Navajo President Russell Begaye wraps up first official meetings in the nation’s capital

WASHINGTON—In his first official visit to the nation’s capital as the newly elected leader of the sovereign Navajo Nation, President Russell Begaye emphasized his administration’s commitments to improving infrastructure development and education.

As a member of the U.S. Department of the Interior’s Tribal/Interior Budget Council, President Begaye spoke of the need for increased federal funding for infrastructure improvement and education.  These funds are necessary for public health and safety, as well as for economic development opportunities that will grow and sustain the Navajo economy for generations to come.

The Tribal/Interior Budget Council includes two elected tribal leaders from each of the 12 BIA Regions across the country. The executive branch develops its budget two years in advance, and the Council is currently developing recommendations for funding Indian programs for fiscal 2017.

Beginning in the fall, tribal leaders in each BIA region meet to develop regional recommendations on budget priorities, which are consolidated into a single budget recommendation at a March national meeting. The Council meets throughout the year with representatives from the U.S. Department of the Interior to assist in the formulation of the Indian Affairs annual budget requests and performance plans.

The Council works to secure funding at the levels necessary to strengthen tribal governmental capacity to serve their citizens and communities. The budget recommendation is used by Indian Affairs to help justify their budget request to the administration.

Assistant Secretary—Indian Affairs, Kevin Washburn welcomed President Begaye to the Council. “With us today is the new Navajo Nation President Russell Begaye. I am glad to see Navajo leadership here in these discussions.”

President Begaye expressed his thanks to Assistant Secretary Washburn and the Obama Administration. “The Navajo Nation looks forward to working with the administration in setting priorities and robust goals and outcomes for the betterment of our people. We appreciate the administration’s reverence for our sovereignty and we look forward to working together on a government-to-government basis. It is an honor to be here.”

Maintenance work scheduled for US 191 south of Ganado

Drivers should expect reduced speeds, lane closures and delays

A pavement improvement project will be starting Wednesday, May 27 on US 191 near Ganado. The resurfacing work will extend the life of the pavement along this 19-mile stretch of roadway (mileposts 417-436).

Work hours will be between 5 a.m. to 6 p.m.   Drivers should expect a lane closure, reduced speed limits and delays of up to 30 minutes. The project is scheduled to be competed on Thursday, May 28. Flaggers and pilot cars will be present to guide vehicles through the work zone.

ADOT advises drivers to proceed through the work zones with caution, slow down, and be alert for construction equipment and personnel.

For more information about this project, please call Rod Wigman at 928-308-8233, or email rwigman@azdot.gov.

DEPARTMENT OF JUSTICE PROPOSES LEGISLATION TO IMPROVE ACCESS TO VOTING FOR AMERICAN INDIANS AND ALASKA NATIVES

WASHINGTON – Today the Department of Justice proposed legislation that would require states or localities whose territory includes part or all of an Indian reservation, an Alaska Native village, or other tribal lands to locate at least one polling place in a venue selected by the tribal government.

“The Department of Justice is deeply committed to ensuring that every eligible individual is able to exercise his or her fundamental right to vote,” said Attorney General Loretta E. Lynch.  “That’s why, today, I am calling on Congress to help remove the significant and unnecessary barriers that for too long have confronted American Indians and Alaska Natives attempting to cast their ballots.  The legislation we recommend today will make this nation stronger by extending meaningful voting opportunities to native populations, by encouraging full participation in our democratic institutions, and by bringing us closer to our most cherished ideals.”

“As citizens of a nation founded upon the principles of liberty and equality, Native Americans have faced unacceptable barriers to participating in the franchise, a situation aggravated by a history of discrimination, poverty and — significantly — great distances from polling places,” said Acting Associate Attorney General Stuart Delery.  “In spite of many reforms made possible by the Voting Rights Act and other measures, voting rates among Native Americans remain disproportionately low.  The legislation proposed today would address this unacceptable gap and we look forward to working with Congress to see it enacted.”

American Indians and Alaska Natives have faced significant obstacles that have prevented them from enjoying equal access to polling places and equal opportunities to cast a ballot.  In addition to suffering from a long history of discrimination, the distance many American Indian and Alaska Native citizens must travel to reach a polling place presents a substantial and ongoing barrier to full voter participation.  Following formal consultations with Indian tribes, the Department of Justice believes that there is a pressing need for federal legislation to ensure equal access to voting by Native American voters.

Today, the Department of Justice sent a letter to Congress with a legislative proposal, which would ensure that American Indian and Alaska Natives have access to at least one polling place in their communities to cast their ballots and require a number of additional obligations to ensure parity with other polling places.

This legislative proposal, a stand-alone bill, would:

  • Enable Native Americans to vote on or near tribal lands, by requiring any state or local election administrator whose territory includes part or all of an Indian reservation, an Alaska Native village, or other tribal lands to locate at least one polling place in a venue selected, and made available for the purpose of conducting elections, by the tribal government.
  • Require states to make voting machines, ballots, and other voting materials and equipment available at these tribally located polling places to the same extent that they are available at other polling places in the state.
  • Require states to provide compensation and other benefits to election officials and poll workers at these polling places to the same extent as at other polling places in the state.
  •  Require states to use the same voting procedures at these polling places as at other polling places in the state — potentially including election-day voting, early voting, the hours during which polling places are open, the operation of voting mechanisms or systems, and same-day registration.
  •  Allow states to meet their obligations by either creating new polling places or relocating existing ones.
  •  Allow tribes with larger populations or land bases to request more than one polling place.
  •  Make the states’ obligations contingent on the tribe filing a timely request and certifying that it has arranged for access to, and appropriate staffing for, the polling facility.
  •  Require the tribe to ensure that the staffers for the polling place are properly trained.
  •  Require the tribe to ensure that the polling place will be open and accessible to all eligible citizens who reside in the precinct, regardless of whether they are Indians or non-Indians.In 1975, recognizing the barriers to full participation that Native Americans continued to confront, Congress expressly included American Indians and Alaska Natives as protected groups under the special provisions of the Voting Rights Act.  Sections 4 and 5 of the Voting Rights Act prohibited many jurisdictions with large American Indian or Alaska Native populations from changing their voting laws until they could prove that the change would not create new barriers to effective participation.  A number of jurisdictions with large Native American populations that have limited English proficiency — in six states, including Alaska — are also covered by Section 203 of the Voting Rights Act, which requires bilingual election materials and assistance.Despite these reforms, participation rates among American Indians and Alaska Natives continue to lag behind turnout rates among non-Native voters.  For example, in Alaska, turnout among Alaska Natives often falls 15 to 20 or more percentage points below the non-Native turnout rate.  The causes of these disparities are complex, but the reality is that political participation by Native Americans consistently trails that of non-Natives and unequal access to polling places is a significant contributing factor.   Review the legislation at www.justice.gov/tribal/department-justice-proposes-legislation-improve-access-voting-american-indians-and-alaska.
  •  The Department of Justice is committed to ensuring equal access to voting for Native American voters.  This proposal would address serious voting obstacles faced by citizens who are members of Indian tribes and Alaska Native villages; provide equal access to polling places for all eligible citizens, including members of tribes and villages; reinforce our nation’s commitment to the fundamental right to vote; and strengthen the government-to-government relationship between the United States and tribal nations.

$2 million in Grants to Build the Capacity of Tribal Education Departments

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Assistant Secretary – Indian Affairs Kevin K. Washburn today announced that grants ranging from $25,000 to $150,000 per fiscal year are available for federally recognized tribes and their education departments. The grants are designed to help tribes assume control of Bureau of Indian Education (BIE)-funded schools in their communities, promote tribal education capacity, and provide academically rigorous and culturally appropriate education to Indian students on their reservations and trust lands.

Eligible tribal governments may apply for these grants by responding to the Request for Proposals that the BIE published on May 15, 2015, in the Federal Register.

“This grant program reflects President Obama’s commitment to tribal self-governance and self-determination, and will support tribal educators who best understand the unique needs of their communities as they strengthen their capacity to assume full control of BIE-funded schools on their reservations,” said Secretary Jewell, who chairs the White House Council on Native American Affairs. “It is a critical step in redesigning the BIE from a direct provider of education into an innovative organization that will serve as a capacity-builder and service-provider to tribes with BIE-funded schools.”

“With this announcement, we are taking the next major step in our efforts to return the education of Indian children to their tribes,” Assistant Secretary Washburn said. “We understand that tribal leaders, educators and parents have the greatest need to ensure that their children receive a world-class education, and with this effort, we will see to it that tribes can assume total control over the BIE-funded schools in their communities to improve the educational outcomes for their students.  We’re grateful Congress understands the importance of this process and appropriated funding to support this effort.”

“This grant solicitation carries out recommendations of Secretary Jewell and Education Secretary Arne Duncan’s Blueprint for Reform to transform the Bureau of Indian Education from a school administrator into a capacity builder and service provider to support tribes in educating their children and youth,” said BIE Director Dr. Charles M. “Monty” Roessel. “These grants will help tribes and their tribal departments of education to assume control of the BIE-funded schools serving their communities.”

The Blueprint for Reform, issued in June 2014 following consultation with tribal leaders, is an initiative of the White House Council on Native American Affairs, chaired by Secretary Jewell.

President Obama established the Council as part of his commitment to engage in a true and lasting government-to-government relationship with federally recognized tribes in a more coordinated and effective manner, including promoting and sustaining prosperous and resilient tribal communities.

Jewell then issued a Secretarial Order to begin restructuring BIE from solely a provider of education to a capacity-builder and education service-provider to tribes. The goal of this transformation is to give tribes the ability themselves to provide an academically rigorous and culturally appropriate education to their students, according to their needs.

The Blueprint made several recommendations regarding the BIE’s budget. Interior should invest in the school system’s infrastructure, including new school construction, and align its budget to support tribal self-determination by requesting and increasing tribal grant and Tribal Grant Support Costs for tribally controlled grant schools.

Under the solicitation announced today, grants will range from $25,000 to $150,000 per fiscal year depending on the project, number of educational programs impacted, project design, and expected outcomes. Subject to the availability of appropriated funds, grants will be provided for three years and, depending on performance, may be renewed for additional two-year terms.

Grant funds will support program goals for the following areas that promote tribal education capacity-building:

·         To provide for the development and enforcement of tribal educational codes, including tribal educational policies and tribal standards applicable to curriculum, personnel, students, facilities, and support programs;

·         To facilitate tribal control in all matters relating to the education of Indian children on reservations and on former reservations in Oklahoma; and

·         To provide for the development of coordinated educational programs on reservations and on former reservations in Oklahoma by encouraging tribal administrative support of all BIE-funded educational programs, as well as encouraging tribal cooperation and coordination with entities carrying out all educational programs receiving financial support from other federal agencies, state agencies or private entities.

Top priority will be given to applicants that meet the following conditions:

·         Serves three or more BIE-funded schools (less priority will be given if the applicant has less than three schools, but with at least one BIE-funded school).

·         Provides coordinating services and technical assistance to all relevant BIE-funded schools.

·         Monitors and audits its grant funds by or through its Tribal Education Department (TED)

·         And offers a plan and schedule that provides for:

o   Its TED to assume all assets and functions of the Bureau agency office associated with the tribe to the extent the assets and functions relate to education;

o   The termination by the BIE of all such functions and office at the times of such assumption; and

o   The assumption to occur over the term of the grant, unless mutually agreeable to the tribal governing body and the Assistant Secretary – Indian Affairs, the period in which such assumption is to occur may be modified, reduced or extended after the initial year of the grant.

The BIE will assist tribes in the development and operation of TEDs for the purpose of planning and coordinating all educational programs of the tribe. Each proposal must include a project narrative, a budget narrative, a work plan outline, and a project coordinator to serve as the point of contact for the program. The project coordinator is ultimately responsible for ensuring that the TED fulfills the obligations of its grant.

The BIE will provide pre-grant application training at several sites to support tribes and TEDs in applying for grants. Details on location and times will be made available here.

The BIE oversees 183 elementary and secondary schools, located on 64 reservations in 23 states, serving more than 48,000 students. Of these, 59 are BIE-operated and 124 are tribally operated under Indian Self Determination and Education Assistance Act contracts or Tribally Controlled Schools Act grants. BIE also funds or operates off-reservation boarding schools and peripheral dormitories near reservations for students attending public schools.

Kayenta Community School Awards Banquet 5/13/2015

2015 Navajo Nation Presidential Inauguration