Deputy Secretary Connor Underscores President’s Commitment to Alaska Natives During Anchorage Visit

Announces initiatives in rural energy, subsistence management, land conveyance

ANCHORAGE, Alaska – As part of President Obama’s commitment to help Alaska Native leaders build strong, prosperous and resilient communities, Deputy Secretary of the Interior Mike Connor today announced that Interior is launching initiatives to streamline Native land conveyances, improve rural energy development and provide greater local participation in the management of subsistence fish and wildlife resources on federal lands.

“Our goal is to work with Alaska Native leaders to address issues of vital importance to their communities,” Connor told the Alaska Federation of Natives Convention in Anchorage. “We are prioritizing remaining Native land conveyances, expanding local participation in the decision-making process for resource management on federal lands and changing regulations to permit the Federal Subsistence Board to use more flexible criteria to better meet the subsistence needs of Alaska residents.”

Connor also announced that Interior is providing an additional $300,000 in direct funding to the Remote Community Renewable Energy (RCRE) partnership to accelerate development of a renewable-diesel hybrid energy system designed to provide cheaper and cleaner energy to remote communities such as Alaskan native villages, and another $100,000 to related work advancing the capabilities of this hybrid energy technology. The RCRE initiative is led by the Department of Energy’s National Renewable Energy Laboratory, the University of Alaska, Fairbanks and Colorado University, in collaboration with native Alaskans, other Federal agencies including the State Department and other stakeholders.  The RCRE partnership commenced work in 2013 with an initial $300,000 grant from the Interior Department.

“This additional funding will help to stand up this exciting new hybrid energy module system that could allow Alaskan villages to replace up to 75 percent of their diesel fuel with renewable energy,” Connor said. “Our hope is that this project will make a real difference for rural villages that are paying extremely high costs for heating and electricity.”

The project under development is a modular, scalable control and communication system designed to allow any microgrid component, such as a wind turbine, solar panel, diesel generator and/or energy storage device, to plug-in and contribute to the microgrid.

Earlier in his Alaska visit, Connor signed the final patent for the transfer of 10,170 acres of surface estate to Nunamiut Corporation, which represents the village of Anaktuvuk Pass, satisfying the remaining land entitlement to that community under the Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act. With this final patent, Anaktuvuk Pass will have received 92,160 acres. Additional acreage was also transferred to the Arctic Slope Regional Corporation at that signing ceremony.

“96 percent of the land entitlements have been conveyed to Alaska Natives, and we are prioritizing remaining Native land conveyances and patenting to reach 100 percent,” Connor said.  “The BLM hopes to complete virtually all Native land conveyances within the next 5-8 years to fulfill this important promise.”

Nearly 44 million acres of the 45.7 million acres of Native land entitlements under the Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act have been conveyed to Alaska Native corporations over the past 40 years, Connor noted.  All but 10 million acres of those conveyances have received final patent.  Most of the remaining lands have been surveyed but need survey plats and final patent confirmation.  Final entitlement has been met for 99 villages with 135 remaining requiring closure.

In response to concerns of Alaska Native leaders, Interior will also change the rural/nonrural determination process for the fish and wildlife subsistence program on federal lands. When implemented through regulations, the new process will enable the Federal Subsistence Board to use more flexible criteria to designate rural communities, better meeting the subsistence needs of Alaska Native and rural communities that rely on hunting and fishing for sustenance and the maintenance of cultural traditions.

The federal government assumed management of subsistence wildlife resources on federal lands in Alaska 1992 and the fish resources on certain state waters in 1998 when the State of Alaska could not comply with the subsistence priority provisions of Title VIII of Alaska National Interest Lands Conservation Act (ANILCA).  The new initiative follows earlier actions by Interior and the Federal Subsistence Board that added two additional public members representing subsistence users and named a new Board chairman. Deference to the regional advisory councils in the regulation process was also expanded.

Connor also said Interior agencies have been tasked to develop a proposal for a demonstration project to provide enhanced participation of local people and subsistence users in the decision-making process for resource management on federal lands.

“The Alaska Federation of Natives and other Native groups have long sought more cooperation in the management of federal lands, especially in the case of subsistence management,” Connor said. “And Secretary Jewell has also recommended that more use be made of cooperative agreements with local tribes and other entities. We want to work with Native communities on developing a project that might be utilized on a wider basis in the future.”

The Alaska Federation of Natives is the largest statewide Native organization in Alaska. Its membership includes 151 federally-recognized tribes, 134 village corporations, 12 regional corporations and 12 regional nonprofit and tribal consortiums that contract and compact to run federal and state programs.

Interior Announces $1.2 Million to Be Awarded to Tribes to Take Control, Operate Their Bureau of Indian Education-Funded Schools

Bureau of Indian Education Works to Implement Recommendations from American Indian Education Study Group’s Blueprint for Reform

WASHINGTON, D.C. – As part of the Obama Administration’s historic commitment to ensure that all students attending Bureau of Indian Education (BIE)-funded schools receive a world-class education, U.S. Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell and Assistant Secretary – Indian Affairs Kevin K. Washburn today announced that six federally recognized tribes have been awarded $1.2 million in Sovereignty in Indian Education (SIE) enhancement funds to promote tribal control and operation of BIE-funded schools on their reservations.

The funds implement a recommendation contained in the Blueprint for Reform of the Bureau of Indian Education issued on June 13, 2014, by the American Indian Education Study Group convened by Secretary Jewell and U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan.

 “Increasing tribal control over BIE-funded schools not only promotes tribal self-determination, but also provides greater tribal discretion in determining what American Indian children should learn, increasing accountability throughout the school system,” Secretary Jewell said. “With school management authority, these communities will have more power to create lessons with tribal cultural values and Native languages, both of which can ensure their children stay connected to their heritage and help them to succeed in the future. These enhancement funds can make the difference in an effective, relevant and rigorous education for American Indian children.”

 “The Sovereignty in Indian Education Enhancement Initiative furthers President Obama’s commitment to tribal sovereignty in education by empowering tribes to assume greater control over their schools and their children’s education,” said Assistant Secretary Washburn.  “Teaching culture, tradition and language in schools is crucial to engaging Indian students and preserving tribal identities.  Tribes have a comparative advantage over a federal agency in prioritizing these important subjects, which are different for each tribe, but they need federal support in building their capacities.  This initiative will provide that support.”

“With the Sovereignty in Indian Education Enhancement funding, the Bureau of Indian Education begins its transformation into a school improvement agency that provides support to tribes as they begin to create tribally managed school systems through self-determination,” said BIE Director Dr. Charles ‘Monty’ Roessel. “We will continue working to implement the recommendations.”

 The purpose of the Sovereignty in Indian Education Enhancement Initiative is to provide funds to federally recognized tribes and their tribal education departments to create tribally managed school systems. The six tribes announced today will each receive an award amount of $200,000 for researching, assessing and developing an implementation plan to establish a tribally managed school system.  Tribes will conduct a comprehensive analysis and an aligned implementation plan of their tribal education departments and school systems in four areas of school reform:  Finance, Academics, Governance, and Human Resources. The following tribes will receive enhancement funding:

·         Gila River Indian Community, Sacaton, Arizona

·         Standing Rock Sioux Tribe, Fort Yates, North Dakota

·         Turtle Mountain Band of Chippewa, Belcourt, North Dakota

·         Tohono O’Odham Nation, Sells, Arizona

·         Navajo Nation, Window Rock, Arizona

·         Oglala Sioux Tribe, Pine Ridge, South Dakota

 The Sovereignty in Indian Education enhancement funds respond to the findings and recommendations of the American Indian Education Study Group for improving how federal education services and resources are delivered in Indian Country. Secretary Jewell and Secretary of Education Arne Duncan convened the Study Group in 2013 under the White House Council on Native American Affairs to propose a comprehensive reform plan to ensure that all students attending BIE-funded schools receive a quality education.

 Increasing tribal control over BIE schools recognizes the sovereign status of federally recognized tribes, provides them greater discretion in determining what their children should learn, and helps increase accountability throughout the BIE-funded school system. Tribal control of federally funded government programs often improves local service delivery because tribal governments better understand the needs of their communities, are more responsive and better able to be flexible to changes in those needs, and are more accountable for results by their constituents.

President Obama Announces 2014 White House Tribal Nations Conference

WASHINGTON, DC – On Wednesday, December 3, President Obama will host the 2014 White House Tribal Nations Conference at the Capital Hilton in Washington, DC. The conference will provide leaders from the 566 federally recognized tribes the opportunity to interact directly with the President and members of the White House Council on Native American Affairs. Each federally recognized tribe will be invited to send one representative to the conference. This will be the sixth White House Tribal Nations Conference for the Obama Administration, and continues to build upon the President’s commitment to strengthen the government-to-government relationship with Indian Country and to improve the lives of Native Americans. Additional details about the conference will be released at a later date

Navajo Nation Council’s Naabik’iyátí’ Committee Endorses Fred DuVal for Governor

Phoenix, AZ — The Navajo Nation Council’s Naabik’iyátí’ Committee endorsed business and education leader Fred DuVal for Arizona governor.

Council Delegate Jonathan Nez (Shonto, Olijato, Navajo Mountain, Ts’ah Bii Kin), who sponsored the legislation, stated that endorsing DuVal would benefit the Navajo Nation.

“Fred DuVal has made multiple visits to our homelands over the years and has delivered meaningful results for our communities,” said Delegate Nez. “Fred DuVal has built meaningful relationships with many of our community members. That means something to our people who look for confidence in elected officials. That is why I support Fred DuVal and urge folks to vote for him this general election.”

“I’m grateful that the Navajo Nation has endorsed me as the only leader in this race to serve as Governor of Arizona,” said DuVal. “Throughout my career in public service, I have maintained a close relationship with the Navajo Nation, its leaders, and its many communities. We share a common goal to improve education, create good jobs, and increase opportunity for all people. When I become Arizona’s next governor, we will achieve these goals side by side.

Fred DuVal is meeting with the Navajo Nation Council in Window Rock today and attending a Get Out The Vote rally in St. Michaels with Congresswoman Ann Kirkpatrick this afternoon

Nearly 2,800 Landowners with Fractional Interests at Lake Traverse Indian Reservation Receive $63.5 Million in Purchase Offers through Interior’s Land Buy-Back Program

Participants in Voluntary Land Buy-Back Program Have 45 Days to Respond

WASHINGTON, DC – Building off of sustained momentum from the U.S. Department of the Interior’s Land Buy-Back Program for Tribal Nations (Buy-Back Program), Deputy Secretary Mike Connor today announced that purchase offers worth more than $63.5 million have been sent to nearly 2,800 landowners with fractional interests on the Lake Traverse Indian Reservation in South Dakota (homeland of the Sisseton Wahpeton Oyate). Interested sellers willhave until November 24, 2014, to return accepted offers.

The tribe will host an outreach event on Wednesday, October 15 at the Tribal Elderly Center in Agency Village, S.D. The all-day event will feature speakers from the Buy-Back Program and staff available to help landowners with questions about their offer packages. Landowners can contact the tribe’s staff at: 605-698-8296 or 605-698-8203.

As part of President Obama’s pledge to help strengthen Native American communities, the Buy-Back Program has successfully concluded transactions worth more than $146.4 million and has restored the equivalent of more than 280,000 acres of land to tribal governments.

?“The Buy-Back Program is a unique opportunity and I am encouraged by the growing interest we are seeing in the Program across Indian Country as well as the partnerships we are developing with tribal governments as implementation moves to each location,” said Deputy Secretary Connor. “Payments through Program sales are already making a significant difference for individuals, families and their communities. We will continue to work closely with tribal representatives to ensure that individuals are aware of this historic opportunity.”

The Buy-Back Program implements the land consolidation component of the Cobell Settlement, which provided $1.9 billion to purchase fractional interests in trust or restricted land from willing sellers at fair market value within a 10-year period. Individuals who choose to sell their interests receive payments directly into their Individual Indian Money (IIM) accounts. In addition to receiving fair market value for their land based on objective appraisals, sellers also receive a base payment of $75 per offer, regardless of the value of the land.

Consolidated interests are immediately restored to tribal trust ownership for uses benefiting the reservation community and tribal members. For example, the Oglala Sioux Tribe of the Pine Ridge Reservation recently announced that the tribe is embarking on a $9 million housing program, aided by the recent acquisition of land through the Buy-Back Program.

Sales of land interests will also result in up to $60 million in contributions to the Cobell Education Scholarship Fund. This contribution is in addition to the amounts paid to individual sellers, so it will not reduce the amount landowners receive for their interests.

There are almost 245,000 owners of nearly three million fractional interests, spanning 150 Indian reservations, who are eligible to participate in the Buy-Back Program. Many see little or no economic benefit from what are often very small, undivided interests in lands that cannot be utilized due to their highly fractionated state.

Offers are currently pending at a number of additional locations with deadlines approaching soon, including the Gila River (TODAY), Northern Cheyenne (Oct. 17), Flathead (Oct. 24), Umatilla (Oct. 31) and Crow (Nov. 21) Indian Reservations.

Landowners can contact the Trust Beneficiary Call Center at 888-678-6836 with questions about their purchase offers. Individuals can also visit their local Office of the Special Trustee for American Indians (OST) or Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA) office, or find more information at in order to make informed decisions about their land.

Individual participation is voluntary. A decision to sell land for restoration to tribes does not impact a landowner’s eligibility to receive individual settlement payments from the Cobell Settlement, which are being handled by the Garden City Group. Inquiries regarding Settlement payments should be directed to 800-961-6109.

NAU: Part-time Position Announcement

Northern Arizona University’s Extended Campuses is seeking a part-time Student Support Coach for the Smart Start Program.  This person should be a dynamic, student-centered individual interested and committed in helping students prepare and succeed in an online environment.  The selected candidate will work closely with students to assess their readiness for online learning, and then help them to strengthen their skills, in preparation and ultimately transition to NAU – EC’s online campus.  Minimum Qualifications: Bachelor’s degree and 2 years experience working in a higher education setting or high school counseling position and/or any equivalent combination of education and experience.

Interested applications should submit a cover letter, resume and three letters of recommendation to Kathleen.Burdick@nau.eduNAU is an Equal Opportunity/Affirmative Action Institution. Women, minorities, veterans and individuals with disabilities are encouraged to apply.