Murkowski: Administration Avoiding Justice for Indian Tribes
WASHINGTON, D.C. – Senator Lisa Murkowski took the opportunity during a Senate Committee on Indian Affairs hearing to express her deep disappointment with the Obama Administration’s decision to alter the operation of Indian Self-Determination Act contracts – which she called the “core of the Nation’s federal trust relationship” – through the budget and congressional appropriations process.
“Must I remind the Obama Administration that Self Determination contracts are the core of our Nation’s federal trust relationship with Indian tribes,” she said. “Through thousands of contracts throughout the Bureau of Indian Affairs and the Indian Health Service, tribes operate the federal programs promised to Indians for the removal of their lands.”
A 2012 Supreme Court decision (“Salazar v. Ramah Navajo Chapter”) ruled that the federal government must pay the full amount for ‘Contract Support Costs’ to allow tribes to manage federal Indian programs under the Indian Self Determination and Education Assistance Act, yet the President’s 2014 budget request attempts to evade that process and escape the rights of tribes to the total funding they are due under the court’s ruling.
“Indian tribes fought and won a huge victory in the Supreme Court’s Ramah decision,” Murkowski continued. “Rather than delivering justice to tribes in the adequate payment of contract support costs for the operation of Indian programs, the Administration has decided to forgo justice, and hand the issue over to Congress to address in the Appropriations process – a decision that dramatically alters the federal Indian Self Determination Statute without consultation of the Tribes, nor this authorizing Committee.”
Later in the hearing, Senator Murkowski shifted her focus to Bureau of Indian Affairs Assistant Director David Washburn – who will be headed off to King Cove after Murkowski negotiated a personal visit be made to that community in need of improved emergency access, asking “What are your plans in terms of timing for a trip to King Cove?” Washburn responded that he anticipates “the early part of the summer at the latest.” Murkowski suggested to him that when he visits with King Cove residents “listen not only with your ears but with your heart.”