criminal jurisdiction on the tribe’s reservation in central Minnesota. The decision was the second assumption of jurisdiction granted by the Department of Justice under the landmark Tribal Law and Order Act of 2010, which gave the Department discretion to accept concurrent federal jurisdiction to prosecute violations of the General Crimes Act and the Major Crimes Act within areas of Indian country that are also subject to state criminal jurisdiction under Public Law 280. The decision regarding the Mille Lacs Band will take effect on January 1, 2017

Indian Country Criminal Investigator Training Program. The Indian Country Criminal Investigator Training Program is a joint training collaboration between FBI and BIA-OJS, hosted at FLETC-West in Artesia, New Mexico. The Indian Police Academy staff and the FBI Indian Country Crimes Unit developed a course focused on preparing to work on various crimes on Indian reservations. It includes expert instruction from a forensic pediatrician, a pathologist, and experts on investigations of child abuse and violent crimes under the Major Crimes Act. Students also receive 24 hours of forensic evidence collection; the course concludes with a practical exercise where students process a crime scene and determine investigative steps. The course will be run twice yearly and each session will have up to 24 students.

Tribal Re-entry. On April 29, 2016, President Obama issued a Presidential Memorandum appointing the Federal Interagency Reentry Council, a Cabinet-level working group comprised of more than 20 member agencies, to coordinate and leverage existing federal reentry resources; dispel myths and clarify policies related to reentry; elevate reentry programs and effective policies; and reduce policy barriers to successful reentry. As a part of the broader effort, the Bureau of Justice Assistance (BJA) has developed resources on Tribal Reentry including: BJA Tribal Reentry Fact Sheet; National Reentry Resource Center’s Tribal Affairs Page; American Probation and Parole Association website; and Strategies for Creating Offender Reentry Programs in Indian Country

Consolidating Tribal Lands. Authorized by the Cobell Settlement in 2009, which provided $1.9 billion to purchase fractional interests at fair market value within 10 years, DOI’s Land Buy-Back Program has paid more than $850 million to individual landowners and restored the equivalent of approximately 1.6 million acres of land for tribes. The program has announced the next 105 locations, which includes more than 96 percent of landowners with fractional interests and more than 98 percent of both fractional interests and equivalent acres in program-eligible area.

Supporting Federally-Recognized Tribal Governments to Request a Presidential Emergency or Major Disaster Declaration. The Sandy Recovery Improvement Act of 2013 (SRIA) amended the Stafford Act to provide tribal governments the option to request a Presidential emergency or major disaster declaration. The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) is working to finalize the Tribal Declarations Pilot Guidance, which describes the process for tribal governments to request Stafford Act declarations and associated disaster assistance while the Agency prepares for and conducts a notice and rulemaking process to implement this provision of SRIA through regulations. FEMA’s 90-day consultation period on the second draft of the Tribal Declarations Pilot Guidance received nearly 800 comments from over 500 tribal officials, representing 178 federally-recognized tribal governments. FEMA aims to publish the guidance this fall to begin the pilot period.

Implementing the Forest Service Trust Responsibility. National Forests and Grasslands often hold a historic connection to America’s first stewards, and USDA is working to align its procedures with this unique relationship. In 2016, the USDA Forest Service published the final Tribal Relations Directives, which provide more consistency and efficacy in consultations with Tribal Nations and helps Forest Service employees understand the requirements, complexities and opportunities of tribal relations. The Directives describe the Forest Service’s responsibility to implement programs and activities consistent with, and respecting, Indian treaty rights and fulfilling the federal government’s trust responsibility with Indian tribes

Strengthening Sovereignty. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx appointed the first-ever Deputy Assistant Secretary for Tribal Government Affairs on May 16, 2016. Located in the Office of the Secretary, this position will serve as the liaison between tribes and tribal governments and the Department of Transportation. The Department also began the process of developing a Tribal Transportation Self-Governance Program (TTSGP). This program will provide tribes with an additional option on how they would like to carry out their transportation programs. DOT initiated the negotiated rulemaking process to propose regulations that would direct the TTSGP. The TTSGP Negotiated Rulemaking Committee, composed of tribal transportation leaders and federal officials, has already begun its work.

Connecting Communities, and Improving Infrastructures. The Tribal Transit Program at the Federal Transit Administration is expanding its technical assistance efforts to tribes receiving funds through the Tribal Transit Technical Assistance Assessments initiative. Through these assessments, FTA collaborates with tribal transit leaders to review processes and identify areas in need of improvement and then assist with solutions to address these needs—all in a supportive and mutually beneficial manner. The FTA has performed 30 assessments and will continue these efforts. The Tribal Transportation Program is the largest program in the Office of Federal Lands Highway at the Federal Highway Administration, which is authorized at $465 million in FY 2016.

Prioritizing Tribal Connectivity. Broadband is essential in the 21st Century, but today too many lack high speed access. The Administration has prioritized increasing broadband capabilities across Indian Country: as part of ConnectED, an initiative designed to connect schools and libraries to the digital age, the Federal Communications Commission’s (FCC) E-rate program provided broadband, Wi-Fi, and telecommunications funding to 245 tribal schools serving over 60,000 students and 31 tribal libraries last funding year alone; the National Telecommunications and Information Administration’s (NTIA) published a planning toolkit for tribal governments to develop a Community Broadband Roadmap for building broadband networks, enhancing public computer centers, expanding broadband to unserved areas, encouraging public-private partnerships, and promoting broadband connectivity to homes, businesses and institutions; and starting December 1st, the enhanced Lifeline program subsidy, which is available to low-income people living on Tribal lands, can be used to help cover the cost of broadband service. Additionally, as a step towards providing tribal communities and entities with the resources they need to deploy broadband infrastructure, today the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Rural Utilities Service is announcing that it will aim to double its annual investment in telecom broadband loans in Indian Country—to $50 million in FY17—and dedicate staff to providing tribes with technical assistance to help unlock existing resources. And because broadband is critical to creating opportunity for Native Youth, the President’s Budget proposed significant investments in education information IT to enhance broadband and digital access for students at BIE-funded schools. 

Sponsoring for Clean Energy. During 2016, the Department of Energy’s (DOE) Office of Indian Energy Policy and Programs (Indian Energy) will obligate nearly $15 million in direct support of clean energy deployment by tribes (Indian tribes and their governmental instrumentalities, including Alaska Native villages, Alaska Native Regional Corporations and Village Corporations, and Tribal Energy Resource Development Organizations). On August 17, DOE’s Office of Indian Energy announced the availability of up to $3 million to initiate the first steps toward developing and sustaining renewable energy and energy efficiency on tribal lands. 

Improving Access to Data for American Indians and Alaska Natives (AIAN). In 2016, BIA and the Census Bureau signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) as a first step in identifying and addressing AIAN data quality and availability issues. As a result of the MOU, BIA and Census are sharing geospatial data to improve the accuracy of tribal boundaries in time for the 2020 Census; a federal interagency work group was established to promote communication and collaboration; an inventory of existing federal AIAN data collections was developed to identify data gaps and establish a baseline for progress; and a series of workshops to address AIAN data issues is being planned.

Refining, Expanding and Engaging in Tribal Consultation. In FY 2016, HUD published its revised tribal consultation policy, proposed a tribal advisory committee, and completed negotiated rulemaking. HUD issued a Federal Register Notice seeking public comment on a proposed Tribal Intergovernmental Advisory Committee to further facilitate communication between HUD and Federally-recognized Indian tribes on all HUD programs. In January, HUD completed negotiated rulemaking with tribal representatives on the Indian Housing Block Grant funding formula.

Tracking Federal Initiatives to Build Resilience in Indian Country. The White House Council on Environmental Quality (CEQ) and the White House Council on Native American Affairs Environment, Climate, and Natural Resources Subgroup, have developed a progress report on the Tribal Supplemental Recommendations of the State, Local, and Tribal Leaders Task Force on Climate Preparedness and Resilience. The report identifies programs and policies that Federal agencies have developed or updated in response to the Tribal Supplemental Recommendations, which focus on the specific and unique perspectives of Native communities to build resilience to the impacts of climate change. Read more about it here.

Supporting the Delivery of Traditional Foods in Indian Country. The 2014 Farm Bill provided additional flexibility for USDA to incorporate traditional foods into the Food Distribution Program on Indian Reservations (FDPIR) program managed by the USDA Food and Nutrition Service. In 2016, USDA increased the quantity and variety of traditional foods being distributed to low-income families and the elderly through FDPIR through the purchase of 120,000 pounds of bison, 216,000 pounds of frozen wild salmon, 55,000 pounds of wild rice, and 646,000 pounds of blue cornmeal, much of it supplied by Native American-owned businesses.
Partnering to Build Resilience in Tribal Communities. Two new partnerships will enable 160 AmeriCorps VISTA members to serve in Tribal communities over the next three years. The Resilience AmeriCorps program will place AmeriCorps VISTA members at 55 tribal locations to boost their capacity to prepare for severe weather. This expansion includes Conservation Legacy, American Indian Higher Education Consortium, Enterprise Community Partners, Tribal Colleges and Universities and Tribal Housing Authorities. Building on the Let’s Move in Indian Country and Seeds of Native Health initiatives, AmeriCorps VISTA is also joining with the University of Arkansas Law School’s Indigenous Food and Agriculture Institute and the Shakopee Mdewakanton Sioux Tribe to place AmeriCorps VISTA members in 10 tribes to help develop agricultural opportunities and nutritional priorities to benefit Tribal members

Combating Climate Change in Tribal Nations: Climate Resilience Toolkit. In 2015, the Administration expanded the Climate Resilience Toolkit to include a new “Tribal Nations” theme, comprised of more than 40 resources—with more to be added in the future—to assist Tribal nations in climate change planning, adaptation, and mitigation. Resources include a comprehensive Tribal Climate Change Adaptation Planning Toolkit, and a set of guidelines for considering traditional knowledge in climate change initiatives. In July 2016, NOAA, in collaboration with the U.S. Global Change Research Program and a number of agencies, released new capabilities through the Climate Resilience Toolkit; these included county-scale climate projections for the continental United States, making climate information more locally relevant.

Engaging Communities and Connecting with Technical Experts and Resources through Community-based Data Collection. In 2015, EPA’s Indian Environmental General Assistance Program provided a grant to the Alaska Native Tribal Health Consortium (ANTHC), to support the release of a Local Environmental Observer (LEO) App. Expanding on the successful computer-based tool, the App allows observers to share photos and text from the field, complete with GPS locations. The LEO Network provides a model for engaging communities and connecting with technical experts and resources to allow communities to monitor, respond to, and adapt to new impacts and health effects. LEO experts apply local and traditional knowledge, western science and modern technology to record and share observations and to raise awareness about the conditions in the circumpolar north. Due to the success of the program, EPA and ANTHC are working to expand LEO internationally and in the Lower 48. 
Building Knowledge and Connection for Environment, Climate Change, and Natural Resources. In May 2016, the Environment, Climate Change, and Natural Resources Subgroup—part of the White House Council on Native American Affairs—hosted a convening for Tribal leaders and Administration leadership to discuss the impacts of climate change on their Tribal communities. The Subgroup launched the Federal Tribal Climate Change Resource Guide-an online portal that creates a centralized place for Tribal government professionals to locate available resources from the federal government. This guide enables Tribal governments to identify resources, tools and expert advice from multiple agencies. 

Supporting Resiliency through Native Language and Culture. The Administration for Native Americans recently awarded nearly $3 million in funds under two new grant programs to support Native youth. The Native Language Community Coordination Demonstration Projects is a five-year demonstration project that will enable communities to increase their capacity to address gaps in providing continuous Native language instruction from childhood through post-secondary education. The Native Youth Initiative for Leadership, Empowerment, and Development (I-LEAD) funding will support community programs that promote Native American youth resiliency and foster protective factors such as connections with Native American languages and elders, positive peer groups, models of safe sanctuary, and more. 

Protecting Confidential Information. The Advisory Council on Historic Preservation (ACHP) has issued a “Frequently Asked Questions” guidance document on protecting sensitive information about historic properties under Section 304 of the National Historic Preservation Act. Federal agency officials, State and Tribal Historic Preservation Officer (SHPO/THPO), Indian tribes, Native Hawaiian organizations, and other stakeholders in the Section 106 process often ask ACHP staff how sensitive information about historic properties can be protected from public disclosure. This new guidance, available here, builds upon the successful Section 304 Webinar the ACHP offers about how Section 304 works to protect such information and thereby prevent harm to historic properties. In developing this guidance, the ACHP coordinated closely with the NPS’ Keeper of the National Register of Historic Places program to ensure these FAQs identify the most commonly asked questions and provide helpful guidance to Section 106 practitioners as well as members of the public regarding what information may be withheld from disclosure, under what circumstances, and for what reasons.
Preserving Tribal Culture and Values by Supporting Efforts to Repatriate Cultural Items from Abroad. DOJ has launched an interagency group on cultural property with DOI, the Department of State, and DHS, with a focus on international repatriation. Next steps include strengthening interagency cooperation, responding to Congressional requests for information and comments on legislation, and holding government-to-government consultations on international repatriation, which will be launched at the 2016 Tribal Nations Conference.

Working with the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. The ACHP issued new guidance about the linkages between the U.N. Declaration and tribal and Native Hawaiian preservation issues in the Section 106 . The guidance helps federal agencies understand the right of indigenous peoples to participate in decision makiwhen their rights would be affected, including with respect to the destruction of historic properties or sacred places ofreligious or cultural significance. The ACHP has extensively promoted the Declaration within the historic preservation community and issued initial guidance regarding Section 106 consultation and the Declaration.

Sacred Sites MOU Executive Committee Announces New Training. As part of the deliverables of the Sacred Sites MOU, the Executive Committee of the Sacred Sites MOU is announcing the release of “Native American Sacred Sites and the Federal Government, A Training for Federal Employees and Contract Staff Developed under the Sacred Sites Memorandum of Understanding,” a comprehensive online training module for federal employees and contractors, which is also available for free to the public. The Sacred Sites MOU was signed by DOD, USDA, DOI, DOE, and ACHP to improve the protection of and tribal access to Indian sacred sites on federally managed land.


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