House Interior Appropriations Subcommittee Hears Testimony from Indian Country

House Interior Appropriations Subcommittee Hears Testimony from Indian Country

On May 3 and 4, tribal leaders from across the country testified before the House Interior Appropriations Subcommittee. Led by Chairman Mike Simpson (R-ID), the Committee listened to testimony reflecting Indian country’s diverse needs and the funding problems surrounding many tribal programs. Below is an excerpt from Congressional Quarterly’s Budget Tracker, featuring a statement from Councilman Ribs Whitebird of the Leech Lake Band of Ojibwe.

HOUSE APPROPRIATORS SHINE SPOTLIGHT ON TRIBAL FUNDING

More than two dozen representatives from various American Indian tribes on Tuesday pressed the House Interior Appropriations Subcommittee to boost or continue federal funding for areas in need.

Education was a key concern for many tribal representatives, who stressed the challenges posed by limited funding. “We don’t understand why the U.S. can spend billions of dollars on wars and foreign aid to Pakistan and Iraq, but can’t pay for a school for Indian kids,” said Eugene “Ribs” Whitebird, a representative of the Leech Lake Band of Ojibwe Tribal Council in Minnesota, who requested $25 million to replace a high school. His concern was shared by many of the hearing witnesses, including Nancy Martine-Alonzo of the Ramah Navajo School Board in Pine Hill, N.M, who was seeking $5.6 million to replace the Ramah Navajo Elementary School. She described the poor state of the school building, citing water damage, mold growth and termite infestation. Lloyd Tortalita, former governor of the Pueblo of Acoma in New Mexico, asked the panel to lift the freeze on Johnson O’Malley Programs, which provide aid for unique educational needs of Indian children who attend non-Indian public schools. The Bureau of Indian Affairs froze the student count in 1995, which has effectively delayed the creation of new programs. “Twenty-four million dollars. . . It’s all there. Unfreeze it,” Tortalita said.