WASHINGTON—Navajo Nation Vice President Myron Lizer, Speaker Seth Damon and members of the 24th Navajo Nation Council met last week with the U.S. Department of Interior’s Tribal Interior Budget Council (TIBC).
The delegates, Lizer and Damon, along with tribal leaders from the other 11 Bureau of Indian Affairs regions, met for budget discussions with the federal officials.
Every year, each of the BIA regions present budget priorities at the TIBC meeting for the fiscal year two years in advance; this meeting focused on fiscal 2021. The discussions also focused on President Trump’s proposed fiscal 2020 budget, which includes deep cuts in spending for Indian programs.
The Navajo Nation articulated increases in funding for its budget priority areas including public safety, transportation, education, and health.
“Each year, tribes receive federal funding through a lengthy and complicated process that involves multiple agencies. We come to the table quarterly to advocate on behalf of our Navajo citizens,” Lizer said.
In addition to the Navajo Nation’s advocacy efforts on Capitol Hill for increased funding Lizer, Damon and council members called on TIBC to submit a written request to lawmakers to increase funding for Indian Country in fiscal 2020. Congress will begin writing appropriations bills for fiscal 2020 when they return from their recess on April 29.
“It is deeply unsettling to see massive budget cuts to Indian programs recommended by the administration with little to no justification for the cuts,” Damon stated. “We will continue to work with TIBC and members of Congress to restore and increase funding for vital Indian programs.”
President Jonathan Nez underscored the Navajo Nation’s position to House appropriators previously at a March 7 hearing on Indian Affairs funding for fiscal 2020.
“I thank Vice President Lizer and the Navajo Nation Council for presenting the priorities of the Navajo Nation at the federal level,” Nez said. “It’s critical that we continue to present a united voice to secure bipartisan support for our funding requests.”
With regards to the fiscal 2021 budget, the Navajo delegation deliberated on the ranking of priorities. Assistant Secretary of Indian Affairs Tara Sweeney met with the delegation today, and the TIBC to discuss ranking of the 2021 priorities. These rankings will be used to prioritize spending decisions in the event of increased overall spending in fiscal 2021.
Tribal leaders also received updates from Interior officials on public safety, education, transportation, and the Interior Department’s reorganization efforts. Of note, the Navajo Nation and other tribal nations strongly opposed reorganization efforts at the Interior Department without formal tribal consultation.
The Tribal Interior Budget Council will reconvene in July and again in November.
Information provided by the Navajo Nation Office of the President and Vice President