Tribal consultation bill hits snag on eve of ‘historic’ action in Congress
by Acee Agoyo, Indianz.Com, April 11, 2022 (excerpts)
A Democratic-led bill to strengthen the policy of tribal consultation has hit a snag on Capitol Hill, leaving some supporters wondering about its future.
H.R.3587, the Requirements, Expectations, and Standard Procedures for Effective Consultation with Tribes Act, was supposed to be advanced by the House Committee on Natural Resources last week. But when the notice for the markup was released, the bill was noticeably absent from the schedule….
“This is the first time in Congressional history that a bill — a specific bill requiring tribal consultation — will come before the full committee,” Grijalva said on March 28….
When asked to explain why the RESPECT Act disappeared from the schedule, Democratic staff on the committee pointed to a potentially divisive issue that could derail the bill’s chances in the 117th Congress.
“At the behest of the National Congress of American Indians, we are postponing the markup to discuss their concerns regarding the possibility of including Alaska Native Corporations and Native Hawaiians in the bill,” Democratic staff told Indianz.Com.
The National Congress of American Indians did not respond to a request for comment about the “concerns” attributed to the nation’s largest inter-tribal advocacy organization. But two Indian law and policy experts in Washington, D.C., confirmed the nature of the disagreement that could imperil the RESPECT Act.
According to the two experts, the concerns indeed center around the potential inclusion of Alaska Native corporations (ANCs) and Native Hawaiian organizations in the bill. Should the bill become law, federal agencies would be required to consult with these non-governmental entities in the same manner as Indian nations….
H.R.3587, as introduced by Grijalva on May 28, 2021, does not mention Alaska Native corporations or Native Hawaiian organizations. They weren’t discussed for possible inclusion at a hearing on the draft version of the RESPECT Act last year and they weren’t brought up at the more recent press conference either.
But the second Indian policy expert said Grijalva planned to unveil a new version of the RESPECT Act with Alaska Native corporations and Native Hawaiian organizations on the morning of the April 6 markup. This person credited NCAI for raising concerns on the eve of the session, even if it meant delaying consideration of the otherwise historic bill….
The distinction erupted into a major law and policy showdown during the final year of the Donald Trump administration. Almost every single tribal organization, representing nearly every single tribe in the continental U.S. and Alaska, objected to the inclusion of Alaska Native corporations in an $8 billion COVID-19 relief fund.
Tribal nations, though, found themselves on the losing end of this particular dispute even after Democratic President Joe Biden came into office. In June 2021, the U.S. Supreme Court held that the definition of “Indian tribe” utilized by Congress includes Alaska Native corporations. The Department of the Treasury subsequently distributed about $500 million in leftover COVID-19 relief funds to these for-profit entities.
A subsequent law, known as the American Rescue Plan Act, set aside another $20 billion in COVID-19 relief for tribal governments. Only this time, the definition used by Congress was tied to the Federally Recognized Indian Tribe List Act, meaning that only federally recognized Indian nations qualified for the funds….
“The history of Alaska and Hawaii go back a long way actually, to pre-statehood,” Rep. Ed Case (D-Hawaii) said at what would have been the markup for the RESPECT Act on April 6….
With the Senate Committee on Indian Affairs being led by Sen. Brian Schatz (D-Hawaii) and Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska), the unique partnership endures when it comes to Alaska Natives and Native Hawaiians. But supporters of the RESPECT Act told Indianz.Com that they aren’t sure there’s enough time — or energy — to hash out any potential concerns about the inclusion of Alaska Native corporations and Native Hawaiian organizations into the bill.
read … Tribal consultation bill hits snag on eve of ‘historic’ action in Congress
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