Dissecting the rescue plan

On today's newscast we'll be taking a closer look at the American Rescue Plan Act and what it means for Indigenous Americans.
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The American Rescue Plan Act is a $1.9 trillion package designed to mitigate the economic consequences of the coronavirus pandemic on the country. It directs money to states and tribes. It includes direct payments to individuals and tracks credits for the working poor. The legislation may be the most comprehensive social investment since president Lyndon B. Johnson's great society or president Franklin D. Roosevelt's new deal.  

Our guests today who will help break down the rescue plan include:

Wayne Ducheneaux, Cheyenne River tribes, is Executive Director of the Native Governance Center in Minneapolis Minnesota and is also a former tribal leader.

Carla Fredericks, Mandan Hidatsa Arikara nation, is the Executive Director of the Christensen Fund, a $300 million dollar foundation that promotes Indigenous rights around the world.  

Nick Tilsen, Oglala Lakota, is President and CEO of the NDN Collective, a philanthropic and community development organization based in South Dakota. He sees the rescue act legislation as a massive opportunity.  

A slice of our Indigenous world

  • If all goes as expected, Deb Haaland is on her way to the department of interior, a final Senate vote was scheduled Monday.
  • Tribes will receive $20 billion from the American Rescue Plan act and more than 11 billion will be spent on programs that benefit native Americans, including native Hawaiians.
  • One Native woman has won the 2021 ABA Spirit of Excellence Award.
  • A 15 year old British Columbia mystery has been partially solved with one family, getting a very precious item back. 
  • Bryan Newland is the new Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary for Indian Affairs at the Interior department.
  • This is that time of year when the question, what time is it gets complicated.  

You'll find more details on all of those stories at the top of today's newscast.

Some quotes from today's show

Wayne Ducheneaux: 

"Well, I think especially in light of the pandemic right? Considering that tribes are still kind of recovering and trying to figure out the complexity, that was the CARES Act funding. Many of the tribes I know in our region that we work with were so under the gun, trying to meet that December 31st deadline, and then to have everything lifted at the end and extended, it caused a lot of tough times in as far as planning goes for Indian Country you had many tribes working as hard as they could to spend every dollar by that December 31st deadline. And then when it got extended, you had a mix."

"You had some tribes that still had some money left over and were able to move forward with thoughtful long-term projects to create some systemic change for their nations. Which had some other tribes that kind of just bailed in and patchwork things and spent as fast as they could in order to spend the money. And so I think where we're going to find issues one big issue with this $20 billion is how can tribes pick up where they left off and how can they use it to in a strategic way moving forward to amplify the work that they're already doing? It's going to be a struggle I think for some tribes, but I think with proper technical assistance and support, they can really make a pretty big bang for this amount of buck."

Carla Fredericks:

"I mean, I sort of see it as investment and I also see it as relief. When I looked at all of this over the course of this week, I was really thinking about how for the first time in a really targeted way, the tribes are really being treated much like state and local governments. And so the bulk of this money is COVID relief money. And how the tribes will use that I'm sure will be to their own sovereign and self-determined ends, which will I think necessarily have a really strong investment theme. But just like state and local governments, the tribes are really hurting. And this bill really reflects a response to that."

"Yeah and I mean, I think that it was the head of the Senate Indian affairs committee that said that it's a down payment on the federal government's trust responsibility. And I just thought that language was really powerful. It's not the whole amount of money that the tribes need or owed. But it's a start. And I think that what's really significant is of course it's over $31 billion altogether. So it's pretty significant amount of funds, but it's also, I think, going to pave the way for the tribes to really step into their rightful role as as being treated by the federal government with that trust responsibility. And as a government to government entity."

Nick Tilsen:

"I think the number one thing that we have to do is we have to think about short-term and long-term goals in any kind of situation like this. And we have to think about making sure that in the short-term goals, we're making decisions about asset generation. And I think that's one of the main things. A lot of times we look at the shiniest easiest thing to do and I think that a lot of tribes, including ours down here at Pine Ridge, started thinking about that. But I think long term planning too. So like if tribes have long-term sustainability plans already in place, don't look at this as something new, don't look at this as something new that you have to recreate your plans to adjust to this quote unquote money, think about how you take this money that's coming into the communities to transition into recovery via the plans that you've had sitting there."

"On pine Ridge, I got to be a part of the creation of the Oglala Lakota Oyate Omniciyé plan, which was a regional plan for sustainable development. It included big picture things like the creation of more East and West roads because all of our roads are North and South right. We wanted to create more East and West roads to create more open up areas for more tourism corridor or decrease emergency response times, opening up other areas for community development, housing development. I mean, those are big picture thinking type of economic development opportunities that are regional."  

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 Mark Trahant, Shoshone-Bannock, is editor of Indian Country Today. On Twitter: @TrahantReports Trahant is based in Phoenix.

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