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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Since the 1970s, federal American Indian policy in the United States has been aimed at promoting self-determination through self-governance by federallyrecognized tribes. This policy has proven to be the only policy that has worked to make significant progress in reversing otherwise distressed social, cultural and economic conditions in Native communities. The policy of selfdetermination reflects a political equilibrium which has held for four decades and which has withstood various shifts in the party control of Congress and the White House. While Republicans have provided relatively weak support for social spending on Indian issues when compared to Democrats, both parties’ representatives have generally been supportive of self-determination and local self-rule for tribes. Analysis of thousands of sponsorships of federal legislation over 1970-present, however, finds the equilibrium under challenge. In particular, since the late 1990s, Republican congressional support for policies of self-determination has fallen off sharply and has not returned. This calls into question the sustainability of self-determination through selfgovernance as a central principle of federal Indian policy.
A collection of Honoring Nations reports focused on governmental foundations: Osage Nation Governmental Reform Initiative Northwest Intertribal Court System Elders Cultural Advisory Council Choctaw Tribal Court System Akimel O'odham/Pee-Posh Youth Council Old Law & New Law Together.
The federal Endangered Species Act (ESA) is nearly silent regarding its potential application in Indian Country. But by the mid-1990s, the ESA had proven to be a source of serious concern for Indian tribes. In 1997, as the culmination of months of negotiations between agency officials and tribal representatives, the Secretaries of the Interior and of Commerce jointly issued Secretarial Order 3206 (SO 3206), entitled “American Indian Tribal Rights, Federal-Tribal Trust Responsibilities, and the Endangered Species Act.” The order sought to harmonize the federal trust responsibility to tribes and the statutory missions of the Departments of the Interior and Commerce in implementing the ESA. This paper considers whether the order has lived up to its promise of true bilateralism between the United States and sovereign tribal governments regarding their rights vís-a-vís the ESA process. It reviews the key requirements of the ESA, pertinent executive orders, and SO 3206 itself. It analyzes government-to-government relations in several cases of “final rule” critical habitat designation and through a review of scholarly literature. Further, it discusses the difference tribes can make by creating and implementing their own habitat management plans, as alternatives to designation of critical habitat on Indian lands, and by actively partnering with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and National Marine Conservation Service. The author concludes that while SO 3206 has not yet lived up to its full promise, it is making a difference by assisting federal land managers and sovereign tribal governments in building stronger working relationships while protecting the environment.
Since 1975, when the U.S. government adopted a policy of self-determination for American Indian nations, a large number of the 562 federally recognized nations have seized the opportunity to govern themselves and determine their own economic, political, and cultural futures. As a first and crucial step in this process, many nations are revising constitutions originally developed by the U.S. government to create governmental structures more attuned to native people'sunique cultural and political values. These new constitutions and the governing institutions they create are fostering greater governmental stability and accountability, increasing citizen support of government, and providing a firmer foundation for economic and political development. This book brings together for the first time the writings of tribal reform leaders, academics, and legal practitioners to offer a comprehensive overview of American Indian nations' constitutional reform processes and the rebuilding of native nations. The book is organized in three sections. The first part investigates the historical, cultural, economic, and political motivations behind American Indian nations' recent reform efforts. The second part examines the most significant areas of reform, including criteria for tribal membership/citizenship and the reform of governmental institutions. The book concludes with a discussion of how American Indian nations are navigating the process of reform, including overcoming the politics of reform, maximizing citizen participation, and developing short-term and long-term programs of civic education.
The Harvard Project on American Indian Economic Development was selected by the First Nations Centre at the National Aboriginal Health Organization and the First Nations Information Governance Committee to conduct a review of the Longitudinal Regional Health Survey (LRHS). The LRHS was designed and fielded by representatives of First Nations to assess the health needs of adults and children living in First Nations communities. The survey, the first of its kind in Canada, is being conducted under the First Nations’ principles of ownership, control, access, and possession of health data. This report summarizes the results of an independent review of the First Nations Regional Longitudinal Health Survey for 2002/2003 (2002/2003 RHS), undertaken for the First Nations Information Governance Committee (FNIGC), a standing committee of the Chiefs Committee on Health (CCOH), and the First Nations Centre (FNC) at the National Aboriginal Health Organization (NAHO). The FNC at NAHO was mandated by the Chief’s Committee on Health and the First Nations Information Governance Committee to coordinate and act as data steward for the 2002/2003 RHS.
Indigenous economic development takes multiple forms. One of the most common ways that indigenous peoples attempt to meet needs for revenue, employment, and services is through nation-owned enterprises. These are hugely diverse, ranging from timber companies and gaming operations to telecommunications enterprises and convenience stores. The record of such efforts is mixed: as with businesses everywhere, some succeed and others don't. This paper examines how the actions of Native nations themselves can either undermine or strengthen their own enterprises, drawing on extensive research carried out by the Harvard Project on American Indian Economic Development at Harvard University and the Native Nations Institute for Leadership, Management, and Policy at the University of Arizona. Of course many of the things that determine business outcomes lie beyond the control of the nations that own the businesses. The paper focuses on five factors that indigenous nations can control but that sometimes are ignored in the effort to build successful, nation-owned businesses: clarity about enterprise goals; effective management of the politics-business connection; the purpose, power, and composition of enterprise boards of directors; independent and reliable resolution of disputes; and the need to educate the community about enterprise goals and activity. Using real-world cases, the paper explores how the actions by indigenous nations in each of these areas can have a significant impact on business performance.
This study compiles 1990 and 2000 U.S. Census data on Native Americans residing on reservations and in designated Indian statistical areas in the lower 48 U.S. States. Gaming and non- gaming areas are compared to each other and to the U.S. as a whole. Data on fifteen measures ranging from income and poverty to employment and housing conditions indicate that, although substantial gaps remain between America’s Native population and the rest of the U.S., rapid economic development is taking place among gaming and non-gaming tribes alike.
In its final report to Congress and the President in 1999, the National Gambling Impact Study Commission (NGISC) concluded: Only a limited number of independent studies exist regarding the economic and social impact of Indian gambling. This is an area greatly in need of further research. (p. 6-14) In an effort to assess the current state of gambling and Indian gaming research, while also evaluating the vast array of methods that researchers have employed to assess gamblingís impacts, we have compiled an extensive database of gambling impact studies. While we cannot claim to have captured each and every study that has been published, we have attempted to reflect the multiple and contentious issues commonly raised in current gambling policy debates. The studies outlined herein address a host of public policy issues, ranging from tax considerations, to the prevalence of problem gambling, to the social impacts of gambling.
American Indian communities are in the midst of a 30-year period of rejuvenation, economic growth, and social and cultural reconstruction termed the “Self-Determination Era,” which has been motivated in part by the civil rights movement of the 1960s and the SelfDetermination and Education Assistance Act of 1975 (Public Law 93-638), but more fundamentally driven by Native Americans’ desire to exercise their sovereign rights. In the early 1990s, Native Americans in Philanthropy commissioned two studies of large foundations’ philanthropy to Native American causes and concerns, the first by William Brescia and the second, covering a later period, by Roslyn LaPier (see Endnote 1). These studies identified the amounts, sources, and targets of large private foundations’ investments in Native America, as a means of both acknowledging and promoting grantmakers’ engagement with Native communities in self-determined community change.