#NativeVote16 – Indian Country was like America … only more so

It’s hard to understate how important the difference the enthusiasm gap made in this election. Bernie Sanders showed how to stir passion in voters. Hillary Clinton? Not so much. (Trahant photo from Billings rally.)

Mark Trahant / Trahant Reports

This election Indian Country was like America. Perhaps only more so.

Most American Indian and Alaska Natives voted for Hillary Clinton. But that support was mild. There were not enough votes to make a difference in red states like Montana, South Dakota and North Dakota. Just enough votes to stay the course in blue states like New Mexico, Washington or Oregon. And, most important, not nearly enough votes in the swing states.

Hillary Clinton earned the most votes, 60, 839,922, to Donald J. Trump’s 60,265,858. But that, of course, is not the way we elect the national leader and Trump’s 290 electoral votes were more than enough to win.  What’s more: The margins within those states were such that Native American voters could not have made the difference. There would have had to be a wider coalition of voters, something  Barack Obama did so well, and Secretary Clinton did not.

A few examples.

If you look at a color-coded 2012 election map Indian Country pops out. There are bright blue pools of voters in deeply red states. Shannon County (now Oglala Lakota County) voted 93.4 percent for Obama. That’s Pine Ridge. Obama won 3/4s of the vote in Rolette County, North Dakota, which includes the Turtle Mountian Band of Chippewas.

Or next door in Montana, voters from the Fort Peck Reservation came out and led the county with 56.5 percent voting for Obama. But blue faded in the red states this election. Trump picked up 200 more votes than Mitt Romney in 2012, but the real number is that nearly 600 fewer voters went for Hillary Clinton compared to Barack Obama.

Same story in Oglala Lakota Country. Clinton won, and by a large margin, but with 500 fewer votes than Obama.

In Rolette County nearly 1,300 fewer votes for Clinton.

The red states did not change because of that, but it’s a good indication about how tepid the support for Clinton was, even in Indian Country.

This story played out in blue states, too. More than 2,000 voters disappeared in McKinley County on the Navajo Nation in New Mexico.

And, in swing states, such as Arizona, that slight difference, a few hundred people who did not vote here and there, added up into real numbers. In Apache County, where the majority of the voters are Navajo, 17,147 picked Obama four years ago. This election only 12,196 voted for Clinton.

Indian Country will make a difference in future elections. The demographic makeup of the country is changing fast and we are a part of that. What’s most stunning about this election is how little demographics mattered. I wrote in December: “Sure, it’s even possible, that one of the Republican candidates  will whip up magic and united a coalition of voters. But that would take words designed to reach consensus with the new majority of voters.” And that would have been true: If enough of us had been motivated to vote.

I think it’s clear that Clinton took Indian Country for granted. There was no attempt to learn and execute  what worked from the Bernie Sanders campaign. In June, I suggested the Clinton campaign appoint and promote public Native  surrogates because “there ought to be a face from Indian Country.” This could have helped build enthusiasm.

And ignoring Standing Rock was a sure way to turn off Native voters. There was probably a “let’s get past the election” conversation, although eventually Tim Kane did weigh in, but nothing changed the narrative that Clinton represented more corporate  power, not less. Supporting Standing Rock would have been the right call morally. But I can see how the politics was more complicated because union voices (and donors) wanted the pipeline to proceed.

Yet that might be the essence of Hillary Clinton and why she lost. Her campaign was a package of powerful interests trying to market itself as the voice of ordinary people. Indian Country’s answer was, yeah, whatever. Meh.

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

#NativeVote16 – A landslide? That would be great news for Native challengers

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

Reposting or reprinting this column? Please credit: Mark Trahant / TrahantReports.com

#NativeVote16 – The White House’s week of consultation begs an answer to Standing Rock

TrahantReports

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.)
THE WHITE HOUSE

Office of the Press Secretary

EMBARGOED UNTIL MONDAY, SEPTEMBER 26, 2016 AT 12:01. AM 

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:

AN ALL-OF-GOVERNMENT APPROACH TO SERVING INDIAN COUNTRY

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.
PROVIDING OPPORTUNITIES FOR NATIVE YOUTH

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 www.achp.gov/nap 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.

STRENGTHENING TRIBAL SOVEREIGNTY

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.

HEALTHY COMMUNITIES & ENVIRONMENTS IN INDIAN COUNTRY
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 NATIVE AMERICAN CULTURE & HERITAGE

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.

 

#NativeVote16 – Make no mistake: Standing Rock is on the ballot

A line to vote? Imagine the potential of adding 2,000, 3,000 people or more voters from the camps at Standing Rock. (Trahant photo)
Mark Trahant / TrahantReports

On social media and in real life we hear this often: “What can I do to help Standing Rock?” Some answer the question by donating money, many send supplies, and hundreds of people jump in their car and travel to the camps near Cannonball, North Dakota. Once there folks pray, some engage in direct action, and all of us learn more about the challenges facing humanity.

There is something else that can be done: Vote. 

Chase Iron Eyes, who is running for Congress from North Dakota, made that point on his web page this week. “I don’t believe North Dakota is racist, a certain percentage of the ReTrumplicans are—but we can vote them out—if you would only vote,” he wrote. “The majority of us are evolving in mutual respect. That’s our North Dakota.”

The congressional race is a stark example of these various differences: The incumbent, Rep. Kevin Cramer, wrote a position paper for Donald Trump that says any new climate policy should not “punish coal” or other fossil fuels. The Republican considers himself a climate change skeptic dismissing both international commitments made by the United States and the mountain of scientific evidence. 

But is this a moment when North Dakotans are open to a change? And, is there an evolving majority beyond North Dakota? How many allies are out there? How many people are ready for a significant policy shift when it comes to energy? 

The answers depend on how many people stand in line at polls, vote by mail,  and cast a ballot. If it’s a yes, or a hell yes, this could be the most significant organizing moment in American history.

Consider 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.

This potential surge in voter registration would also promote the candidacies of the three Native Americans running statewide in North Dakota, Chase Iron Eyes, Ruth Buffalo, and Marlo Hunte-Beaubrun. Even better: The Spirit of Standing Rock could became a rallying cry that calls people across Indian Country to vote. Imagine if every community set a goal of as close to 100 percent turnout as possible.

Of course there are not enough American Indians to win on our own. We need allies. So when people say, “what can I do to help?” Answer, “vote.” 
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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#NativeVote16 – Why the White House needs to get involved in the Standing Rock dispute

President Obama answering a question about Standing Rock in Laos

Mark Trahant / TrahantReports

I’ve been thinking a lot about the silence from the White House on the situation at Standing Rock. There have been so many calls to get involved, including a direct plea from Chairman David Archambault II.

So on Wednesday President Obama finally spoke; answering a question in Laos. He cited the stellar record of his administration and then he said: “And this issue of ancestral lands and helping them preserve their way of life is something that we have worked very hard on. Now, some of these issues are caught up with laws and treaties, and so I can’t give you details on this particular case. I’d have to go back to my staff and find out how are we doing on this one.

But what I can tell you is, is that we have actually restored more rights among Native Americans to their ancestral lands, sacred sites, waters, hunting grounds. We have done a lot more work on that over the last eight years than we had in the previous 20, 30 years. And this is something that I hope will continue as we go forward.”

Of course this has been an amazing eight years. Or should I say almost eight years. The president was on the other side of the world answering a question when he had not been briefed. The president doesn’t have the time to watch the news, or read newspapers, so issues even as important as this one can slip by. But there should have been a paragraph, a short memo, something that was placed in front of the president. Instead the president, who has done more for Native Americans than anyone else, had a deer-in-the-headlights moment, not unlike George Bush or Ronald Reagan.

What should the White House be doing? Ideally propose a solution. President Obama’s executive order on tribal consultation is clear about what should be done. It says: “History has shown that failure to include the voices of tribal officials in formulating policy affecting their communities has all too often led to undesirable and, at times, devastating and tragic results. By contrast, meaningful dialogue between Federal officials and tribal officials has greatly improved Federal policy toward Indian tribes. Consultation is a critical ingredient of a sound and productive Federal-tribal relationship.”

There are hundreds of people camped near the Standing Rock Reservation, ready to engage in peaceful, civil disobedience, who are trying to avoid those devastating and tragic results. Meanwhile elected North Dakota government officials — who cannot even bring themselves to visit the camp and learn about what’s occurring — have a fundamental misunderstanding about the nature of the protest and are calling for more law enforcement action, including the National Guard.

Some history: Over the years I have interviewed a number of people who have worked in the Nixon White House. There were three major crises involving Indian Country: the occupations of Alcatraz, the Bureau of Indian Affairs headquarters, and Wounded Knee.

John Ehrlichman and Leonard Garment both told me about the tension between those who would use government power — law enforcement and troops — versus those who wanted to find a peaceful resolution

This is only the story as remembered by government officials, not the full account. Thart said: Alcatraz was first. The California island was occupied in November 1969 by a group of college students would form “Indians of All Tribes.” Goals ranged from inter-tribal ownership to the creation of a new university, museum and cultural center. But the federal government wanted the island back.

“What I sensed,” Garment told the Nixon Library in 2007, “was that the administration did not want any bloodshed. That there was already a lot of trouble in the country. I mean, later on when there was Kent State, I mean, all of these problems were … quite explosive.”

But Bob Kunzig, who was the federal official responsible for the island, wanted the Coast Guard to land on the island and remove students by force.

“When I heard about that,” Garment said, “I said tell him to forget about it so there was a kind of a little bit of a battle, not a battle royal, a battle royalette, a miniature battle, because he didn’t have the standing to do anything nor did anybody want bloodshed over Alcatraz. So it turned into a very interesting symbolic issue, which worked well for the Indians and it worked well for the administration. It worked well for the processes of history because here was Alcatraz, this prison island, lump of rock, and here were these people, Indians, out on the island, and here was the federal government withholding its powerful, its armed fist, and waiting them out. And it was an interesting time, learned a lot, had a lot of people who were very angry, wanted us to provision the island and it was a way of sort of, at least for me, of striking a balance between trying to enforce the law and also not to be so heavy handed that we wind up in a mess, in a bloody mess. So that was, that was Alcatraz.”

The same parameters were in place during the BIA takeover. The Nixon White House looked for solutions, one even as unconventional as paying the occupiers to leave town, money that was supposed to be used for people to buy bus tickets home. Garment told me “we were condemned, investigations were held, hearings, but there was no bloodshed.”

Wounded Knee was different. Nixon wanted action. We know from his secret tape recordings that he wanted the White House visible. He suggested lots of meetings where officials would be “going out and finding every camera you can get your hands on to put across a foundation. It would show the White House in operation.” But if that didn’t work, the president was willing to use military force.

“I think we ought to move tanks, the whole goddamned thing. Put a division in there, if necessary,” the president said. “It’s time for action on it. If some Indians get shot, that’s too goddamned bad. If some Americans get shot, that’s too bad, too.”

Garment said the 82nd Airborne and the Marshals were ready to move in “and that would have been bloody because they did, there were weapons.” But it was a general, Volney Warner, who talked the White House down. “He just went through what would happen. The number of troops that would be used, the tear gas, the number of deaths that were likely and when he finished there was no more talk about taking them out by force.”

Of course Standing Rock is different.

And one of those ways is frightening: Instead of debating the power of the federal government, we’re already seeing the use of a private security force who do not answer to civilian authorities. Indeed one of the problems here is that the owners of the Dakota Access Pipeline cannot wait for a peaceful resolution to unfold; the partnership’s entire strategy is to build the pipeline quickly before the regulatory process can catch up. The partners want banks to know this can be done fast and without political interference, avoiding the kind of delays that killed the Keystone XL pipeline and more recently, the Sandpiper Pipeline.

Energy Transfer Partners were clear about this plan. In May, for example, a spokesperson told The Forum News Service that its “depth of experience and relationship with regulatory agencies has made the company confident enough to start construction before all permits have been granted.”

And the state of North Dakota is eager too. Statements by the governor, county officials, and the company all acknowledge that protests are protected by the First Amendment. But they also frequently use the word “lawful.” They see protest as holding a sign, not holding a line. They misunderstand the nature of civil disobedience and the long-term presence of people who are willing to disobey an unjust process and unjust laws. The key to successful civil disobedience is moral authority, not “lawful” slogans.

How much government power will be used to protect the Dakota Access Pipeline? Or will that be a private security force that uses attack dogs and more? Is the state, the company, willing to kill to enforce its outcome? And now, potentially, the National Guard. As Nixon once put it, “if some Indians get shot, that’s too goddamned bad. If some Americans get shot, that’s too bad.”

The White House has two great powers. It can shine a light on the story, the whole story. It can also convene. Bring together the Dakota Access Pipeline partners, the state, the tribes, and make sure that the outcome does not end up a bloody mess.

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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#NativeVote16 – A hundred candidates? Yes and a lot of talent

JR LaPlante is a candidate for the House in South Dakota’s District 14. (Campaign photo via Facebook)
Mark Trahant / TrahantReports

I have been writing a lot about numbers, lately. My latest count is seven Native American candidates for Congress, one for the U.S. Senate, five candidates running in statewide races, and 83 Native American candidates for state legislatures. (Plus more than a dozen office holders who are already elected and not on the ballot this cycle.)

That’s an impressive showing. But what’s really exciting is that there are so many talented people running. What do I mean? Candidates who have experience, drive, ideas, and own the tools needed to win.

JR La Plante is a great example. He’s running for the South Dakota Legislature as a Democrat.

He’s an enrolled member of the Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe. He’s an attorney and his current job is director of Tribal Relations for Avera Health where he coordinates a number of health initiatives. LaPlante’s public policy resume is deep. He has worked for the U.S. Attorney’s Office, Equal Justice Works, an AmeriCorps Legal Fellow with South Dakota Access to Justice, and was in the first group of scholars with Bush Foundation’s Native Nation Rebuilders program.

Five years ago LaPlante was appointed the first South Dakota Secretary of Tribal Relations,  appointed by Gov. Dennis Daugaard, a Republican.  (Previous: A record year for candidates? Probably. Why not?)

“I’m really looking forward to getting out and talking with my neighbors in District 14 about the issues that matter to them,” said LaPlante. “I’ve worked with this administration and with folks on both sides of the aisle. The voters of this state deserve responsive, effective government and I believe I have the skills and experience to deliver that.”

There are two distinct challenges for any politician. The first is getting elected. The second is being effective, actually governing. LaPlante would own that second category because he already understands how South Dakota operates and what it will take to reach out to the  Republican majority in the House.

What are LaPlante’s prospects ? In a presidential election year he will probably need around 6,000 votes from his Sioux Falls district. And he’ll need money, the average South Dakota House seat requires about $22,000 in contributions to be competitive. 

But this is a district that can be won, especially in a presidential election year. The last time a Democrat won this seat was in 2012 and that’s because more people turnout and vote when the presidency is on the line (not to mention the chaos associated with this year’s White House race).

Another number: Two. Two of Indian Country’s candidates running for office have worked as tribal liaisons for governors’ offices. The other is the Scott Davis who was elected to the board of city commissioners in Mandan, 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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#NativeVote16 – A letter to the first Native American president

Minn. Rep. Peggy Flanagan. (Ojibwe) speaking ar the Democratic Convention. (C-SPAN)

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For those not near C-SPAN, Rep Peggy Flanagan (Ojibwe) speaking at DNC this afternoon. #NativeVote16 Video is here.

Short but eloquent. She read a letter to her future president daughter about the challenges and the promises found in politics & organizing.

“I am a proud citizen of the White Earth Nation of Ojibwe,” she said. “Politics is not always fun. Sometimes you run into some pretty mean people who don’t like you for simply being you. Like that naughty guy Donald Trump on TV. The one who says all those nasty things about women. And about Native Americans like us. I’m so sorry you have to hear that, my girl, your name is not Pocahontas. .. Despite everything that’s happened to our people, and no matter what Donald Trump said, we are still here.”

She said she wanted her daughter to grow up “our people’s values, honoring our elders, showing gratitude to our warriors, cherishing our children as gifts from the creator.”

That means having a president who shares those same values and “that’s why we have a Hillary sign on our front lawn. We can trust her to keep our women safe, our veterans well cared for, and keep the promises that the UNited States has made to our tribes.”

Flanagan told her daughter that Clinton, “like your mommy,” worked at the Children’s’ Defense Fund and then later ran for office. “And the bullies did not like that at all, but Hillary did not let them stop her. She never lets bullies stop her and neither should you.”

“You can’t run to be the first Native American president until you are 35,” Flanagan said. “But you can come knock on doors for Hillary with me this fall. I’ll be so so proud to bring you with me to vote for her on Nov. 8. And someday, I’ll vote for you.”

#NativeVote16 – Trump’s metaphor: I will break treaties

The Republican National Convention in Cleveland. (Photo via C-Span)
Mark Trahant / TrahantReports

Donald J. Trump accepted the Republican Party’s nomination for president Thursday. “Here, at our convention, there will be no lies,” he said. “We will honor the American people with the truth, and nothing else.”

And one of those truths: An extrordinary promise to break treaties. That’s the haunting metaphor from Trump’s speech.

“I have made billions of dollars in business making deals – now I’m going to make our country rich again. I am going to turn our bad trade agreements into great ones,” Trump said. “America has lost nearly-one third of its manufacturing jobs since 1997, following the enactment of disastrous trade deals supported by Bill and Hillary Clinton.”

The merits of the North America Free Trade Agreement are worth debating. But it is an international agreement signed by three nations. Trump says Bill Clinton signed one of the “worst economic deals ever made by our country.” So if that’s true, why would Mexico and Canada renegotiate? Or would Trump just walk away and break the word of the United States?

That’s exactly what he said he would do.

“Our horrible trade agreements with China and many others, will be totally renegotiated,” Trump said. “That includes renegotiating NAFTA to get a much better deal for America – and we’ll walk away if we don’t get the deal that we want.”

This was one of Trump’s themes: A promise to break the word of the United States. 

He said he would nix the international pact with Iran, signed by six nations. In the past he’s promised to cancel the Paris climate accords. 

Ah, but these are just “agreements” not treaties. Yet on Thursday Trump promised that, too. Regarding the North Atlantic Treaty Organiztion, Trump said: “Recently I have said that NATO was obsolete, because it did not properly cover terror, and also, that many of the member countries were not paying their fair share. As usual, the United States has been picking up the cost.”

Every Constitution-loving American should be offended; Treaties are the Supreme Law of the Land. They cannot be tossed aside because terrorism is scary or because the United States borrows more money than it should. 

One irony from Trump’s speech is that he promised to be the law and order candidate. Yet law and order is impossible without the rule of law, even international law.

Across the country tribes celebrate Treaty Days. It’s a community recognition of the deal made between First Nations and the United States. While it’s true that the United States has failed in so many ways, these documents remain viable because it’s still possible that the United States will step up. But if the president of the United States views treaties, indeed, any agreement, as an ongoing, permanent negotiation, then that entire premise makes no sense.

There will be no treaties. Only the Art of the Steal.

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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