Publications Repository

Eric C. Henson, Miriam R. Jorgensen, Joseph P. Kalt, and Isabelle G. Leonaitis. 11/2021. Assessing the U.S. Treasury Department's Allocations of Funding for Tribal Governments under the American Rescue Plan Act of 2021. View Report (PDF)Abstract

The American Rescue Plan Act of 2021 (“the Act” or “ARPA”) has resulted in the single largest infusion of federal funding for Native America in U.S. history. The core of this funding is $20 billion for the more than 570 federally recognized American Indian and Alaska Native tribal governments. As required by the Act, the Department of the Treasury (“Treasury” or “the Department”) devised and has now implemented a formula for allocating these monies. In this report, the authors find that the allocations that have been made are grossly inequitable and contrary to the policy objectives of Congress, the Biden Administration, and the Treasury Department itself.

This study uses publicly available information to estimate enrollment and employment counts for tribes. These figures are only estimates created for the express purpose of analyzing the appropriateness of the US Department of the Treasury’s American Rescue Plan Act allocations. Our estimates have not and cannot be verified against actual enrollment or employment data submitted to the Department of Treasury by each tribe.  We believe the estimates are as accurate as possible and reliable for the purpose of assessing the relative positions of tribes under Treasury’s ARPA allocations, but should not be extracted and used as accurate for any individual tribe or for any purpose other than how they are used here.


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Eric C. Henson, Megan M. Hill, Miriam R. Jorgensen, and Joseph P. Kalt. 4/2021. Recommendations for Allocation and Administration of American Rescue Plan Act Funding for American Indian Tribal Governments. View Report (PDF)Abstract

The American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) provides the largest infusion of federal funding for Indian Country in the history of the United States. More than $32 billion dollars is directed toward assisting American Indian nations and communities as they work to end and recover from the devastating COVID19 pandemic – which was made worse in Indian Country precisely because such funding is long overdue.

In this policy brief, we set out recommendations which we hope will promote the wise and productive allocation of ARPA funds to the nation’s 574 federally recognized American Indian tribes. We see ARPA as a potential “Marshall Plan” for the revitalization of Indian nations. The Act holds the promise of materially remedying at least some of the gross, documented, and long-standing underfunding of federal obligations and responsibilities in Indian Country. Yet, fulfilling that promise requires that the federal government expeditiously and wisely allocate ARPA funds to tribes, and that tribes efficiently and effectively deploy those funds to maximize their positive impacts on tribal communities.

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Eric C. Henson, Miriam R. Jorgensen, Megan M. Hill, and Joseph P. Kalt. 7/2020. Emerging Stronger than Before: Guidelines for the Federal Role in American Indian and Alaska Native Tribes' Recovery from the COVID-19 Pandemic. View Report (PDF)Abstract

The COVID‐19 pandemic has wrought havoc in Indian Country. While the American people as a whole have borne extreme pain and suffering, and the transition back to “normal” will be drawn out and difficult, the First Peoples of America arguably have suffered the most severe and most negative consequences of all. The highest rates of positive COVID‐19 cases have been found among American Indian tribes, but that is only part of the story.

Even before the pandemic, the average household income for Native Americans living on Indian reservations was barely half the U.S. average. Then the pandemic effectively shut down the economies of many tribal nations. In the process, tribal governments’ primary sources of the funding – which are needed to fight the pandemic and to meet citizens’ needs – have been decimated.

As with the rest of the U.S., emergency and interim support from the CARES Act and other federal measures have helped to dampen the social and economic harm of the COVID‐19 crisis in Indian Country. Yet this assistance has come to the country’s 574 federally recognized Indian tribes with litigation‐driven delay and counterproductive strings attached, and against a pre‐ pandemic background characterized by federal government underfunding and neglect – especially as compared to the funding provided and attention paid to state and local governments.

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Eric C. Henson, Megan M. Hill, Miriam R. Jorgensen, and Joseph P. Kalt. 7/2020. Federal COVID-19 Response Funding for Tribal Governments: Lessons from the CARES Act. View Report (PDF)Abstract

The federal response to the COVID‐19 pandemic has played out in varied ways over the past several months. For Native nations, the CARES Act (i.e., the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act) has been the most prominent component of this response to date. Title V of the Act earmarked $8 billion for tribes and was allocated in two rounds, with many disbursements taking place in May and June of this year.

This federal response has been critical for many tribes because of the lower socio‐economic starting points for their community members as compared to non‐Indians. Even before the pandemic, the average income of a reservation‐resident Native American household was barely half that of the average U.S. household. Low average incomes, chronically high unemployment rates, and dilapidated or non‐existent infrastructure are persistent challenges for tribal communities and tribal leaders. Layering extremely high coronavirus incidence rates (and the effective closure of many tribal nations’ entire economies2) on top of these already challenging circumstances presented tribal governments with a host of new concerns. In other words, at the same time tribal governments’ primary resources were decimated (i.e., the earnings of tribal governmental gaming and non‐gaming enterprises dried up), the demands on tribes increased. They needed these resources to fight the pandemic and to continue to meet the needs of tribal citizens.

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Randall K.Q. Akee, Eric C. Henson, Miriam R. Jorgensen, and Joseph P. Kalt. 5/2020. Dissecting the US Treasury Department’s Round 1 Allocations of CARES Act COVID‐19 Relief Funding for Tribal Governments. View Report (PDF)Abstract

This study dissects the US Department of the Treasury’s formula for distributing first-round CARES Act funds to Indian Country. The Department has indicated that its formula is intended to allocate relief funds based on tribes’ populations, but the research team behind this report finds that Treasury has employed a population data series that produces arbitrary and capricious “over-” and “under-representations” of tribes’ enrolled citizens.

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Randall K.Q. Akee, Joseph P. Kalt, Eric C. Henson, and Miriam Jorgensen. 4/2020. Policy Memo Regarding the Allocation of COVID-19 Response Funds to American Indian Nations. View Report (PDF)Abstract

The COVID-19 crisis poses an immediate threat to three decades of improvement in economic conditions across Indian Country. Federal policies of tribal self-determination through self government have gradually, if unevenly, allowed economic development to take hold in Indian County. Nevertheless, the poverty gap for American Indians is large and hard to close. American Indian/Alaska Native household incomes remain barely half that of the typical household in the US. Tribes now routinely undertake and self-fund the full array of basic governmental services – from law enforcement and public safety to social services and educational support – that we expect any state or local government to provide.

Tribes lack the traditional tax bases enjoyed by state and local governments. Tribal enterprise revenues – both gaming and non-gaming – are tribes’ effective tax bases. Prior to the total shutdown of their casinos, tribes’ gaming enterprises alone were channeling more than $12.5 billion per year into tribal government programs and services . No tribal casinos are operating at this time. The same applies to many non-gaming enterprises and many tribal government programs. The COVID-19 crisis is devastating tribes’ abilities to fund their provision of basic governmental services and forcing tribes to make painful decisions to lay off employees, drop workers’ insurance coverage, deplete assets, and/or take on more debt.

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2018. Quapaw Nation Agricultural Programs. Publisher's VersionAbstract

Like many Native nations, the Quapaw Nation relies on gaming income to fund government operations and to create employment opportunities for tribal citizens. But tribal leaders are also committed to diversifying the economy and limiting dependence on casino revenues. Drawing on its people’s farming heritage, the Nation has built an array of businesses that reduce reliance on external food sources and provide tribal citizens and their neighbors with healthy, locally raised food—a win for Quapaw economic development and for Indigenous food sovereignty.

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2018. 2018 Honoring Nations Report. View Report (PDF)Abstract
2018. Environmental Program Report | Native Village of Kotzebue. View Report (PDF)Abstract

A field of long grass with a fishing structure in the center of the imageThe Native Village of Kotzebue is the tribal government for the Iñupiaq people of Kotzebue, Alaska. Located on the coast in northwest Alaska, 30 miles north of the Arctic Circle, Kotzebue often hosts research teams eager to study the region’s ecology. For years, researchers lacked accountability to the local people; they did not consider them as equal partners in research and rarely credited the Indigenous knowledge shared. In the late 1990s, the Village government launched its Environmental Program to advance science-based research, driven by tribal priorities and rooted in long-held Iñupiaq values. Through this approach, the tribe is now a full research partner in the majority of projects concerning its land and waters, benefiting its citizens, and producing Best Available Science through the integration of Indigenous knowledge with western science.

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2018. Health Aide Training Programs | Alaska Native Tribal Health Consortium. View Report (PDF)Abstract

Six individuals dressed in medical garb conducting a health trainingThe opportunity to see a medical professional when needed is something that many people living in the United States take for granted. For those living in rural Alaska however, visiting a medical professional is rarely easy. Communities are isolated, medial needs are significant, and patients' cultural and linguistic backgrounds can affect diagnoses and treatments. The Alaska Native Tribal Health Consortium has taken on these challenges by educating village residents to serve as the primary medical providers within the state's tribal health care system.

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2018. Myaamiaki Eemamwiciki Program | Miami Tribe of Oklahoma. See Full Report (PDF)Abstract

Three baskets that have spoons, forks, and knives. Myaamiaki language cards in front of each basket.The United States has a shameful history of displacing its original inhabitants from their homelands and attempting to wipe out their cultures. Such actions had a devastating effect on the Miami people, who, by the 1990s, became scattered across the country, resulting in an ongoing struggle to maintain their cultural identity. In response, the Miami Tribe of Oklahoma created the Myaamiaki Eemamwiciki (the Miami Awakening) program. Rooted in strengthening their kinship ties to one another within a strategic educational framework, Myaamiaki Eemamwiciki helps citizens reconnect to their Indigenous knowledge and value system. And, as tribal citizens reconnect with the knowledge of their ancestors, they are creating a new understanding of what it means to be Myaamia.

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2018. Quapaw Nation Agricultural Programs | Quapaw Nation. See Full Report (PDF)Abstract

The inside of a greenhouseLike many Native nations, the Quapaw Nation relies on gaming income to fund government operations and to create employment opportunities for tribal citizens. But tribal leaders are also committed to diversifying the economy and limiting dependence on casino revenues. Drawing on its people’s farming heritage, the Nation has built an array of businesses that reduce reliance on external food sources and provide tribal citizens and their neighbors with healthy, locally raised food—a win for Quapaw economic development and for Indigenous food sovereignty.

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2018. Sitka ICWA Partnership | Sitka Tribe of Alaska. View Full Report (PDF)Abstract

Two people standing on a boatThe safety and well-being of children is vital to a Native nation’s future. For years, tribal and state agencies in Alaska have taken different approaches to the needs of vulnerable families, leading to large numbers of children being adopted outside their home communities. With the goal of securing better outcomes for tribal families, the Sitka Tribe reached out to its state child protection counterparts to build more collaborative relationships to benefit tribal families. The Sitka ICWA Partnership is breaking new ground through brave communication, joint case management, and cooperative staff training.

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2018. Wellness Programming | Yurok Tribe. See Full Report (PDF)Abstract

Employee standing by a desk at the Wellness ProgrammingAcross the US, alcohol and opioid abuse have seriously disrupted countless lives. The Yurok reservation and its surrounding area are no exception—intergenerational poverty, high incarceration rates, and failed treatment attempts combine to create a cycle of violence and despair. In response, the Yurok Tribe is purposefully using its tribal justice system to improve outcomes for offenders with substance abuse problems. By infusing traditional Yurok values into the tribal court’s structure and proceedings, the Tribe’s Wellness Programming is building better futures for all community members.

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U.S. Census Bureau American Community Survey. 2017. “My Tribal Area”. View Report (PDF)Abstract

The U.S. Census Bureau collects data for the American Indian and Alaska Native (AIAN) population and publishes specific counts, estimates, and statistics. My Tribal Area gives you quick and easy access to selected statistics from the American Community Survey (ACS). The ACS provides detailed demographic, social, economic, and housing statistics every year for the nation’s communities. 

2016. 2016 Honoring Nations Report. View Report (PDF)Abstract
2016. Alaska Rural Utility Collaborative | Alaska Native Tribal Health Consortium. View Report (PDF)Abstract

Two people standing in front of plumbing infrastructureIndoor plumbing is a basic amenity that most Americans take for granted. In parts of rural Alaska, however, providing water and sewer service is not an easy task. The harsh climate requires special adaptations, costs are high, and many small communities lack the expertise needed to manage complex systems. To address these challenges, the Alaska Rural Utility Collaborative facilitates cooperation among Alaska Native villages to assist them with the operations of their own water and sewer systems as effectively and inexpensively as possible.

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2016. Calricaraq: Indigenous Yup'ik Wellbeing | Yukon Kuskokwim Delta Tribal Communities. View Report (PDF)Abstract

Four elderly people sitting in a row at a table for a group meetingColonization dramatically altered the lives of Alaska Native peoples, and the intergenerational pain – the historical trauma – caused by these changes deeply affects Alaska Native communities today. Among the Yup’ik of the Yukon Kuskokwim delta region, for example, rates of mental and behavioral health problems are extremely high. Calricaraq, a program hosted by the Yukon Kuskokwim Health Corporation, seeks to improve individual and community wellbeing using the traditional philosophies that have guided Yup’ik life for generations. This approach is succeeding where Western approaches have failed.

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2016. Čáw Pawá Láakni - They Are Not Forgotten | Confederated Tribes of the Umatilla Indian Reservation. View Report (PDF)Abstract

Person holding up a large research book with post-it tabs in an office settingContemporary place names throughout the United States reflect the history of colonization. The explorers and settlers who named mountains, rivers, and other natural features after themselves or their heroes were unaware or indifferent to the fact that waterways, features of the land, and places already had ancient names. The Confederated Tribes of the Umatilla Indian Reservation have undertaken an ambitious project to organize, give preeminence to, and systematically disseminate their knowledge of the land.

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2016. Chickasaw Nation Sick Child Care Program | Chickasaw Nation. View Report (PDF)Abstract

Elderly woman in medical gown with a health care office in the backgroundWorking parents face a dilemma when a child falls ill. Staying home to provide care or finding a relative or friend to help can be a major challenge, especially for single parents, two-worker families, and employees whose jobs offer limited flexibility. The Chickasaw Nation Sick Child Care Program offers a safe and nurturing place for mildly ill children to spend the day and gives working parents the assurance that their children are receiving proper care.

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