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NCAI Seeks Committee Members ‘Well Versed’ in Federal Trust Responsbility

The National Congress of American Indians has called on President Obama and Congress to make sure that the people appointed to the Joint Committee on Deficit Reduction have “significant experience” with the federal government’s constitutional trust responsibility to tribal nations.

The NCAI, the oldest and largest organization in the country representing American Indians and Alaska Natives, issued the call in a media release August 3.

“President Obama and members of Congress worked hard to protect the economic security of our country. Now, there is much more work to be done,” NCAI President Jefferson Keel said shortly after President Obama signed legislation to raise the debt ceiling. “As members of the American family of governments, tribal nations will continue the effort to strengthen our economies to avoid financial crisis. In order to do so, we call on Congress to appoint members of the new Joint Committee on Deficit Reduction who are well versed in the federal trust responsibility to Indian tribes,” Keel said.

Obama signed the Budget Control Act of 2012 in the afternoon of August 2, shortly after the Senate passed the measure and just hours before a deadline which would have seen the U.S. default on its loans.

Keel said that tribal governments are an essential part of the American governmental framework “as assigned in the constitution and upheld by the Supreme Court. It’s essential that the commitments to Indian tribes are honored when appropriating dollars and evaluating spending for education, law enforcement, emergency and disaster funding, infrastructure, health care, and social services.”

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Tribal economies have been hard hit during the recession, Keel said, but have remained optimistic about opportunities to create greater economic prosperity. “We can’t let our momentum slow,” said Keel, who is also the Lt. Governor of the Chickasaw Nation of Oklahoma. “We are dedicated to engaging in the new energy economy, developing infrastructure, strengthening our schools, and contributing to the economy of the United States. Good fiscal policy for America considers and invests in the unique opportunities presented by the innovation of tribal governments.”

Keel noted that tribal governments understand the need for more efficiency, but warned that if the nations aren’t adequately represented on the Joint Committee, “the United States will be weaker as a result.”