Blog Posts Related to the Native American Community

  • Strengthening Tribal Communities Through the HEARTH Act

    President Obama signs the HEARTH Act of 2012, July 30, 2012

    President Barack Obama signs H.R. 205, the HEARTH Act of 2012, in the Oval Office, July 30, 2012. Standing behind the President, from left, are: Bryan Newland, Senior Policy Advisor at the Department of the Interior; Governor Randall Vicente, Pueblo of Acoma in New Mexico; David Hayes, Deputy Secretary of the Department of the Interior; Jefferson Keel, President of the National Congress of American Indians; Rep. Martin Heinrich, D-N.M.; Sen. Daniel Akaka, D-Hawaii; interior Secretary Ken Salazar; Cheryl Causley, Chairperson of the National American Indian Housing Council; Governor Gregory Mendoza, Gila River Indian Community of Arizona; and Del Laverdure, Acting Assistant Secretary of the Department of the Interior. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

    President Obama understands that by allowing greater tribal control over tribal assets, we encourage economic growth, promote community development in Indian Country, and support tribal self-determination. That’s why this Administration is committed to strengthening tribal communities by improving tribal governments’ capacity for controlling their own futures. 

    Earlier today, President Obama demonstrated the latest step in this commitment by signing into law the Helping Expedite and Advance Responsible Tribal Homeownership (HEARTH) Act. This legislation allows tribes to lease restricted lands for residential, business, public, religious, educational, or recreational purposes without the approval of the Secretary of the Interior. 

    The HEARTH Act promotes greater tribal self-determination and will help create jobs in Indian Country. Under the Act, federally recognized tribes can develop and implement their own regulations governing certain leasing on Indian lands. Upon Secretarial approval of these tribal regulations, tribes will have the authority to process land leases without Bureau of Indian Affairs approval. This new authority has the potential to significantly reduce the time it takes to approve leases for homes and small businesses in Indian Country. By allowing tribes to more quickly and easily lease their lands, the bill promotes investment in tribal communities and more broadly facilitates economic development. 

  • Promoting Job Creation and Economic Growth in Indian Country

    Ed. note: This is cross-posted from Treasury Notes

    To promote economic growth in tribal communities, Treasury and the Internal Revenue Service published new guidance today on allocating Tribal Economic Development Bonds (TEDBs). The TEDB program was established under the American Reinvestment and Recovery Act (ARRA), and provides Tribes with the authority to issue tax-exempt debt for a wider range of activities to spur job creation and promote economic growth in Indian country. Providing Tribes with the ability to issue tax-exempt debt for a broader scope of activities similar to that available to States and local governments lowers Tribes’ borrowing costs, making it easier to engage in new economic development projects. 

    Under the new guidance, Tribes can receive TEDB allocations for projects which are in the final stages of going to the market to receive financing. Once a Tribe receives an allocation, it will have six months to move to final debt issuance. If a Tribe is unable to issue within that time frame the allocation will be returned to Treasury and available for redistributions. Treasury currently has about $1.8 billion remaining in TEDB authority. To help ensure an equitable distribution, no single allocation can exceed 20 percent of the remaining amount, meaning that the current maximum single allocation is approximately $360 million. When there is less than $500 million in TEDBs authority remaining, the maximum allocation will be $100 million.

  • Native American Traditional Cultural Landscapes Action Plan - Better Decisions for Historic Properties

    An emerging issue for the national historic preservation community has particular relevance to Indian tribes. That issue is: how do we balance the need for alternative energy and other development with the preservation of traditional cultural landscapes and other large-scale historic places?

    This challenge is not new to preservation but the scale of alternative energy development, and associated transmission corridors, poses new and considerable challenges to the preservation of traditional cultural landscapes of importance to Indian tribes. In order for federal agencies to make informed decisions, it is critical to involve tribes as early as possible in planning and before project sites are selected.

    In 2009, the Advisory Council on Historic Preservation (ACHP) initiated discussions with Indian tribes and Native Hawaiian organizations about how to address these issues. Under Section 106 of the National Historic Preservation Act (the Section 106 process is overseen by the ACHP) any federal undertaking that may adversely affect a historic property on or eligible for listing on, the National Register of Historic Places must consider how to avoid, minimize, or mitigate adverse effects to historic properties, including cultural landscapes. Unfortunately, these kinds of historic properties have not always been recognized or understood by federal agencies and the preservation community.

  • USDA Highlights Efforts to Give Tribes the Tools to Improve Basic Services

    Ed. Note: This is a cross-post from the USDA blog.

    When you woke up this morning, chances are you turned on a light, took a shower in your bathroom, brushed your teeth with running water and checked the Internet. For too many people in Indian Country, this simple daily process is currently unattainable. Services most Americans take for granted are not always available in Indian Country.

    Last week, I joined other USDA officials in attending the National Congress of American Indians Convention in Lincoln, Nebraska. I discussed all of the remarkable progress that USDA and Secretary Vilsack have made when it comes to supporting Native Americans, especially those who live on reservations or trust areas.

    One substantial achievement, announced earlier this month, will make it much easier for Tribes to gain access to USDA funding for water and sewer improvement projects, electrical system upgrades and telecommunications services including broadband. A new rule, authorized by the 2008 Farm Bill, gives the Secretary the authority to clear away hurdles that have blocked Tribes from making necessary improvements to infrastructure. The Rule authorizes loans at interest rates of as little as two percent, gives “Substantially Underserved Trust” areas a higher priority, and empowers Tribal leadership to move forward.

  • Interior Department Helps Indian Country Go Green

    Cross-posted from the Department of the Interior blog

    Yesterday, Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar signed a Record of Decision approving the lease and associated right of way for a 350-megawatt utility-scale solar energy project on the Moapa River Indian Reservation. This is the first-ever, utility-scale solar project in Indian Country, and joins the 50-megawatt wind farm on the Campo Reservation as the only utility-scale developments on tribal lands.

    The solar project builds on President Obama’s strong record of supporting rural economies through the White House Rural Council. Established one year ago, the Rural Council has focused on maximizing the impact of Federal investment to promote economic prosperity and improve the quality of life in rural communities, including on tribal lands.

    The project is also a part of President Obama’s all-of-the-above approach to energy and builds on the Administration’s broader efforts to advance renewable energy on America’s public lands. Since 2009, the Department of the Interior has approved 31 onshore renewable energy projects, including: 17 solar projects, 6 wind farms, and 8 geothermal plants. These projects include the first solar projects ever permitted on public lands. When built, these projects together can power nearly 2.5 million homes.

    This landmark project is one of the many ways the Administration has sought to strengthen tribal economies through the development of renewable energy resources. The Interior Department has promoted this commitment by establishing a priority project list comprised of renewable energy projects on public lands. The Moapa project is a great beginning, and it is our hope that as Interior prioritizes renewable energy projects for 2013 and beyond, Tribes’ interests and developers interests in building renewable energy projects on tribal lands continues to grow.

    In early 2011 the Moapa Band of Paiutes came to the Interior Department with their development partner, K Road Power, to discuss their plans and after initial discussions, BIA recommended that the project be included on the Department’s Priority Project list. Since that initial meeting the project has exemplified what can be achieved when the Federal government, Indian tribes, and private partners work together in pursuit of a common goal. The Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA), through its Western Regional Office, served as the lead agency on the project. Due to its status as the first major solar energy development in Indian Country, the project quickly caught the attention of Secretary Salazar, who often inquired about its progress. Officials within Secretary Salazar’s office and the office of the Assistant Secretary for Indian Affairs participated in weekly calls discussing the project and attended a number of site visits and meetings with the Tribe and K Road. This heightened coordination between the BIA and its federal partners allowed the Department to complete its review within 14 months.

    Construction is set to begin in the early fall, and the Moapa Band of Paiutes is already progressing on to their next solar project. The Administration is excited about further renewable energy development in Indian Country and is taking action to help duplicate the success of the K Road Moapa Project by providing tribes the tools they need to address the challenges directly. We have been working on new regulations to streamline the process of leasing tribal lands, which will return greater control over land use decisions to tribes and individual landowners, and promote housing and economic development throughout Indian Country. Within the DOI, the Office of Indian Energy and Economic Development (IEED) awards Energy and Mineral Development Program (EMDP) funding to tribes to help evaluate their energy resource potential.

    Collaborating with the Department of Energy's Office of Indian Energy on this project and other projects, interagency efforts are underway to compliment and coordinate tribal energy development. The Department of Energy has been also providing technical assistance to the Moapa Band related to distributed hybrid and renewable energy options for their community and facilities.

    This same week, the Department of Energy announced Strategic Technical Assistance Response Team (START) program selections for lower 48 Tribes. The START program is providing tribal communities and Alaska native villages with technical assistance to accelerate clean energy project development, advance energy self-sufficiency, and create jobs. START teams are comprised of experts from DOE and its National Renewable Energy Laboratory. START just recently selected 11 Tribes—five in Alaska and six in the contiguous United States—to receive on-the-ground technical support for community-based energy efficiency and renewable energy projects.

    The Energy Department also recently launched a tribal energy development resources library providing links to more than 85 vetted publications, websites, and other helpful resources on energy project development and financing in Indian Country. This library can be accessed online at here.

    Finally, Energy Department this week announced the appointment of 3 additional tribal members for the DOE Indian Country Energy and Infrastructure Working Group. Established in 2011, this Working Group is comprised of appointed tribal energy leaders from across the Nation to discuss the most pressing issues facing tribal energy development. Working Group members have led the way in strategic interactions with key energy sector players to share best practices and discuss emerging markets and opportunities for innovative public-private partnerships." President Obama is committed to strengthening tribal communities. This Administration will continue to provide tribes with the tools and resources they need to foster energy self-sufficiency, create jobs, and build a sustainable, prosperous future.

    For more information on the K Road Moapa Project, click here

    Jodi Gillette is Senior Policy Advisor for Native American Affairs, White House Domestic Policy Council
    Del Laverdure is Acting Assistant Secretary-Indian Affairs
    Tracey A. LeBeau is Director for the U.S. Department of Energy's Office of Indian Energy Policy and Programs


  • The First Anniversary of Let's Move! in Indian Country Brings Together Renowned Panelists and the Positive Accomplishments in Indian Country’s Quest for Healthier Living and Eating

    Ed. Note: This is a cross-post from the Department of the Interior's Indian Affairs blog.

    As the Acting Assistant Secretary-Indian Affairs, I have seen up close the wonderful progress that has been made regarding the First Lady’s Let’s Move! initiative and its specific engagement with Indian Country via Let’s Move! in Indian Country (LMIC).

    Recently, I had the opportunity to moderate a panel discussion with White House Senior Policy Advisor for Native American Affairs Jodi Gillette. The panel showcased leaders from across Indian Country who have made significant contributions in addressing the health concerns of our nation. The event on June 1, 2012 commemorated the one-year anniversary of the Let’s Move! in Indian Country launch at the Menominee Reservation in Wisconsin and was streamed online from the White House.

  • Taking STEPs to Improve Educational Opportunities for Native American and Alaska Native Students

    Building strong, prosperous Native American communities is a priority for President Obama and his Administration. This commitment is reflected by a strong record of accomplishments that arise out of meaningful consultation with Indian Country.  In these consultations, tribal leaders have stressed the importance of greater tribal control over the education of Native American students.  In response, the Obama Administration has already proposed changes to enhance the role of tribes in the education of their youth and to provide greater flexibility in the use of federal funds to meet the unique needs of Native American students.  Also, as demonstrated by President Obama’s Executive Order on Improving American Indian and Alaska Native Educational Opportunities and Strengthening Tribal Colleges and Universities, we continue to work to improve the programs available at tribal colleges so that Native American students are well prepared to compete for the high-skilled, quality jobs of today and tomorrow.

    Last week, the Administration announced another step towards preparing the next generation of Native American students for success with the launch of the “State-Tribal Education Partnership” – or STEP – pilot program. The STEP program will award nearly $2 million in competitive grants to tribal education agencies to increase their role in the education of American Indian and Alaska Native students.

  • Let’s Move! in Indian Country: Celebrating One Year of Progress

    Tomorrow, June 1, 2012 at 1:30 p.m. EDT, the White House will host a panel discussion of leaders who have contributed to the progress of the First Lady’s Let’s Move! in Indian Country initiative and whose work can be expanded across Indian Country.  The discussion will be streamed online at  As a key component of the First Lady’s Let’s Move! initiative, Let’s Move! in Indian Country focuses on four pillars that are essential to building a healthy future for American Indian and Alaska Native youth:

    • Creating a Healthy start on Life,
    • Creating Healthy Learning Communities,
    • Fostering Healthy, Comprehensive Food Systems Policies, and
    • Increasing Opportunities for Physical Activity