POLSON, Mont.-Honorable Speaker Lawrence T. Morgan (Iyanbito/Pinedale) attended a Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA) Tribal Budget Advisory Meeting in Polson, Mont. Aug. 9 to discuss and consider future funding for the Navajo area.
Morgan was joined by other tribal leaders from around Indian County to contemplate federal funding levels and other related issues affecting their tribes. Specifically, some of the issues raised at this meeting were financial support for public safety, education, economic development/community development, and natural resources. These will be revisited by tribal leaders at regional service areas to refine federal funding levels.
Another key development centered on the issue of "modernization" of the BIA's operations. Assistant Secretary of the Interior Carl Artman announced his desire to plan for the future under this concept.
According to Artman, modernization means letting tribes identify their programs of need through regional input. Once these needs have been identified, the BIA can then respond to this list. This change is meant to encourage BIA involvement for Native American tribes.
Commenting on this position Speaker Morgan said, "Modernization appears not just at the central level (BIA headquarters), we have to modernize everything, such as how this perspective impacts the land and its people."
Speaker Morgan concisely pointed out that any approach enacted by the BIA affects all facets of a community.
Questioning Artman, Morgan asserted, "Modernization as you stated is broad-sweeping. What you need to consider are the changes occurring within the Nations' such as population."
"Currently, we (Navajo) are operating on limited resources while our population outpaces the resources you provide us," Morgan said.
Morgan's comments were well-received by the attendees as they developed a series of questions premised on Morgan's remarks.
Other issues covered at this session were a review of the Fiscal Year (FY) 2008 Federal Budget and the Congressional timeline. Currently, this budgetary process is ongoing and will be refining as the budget cycle continues.
Discussion also focused on the group's approval of FY 2006 sweep recommendation, which totals $4 million and includes $1 million reserved for former Navajo Nation Bennett Freeze studies and preliminary activities prior to construction. Additionally, the advisory group approved by consensus FY 2010 Priorities: Public Safety, Education, Economic Development, and Natural Resources.
Joining Speaker Morgan on this trip was his Chief of Staff James Davis Jr., and BIA officials from the Navajo Area.