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Capital Briefs | White House Council on Natives plans session with tribal leaders


The U.S. Department of the Interior announced Tuesday the White House Council on Native American Affairs would host a session on Jan. 31 with tribal leaders to focus on implementing the Bipartisan Infrastructure law and public safety resources across Indian Country.

The session will be led by Secretary of the Interior Deb Haaland, who serves as co-chair of the council.

During the virtual session, tribal leaders will share guidance, recommendations, and perspectives on the council’s efforts. The meeting will follow nation-to-nation consultations on the infrastructure law to be held earlier that same week.

The Bipartisan Infrastructure law invests more than $13 billion in tribal communities to bolster community resilience, replace aging infrastructure, expand access to clean drinking water, and help ensure everyone has access to high-speed internet.

“As we work to tackle public safety and criminal justice issues impacting Indigenous people or the implementation of the historic Bipartisan Infrastructure law,” Haaland said, “I’m proud to bring tribal leaders and government officials together to further invest in our trust relationship.”

Bill proposes raise in status of IHS director

WASHINGTON – U.S. Reps. Greg Stanton, Democrat of Arizona, and David Joyce, Republican of Ohio, on Jan.13 introduced the “Stronger Engagement for Indian Health Needs Act,” which would raise the current role of the Indian Health Service director to assistant secretary for Indian health within the Department of Health and Human Services.

The bill would make the position Senate-confirmed, which would provide a higher level of authority on Native American health issues and bring greater attention to the health care status and needs of Native Americans.

Stanton said, “The federal government has an obligation to provide for the health care of tribal members. Doing all we can to honor that obligation is vital, particularly as tribal communities are once again seeing an explosion of COVID-19 cases.”

Leading Native advocacy groups—including the National Congress of American Indians, National Indian Health Board, and National Council of Urban Indian Health—support the bipartisan effort.

William Smith, chairman of the National Indian Health Board, said, “Elevating the Indian Health Service leadership and authority will amplify the voice and credibility needed to ensure Indian health care receives appropriate att

Leaders attend AZ tribes legislative day

WINDOW ROCK – On Jan. 12, President Jonathan Nez spoke at the Arizona Legislature’s Indian Nations and Tribes Legislative Day about the contributions and resilience of the Navajo people.

He also urged lawmakers to support the voting rights of Native Americans and the Indian Child Welfare Act.

He highlighted the progress of infrastructure development and access to clean water on the Navajo Nation.

Throughout the pandemic, he said, the Navajo people “continue to step up and demonstrate the strength and resilience of our ancestors.”

Nez called for a moment of silence to honor and remember former Navajo Nation President and Arizona state senator and representative Albert Hale, who died nearly one year ago due to complications from COVID-19, as well as for all frontline workers and Navajo people who have died during the pandemic.

The Navajo Nation Council’s State Task Force attended many meetings with Arizona lawmakers and discussed education priorities, public safety facilities, tribal water rights issues, and infrastructure projects for the Navajo Nation.

Tracy honored, remembered

WINDOW ROCK – A Navajo Nation proclamation was issued on Jan. 9 in honor and remembrance of former Navajo Nation Council Delegate Arthur Tracy Sr., who passed away from natural causes on Jan. 14 at the age of 80.

Tracy was Tódíchi’ii’nii (Bitter Water Clan), born for Deeshchii’nii (Start of the Red Streak Clan). He was born June 28, 1941, and was a lifelong resident of Nazlini, Ariz.

Tracy served in leadership roles including as a delegate, Nazlini Chapter president and chapter manager, president of the Nazlini Senior Center Local Senior Citizens Council, and board member for Nazlini Community School, Greyhills Academy, Sage Memorial Hospital and the Chinle hospital.

He is the father of Division of Natural Resources Executive Director Rudy Shebala.

Delegate Kee Allen Begay Jr., who represents Nazlini on Council, said, “His advocacy for the Nazlini community helped to lay the groundwork for several ongoing and completed community projects that current leadership continues to work on.

“One primary project is N27,” he said, “which was recently completed and now provides a safer route for many local residents.”

Tracy was laid to rest in a private family ceremony.

U.S. announces plan for releases from Lake Powell

WASHINGTON – The U.S. Bureau of Reclamation recently announced that it plans to adjust management protocols for the Colorado River in early 2022 to reduce monthly releases from Lake Powell in an effort to keep the reservoir from dropping farther below 2021?s historic lows.

As of Jan. 6, the nation’s second-largest reservoir — part of a Colorado River system that provides drinking water to approximately 40 million people throughout the West — sat at an elevation of 3,536 feet. That’s 27% of the reservoir’s capacity, 164 feet below full and just 11 feet above the bureau’s target elevation of 3,525 feet, designed to give a 35-foot buffer before “minimum power pool.”

Below 3,490 feet of elevation, Lake Powell dips into a zone where the generation of hydropower by water flowing through the Glen Canyon Dam becomes unreliable.

At 3,370 feet, the reservoir hits “dead pool,” at which point water can no longer be released by gravity from the dam.

According to a Bureau news release, the modified delivery schedule will not alter the total amount of water let through Glen Canyon Dam over the course of the year but will hold back a cumulative 350,000 acre-feet between January and April to help Lake Powell recover from lows that left many boat ramps unusable at the popular recreation site last summer.


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