Yesterday, U.S. Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) and Congressman Derek Kilmer (D-Wash.) unveiled the Honoring Promises to Native Nations Act. This bill would address chronic underfunding and barriers to sovereignty faced by Indian Country as a result of the federal government’s failures to meet its trust and treaty responsibilities. The legislation would hold the federal government accountable for honoring the country’s legal promises to Native peoples.
This bill comes after a December 2018 U.S. Commission on Civil Rights (USCCR) report that found in their Broken Promises report that the government has continued to underfund Native American programs and has failed to keep accurate, consistent, and comprehensive records on federal spending on Indian Country. This report was undertaken at Congressman Kilmer’s request to determine whether the federal government had met its trust and treaty obligations.
“Historical underfunding has continued to remain an issue for Indian Country. We need federal legislation that reaffirms our important nation-to-nation relationship with the federal government. We thank Senator Warren and Congressman Kilmer for their most recent legislation, The Honoring Promises to Native Nations Act, to address these critical issues,” says NAFOA Executive Director Rico Frais.
The Honoring Promises to Native Nations Act includes provisions to reaffirm the nation-to-nation relationship between the federal government and Tribal Nations and to strengthen federal programs that support Native communities. This includes mandatory, full, and inflation-adjusted funding whenever possible. The bill mirrors the structure of the Broken Promises report, dedicating a title to each of the major areas covered by the report: Criminal Justice and Public Safety, Health Care, Education, Housing, and Economic Development.
“For generations, the U.S. government has clearly failed to fulfill its commitments to Tribal Nations. This bill is sweeping in ambition to make good on those commitments and empower Native communities,” Senator Warren said in a statement. Both Warren and Kilmer have received extensive feedback from Indian Country to inform the development of this legislation.