WASHINGTON (Indian News) — As seven more Indian tribes gear up to take over the full direction and implementation of Bureau of Indian Affairs programs on their reservation under the mantle of self-governance, Interior Assistant Secretary for Indian Affairs Eddie Brown told the House and Interior Insular Affairs Committee that self-governance was the way of the future and urged the committee to extend the program for an additional
three years with requirements that interested tribes complete a planning process before entering into agreements.
The seven tribes that have signed agreements and will join eight others on Jan. 1 in the Self-Governance Demonstration Project are: Leech Lake Band of Chippewa, Cass Lake, Minn.; Siletz, Siletz, Oreg.; Makah, Neah Bay, Wash.; Port Gamble, Kingston, Wash.; Ely Shoshone, Ely, Nev; Tlingit-Haida, Juneau, Alas.; and Kawerak, Inc, Nome, Alas. Two other tribes — Duckwater Shoshone, Duckwater, Nev. and Shoshone Paiute Tribes of Duck Valley, Owyhee, Nev. — currently in negotiations with BIA and Interior officials are expected to come to terms within the next two weeks. Those two agreements would become effective 90 days after the signing date. They will join the original seven tribes that have completed two years — one spent in planning and the other in running their own programs — in the Self-Governance Project.
Those seven have all negotiated new agreements that were effective Oct. 1. The Sac and Fox Tribe of Oklahoma is the eighth tribe to join the original seven in agreements that were effective
for the new fiscal year just underway. Agreements negotiated with the 15 tribes total $30.4 million in BIA funding that will be turned over to the tribes to run their programs. The total does not include contract support funding and possible shortfalls or and
Signing of the new agreements comes on the heels of the Bush administration’s support of a House bill that would extend the Tribal Self-Governance Demonstration Project Act for three years and require interested tribes to complete a planning process prior to entering into agreements. Brown said the demonstration project represented a natural extension of the self-determination and government-to-government policies initiated over 20 years ago.
“For those tribes which desire it, self-governance agreements offer an opportunity for tribal governments to gain maximum discretion over the use of federal resources, “he said. He told the committee that developing the demonstration project to its fullest potential remains one of the highest priorities of the department. Brown testified earlier in the year in the U.S. Senate recommending extension of the Demonstration Project. The Senate’s Select Committee on Indian Affairs has favorably reported the legislation out of committee.