Senator Warren, Congressman Kilmer Unveil Historic Legislation to Address Chronic Underfunding and Barriers to Sovereignty in Indian Country
The Honoring Promises to Native Nations Act implements recommendations from the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights’ “Broken Promises” Report
Lawmakers invite ongoing input from Tribal Nations and citizens, and other experts and stakeholders in continued development of legislation that will honor America’s promises to Native peoples
Bill Text (PDF) | Summary (PDF)
Report by USCCR: Broken Promises: Continuing Federal Funding Shortfall for Native Americans (PDF)
Washington D.C. – U.S. Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) and Congressman Derek Kilmer (D-Wash.) today unveiled the Honoring Promises to Native Nations Act, historic legislation to 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.
In December 2018, the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights (USCCR) released a report, Broken Promises: Continuing Federal Funding Shortfall for Native Americans, which the lawmakers viewed as a call to action for the entire U.S. Congress. The Broken Promises report, which was undertaken at Congressman Kilmer’s request in 2015, evaluated whether the federal government has met its trust and treaty obligations to Native peoples, particularly pertaining to federal spending in the areas of housing, education, health care, economic development, and public safety. This legislation implements the recommendations of that report.
Based on feedback from Tribal Nations and Native communities, expert and public input, and extensive research and analysis, the Broken Promises report concluded that federal programs designed to support the social and economic wellbeing of Tribal Nations and Native peoples remain chronically underfunded and often inefficiently structured. While the federal government has substantial trust and treaty obligations to Tribal Nations, it has repeatedly failed to honor these obligations. The report put it bluntly: “The United States expects all nations to live up to their treaty obligations and it should live up to its own.”
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.
In 2019, in response to the release of the Broken Promises report, then-Congresswoman Deb Haaland (D-N.M.) and Senator Warren released a legislative proposal for this bill to further a process of soliciting and receiving feedback and input from Tribal governments and citizens, Tribal organizations, urban Indian organizations, experts, and other stakeholders. They and members of their staff also met with Tribal leaders and discussed the proposal at Tribal conferences. They received extensive feedback, which informed the development of the Honoring Promises to Native Nations Act. In 2020, they also asked the USCCR to update the Broken Promises report in light of the COVID-19 pandemic—which the USCCR agreed to do, before publication of the update was blocked by the USCCR’s Republican appointees. Senator Warren and Congressman Kilmer, who succeeded Congresswoman Haaland as the bill’s House lead, have continued to receive extensive feedback to inform the development of the legislation.
“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, and it provides a much-needed legislative blueprint to deliver significant, long-term funding for the advancement of Native Americans. I won't stop fighting to ensure the U.S. government honors its promises,” said Senator Warren.
“For too long, the federal government has failed to live up to its treaty and trust responsibilities to Tribal nations. As a result, too many Native communities lack adequate housing, health facilities, schools, justice centers, roads, telecommunications, water, and other basic infrastructure required to deliver needed support services,” said Representative Kilmer. “Congress and the federal government have a moral and a legal obligation to fulfill the promises made to Indian Country. That’s why I’m proud to introduce this legislation with Senator Warren to help reverse the decades-long pattern of systemic funding shortfalls to Native communities and to strengthen federal programs that support Indian Country. Congress should move swiftly to get this legislation enacted. It is long overdue.”
“The Commission urged Congress to honor the federal government’s trust obligations and pass legislation that would finally provide steady and equitable funding to fully address the unmet needs to support the public safety, health care, education, housing, and economic development of Native tribes and people,” said USCCR Commissioner Debo P. Adegbile. “We are grateful that Senator Warren and Congressman Kilmer have incorporated the Commission’s recommendations into actionable legislation with the Honoring Promises to Native Nations Act and it was a pleasure to collaborate with them on this much-needed legislation.”
“The Commission recommended the federal government provide ‘steady, equitable, and non-discretionary funding’ to tribal nations. Nondiscretionary funding is essential to long-term planning for tribal governments and respects tribal sovereignty. It protects essential programs from the partisan gamesmanship that all too often has resulted in appropriations stalemates and left Native Americans as a whole with a dramatically lower quality of life across every dimension the Commission evaluated as compared with non-Native Americans. The Honoring Promises legislation would ensure that the United States will finally live up to its trust and treaty obligations,” said former USCCR Commissioner Karen K. Narasaki, who was the lead Commissioner on the Broken Promises report.
“The United States has not lived up to the trust responsibility and there is indisputable evidence that Indian Country is chronically underfunded and has been for decades. This underfunding is no longer a quiet crisis, it’s a raging humanitarian crisis all across Indian Country,” said National Congress of American Indians President Fawn Sharp. “The Honoring Promises Act is a critically important piece of legislation and the first of its kind designed to actually honor the promises the U.S. made with Tribal Nations, which will, in turn, allow us to fully exercise our sovereignty, our self-determination, and our ability to take care of our people and realize the futures of our own design.”
“USET SPF welcomes and is encouraged by the introduction of the Honoring Promises to Native Nations Act. The problems caused by centuries of failure in the delivery of trust and treaty obligations are deep-seated and complex. Accordingly, this legislative initiative will require sustained and thoughtful effort on the part of Congress and Tribal Nations to properly address the findings of the Broken Promises Report. We commend Senator Warren, Representative Kilmer, and their staffs for their courage and diligence in ensuring that meaningful action is taken in response to Broken Promises. We look forward to further collaboration to refine and strengthen the bill.” – Chief Kirk Francis, President, United South and Eastern Tribes Sovereignty Protection Fund (USET SPF)
“The Coalition of Large Tribes applauds the inclusive, holistic approach of the Honoring Promises to Native Nations Act. COLT’s priorities are directly addressed in the bill—Criminal Justice and Public Safety, Health Care, Education, Housing, and Economic Development. COLT’s member tribes appreciated the robust dialogue that yielded the draft and likewise appreciate the roadmap the bill provides for tribal governments’ modern participation in our federalism and a good path for Indian Country’s greater health, safety, economic inclusion and prosperity. COLT urges passage of the Act because it would truly help Indian Country not only survive, but thrive,” said Blackfeet Councilman Marvin Weatherwax as Coalition of Large Tribes Chairman. COLT unanimously enacted a resolution to support this legislation.
“On behalf of the Great Plains Tribal Chairmen’s Association, we applaud Senator Warren and Congresswoman Kilmer for taking the leadership role in addressing the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights’ Report on the United States’ ‘Broken Promises’ to our Native Peoples,” said Chairman Harold Frazier of the Great Plains Tribal Chairmen’s Association. “We need respect for our original treaties with the United States, and respect for our governments. America was founded on Nation-to-nation relations with our Native Sovereign Nations and it is important for Native Peoples today to protect our homelands and uphold our Treaties.”
“This legislation is a critical step toward restoring tribal governments to the place that our elders envisioned when we signed treaties and other agreements with the federal government. This Act will allow the Northwest Tribes to achieve our goals of providing quality health care to our citizens, protecting our lands and waters from pollution, restoring salmon runs, and preserving our culture. We look forward to the passage of this Act and to witnessing the United States fulfilling its trust responsibility to the Tribes,” said Chairman Leonard Forsman of the Suquamish Tribe, President of the Affiliated Tribes of Northwest Indians.
“The Honoring Promises to Native Nations Act spotlights the federal government’s trust and treaty obligations to Native peoples, particularly pertaining to federal spending and resourcing. It further serves to be inclusive of all Native peoples, recognizing our common needs and shared strengths, rather than attempt to divide and conquer, and pit native peoples and communities against each other, in zero sum gains and losses. The Office of Hawaiian Affairs looks forward to working with Senator Warren, Representative Kilmer, and all members of Congress in fulfillment of the federal government’s trust responsibilities,” said Carmen Hulu Lindsey, Chair, Board of Trustees, Office of Hawaiian Affairs.
“The Honoring Promises to Native Nations Act is a pivotal step in the right direction to ensure that total funding is needed for Native education and empowering our Native youth both in and out of the classroom. We look forward to working with Senator Warren, Representative Kilmer, and all other members of Congress to advance educational opportunities for Native students,” said the National Indian Education Association.
“The National American Indian Housing Council (NAIHC) is pleased that Senator Warren and Congressman Kilmer are working on legislation that acknowledges the federal government’s shortcomings to Tribal nations and aims to reform Tribal programs like housing that responds to the United States’ trust responsibility and needs of our communities,” said NAIHC Board Chairman Thomas Lozano from Enterprise Rancheria. “Tribal housing programs continue to be stagnant, underfunded, and under-resourced in ways that do not always address inflation. The Covid-19 pandemic exacerbated the inadequate housing conditions that American Indian and Alaska Native families, elders, youth, and veterans are living in. They deserve better. NAIHC is ready to work alongside lawmakers to ensure trust and treaty obligations are upheld and Tribal sovereignty is protected.”
“American Indians and Alaska Natives are this Continents’ First Peoples, yet we remain last in health care status and in accessing robust public health and clinical health services. In fact, in August the CDC reported that American Indians and Alaska Native life expectancy fell 6.6 years in 2021 – to a level not seen in America since 1944! Despite the sacred promises the United States negotiated with us, we continue to live sicker and die sooner than every other group in America. This must change. The U.S. Commission on Civil Rights Broken Promises report exposes the often desperate and largely invisible struggles our Nations, communities, and the health systems that serve us endure because the United States continues to break its promises to Tribes. The National Indian Health Board applauds the Honoring Promises to Native Nations Act, and any other congressional efforts to turn this around and honor the Trust and Treaty obligations of the United States to Tribal Nations,” said Chief Bill Smith, Chairman of the National Indian Health Board, and Vice President of the Valdez Native Tribe.
“The health of our people has suffered due to the failure of the government to uphold the trust responsibility of providing health care to all American Indians and Alaska Natives. It is time that we address the needs of Indian Country and enact the recommendations included in the 2018 Broken Promises report, including improving health care for all Native people. The National Council of Urban Indian Health (NCUIH) is grateful for the inclusion of Urban Indians in this legislation, especially regarding permanent 100% FMAP for urban Indian organizations and Urban Confer within HHS, both of which have been top priorities for NCUIH. We fully support this bill and believe that this Act is fundamental in honoring the federal government’s trust responsibility to American Indian and Alaskan Natives,” said Francys Crevier (Algonquin), CEO, NCUIH
“The American Indian Higher Education Consortium believes in the power of place-based and Tribal Nation-focused education rising from within us. That is the foundation of our future and a means for overcoming centuries of oppression and trauma. The Honoring Promises to Native Nations Act acknowledges our past – the federal government’s trail of broken promises to Native peoples – and represents hope for the future. The Act is a path toward growth and sustainability of Tribal Nations, including through excellence in Tribal higher education. AIHEC and the TCUs support the Honoring Promises to Native Nations Act. We look forward to joining Senator Warren and Congressman Kilmer on this righteous – and overdue – journey.” – Carrie L. Billy, President and CEO, American Indian Higher Education Consortium
“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.” – Native American Finance Officers Association
“The Native CDFI Network (NCN) wholeheartedly supports the Honoring Promises to Native Nations Act, and we commend Senator Warren and Congressman Kilmer for refining the language of this emerging legislation to authorize the appropriation of unspent Treasury dollars for the benefit of Indian tribes, in particular to Native community development financial institutions (CDFIs),” said Pete Upton, Interim CEO of NCN. “Increasing the flow of federal resources to Native communities in this way represents an important step in righting the longstanding wrongs perpetrated against our communities, and Native CDFIs are uniquely equipped to transform these resources into positive, lasting outcomes for Native consumers, small business owners, and homeowners.”
“The National Johnson-O’Malley Association was formed as a nonprofit, educational organization to create an effective form for discussion of educational and related matters of mutual concern among the members of the Indian community; therefore, the NJOMA is honored to support the members of Congress who are implementing reforms necessary for schools and their families. The NJOMA is supportive of addressing the federal failures identified in the U.S. Commission on the Civil Rights’ Broken Promises Report. Permanent funding for JOM will pave the way for the unique educational services and programs dedicated to the Native youth, who are our future warriors that will make a great impact in Indian Country. The Honoring Promises to Native Nations Act will be a big step in the right direction in correcting the federal failures of Indian Education. The NJOMA is committed to working with Senator Warren, Congressman Kilmer, and the other members of Congress to support the Johnson-O’Malley program.” – National Johnson-O’Malley Association
“The Honoring Promises to Native Nations Act acknowledges the historical roots of the federal trust responsibility, while also recognizing that it is not anachronistic. It is a relationship that must evolve to meet the 21st Century needs of Tribal Nations. AMERIND is embedded in Indian Country and sees the daily opportunities of improving Tribal community access to federal funding for multiple critical infrastructure needs, particularly in housing and broadband. Honoring Promises puts Tribal Nations in a strong position to build new homes for their citizens, and to catalyze the expansion of new rural and remote community-based broadband networks. It also makes great strides towards digital equity and inclusion for Tribally driven economies. AMERIND applauds the efforts of Senator Warren and Representative Kilmer for developing this legislation, honoring the legacy of the promises made, and working to ensure a brighter future for Indian Country,” said Geoffrey Blackwell, Chief Strategy Officer and General Counsel, AMERIND.
“AMERIND Critical Infrastructure proudly supports the Honoring Promises to Native Nations Act as a key legislative initiative to build and deploy broadband infrastructure while creating governmental parity for Tribal Nations. By upholding the federal trust and treaty relationship with Tribal Nations, we can work together in true governmental partnerships to build out Tribal economic development opportunities and infrastructure to support the generations to come. We greatly appreciate Senator Warren and Representative Kilmer for putting the promises made centuries ago to Tribal Nations in the forefront of policymaking and federal funding,” said Felix McGowan, Director, AMERIND Critical Infrastructure.
“The U.S. Commission on Civil Rights Broken Promises report highlights where the federal government has consistently failed to fulfill its trust responsibility to Tribal Nations. The National Indigenous Women’s Resource Center (NIWRC) supports the Honoring Promises to Native Nations Act, which seeks to hold the federal government to its trust and treaty obligations, empower Tribal governments, and improve the lives of American Indian, Alaska Native, and Native Hawaiian people.” – Lucy R. Simpson, Executive Director, National Indigenous Women’s Resource Center (NIWRC)
“Thank you to Senator Warren and Congressman Kilmer for recognizing that tribal and urban Indian communities are chronically underfunded and taking the steps to address it through the Honoring Promises to Native Nations Act,” said Esther Lucero (Diné), President and CEO of the Seattle Indian Health Board. “We look forward to working with congressional partners to strengthen the federal trust responsibility and ensure American Indian and Alaska Native programs are equitably and properly funded.”
“The Indian Health Center of Santa Clara Valley is pleased to endorse Senator Warren’s Honoring Promises to Native Nations Act. This bill contributes to health equity for American Indians and Alaskan Natives and moves forward with the federal government’s trust and treaty responsibility by improving AI/AN health services.” – Sonya Tetnowski, CEO, Indian Health Center of Santa Clara Valley, President of NCUIH
“The American Indian Health Service of Chicago, Inc. is pleased to endorse the Honoring Promises to Native Nations Act, as it will enable the 70% of American Indians and Alaska Natives who live in Urban Areas to continue to receive the same level of care that is received by other federally funded health programs, while slowly moving toward true health equity with the rest of the United States. With hope that Urban Programs will be able to receive an increase in the funding to be able to offer additional services (such as dental, podiatry, imaging, and women’s wellness) to the American Indian and Alaska Native Chicago based population. AIHSC also appreciates the efforts to increase the Special Diabetes Program for Indians, as our percentages of AI/AN who are diagnosed with diabetes increase.” – RoxAnne M Lavillie-Unabia (Enrolled Turtle Mountain Band of Chippewa Indians), American Indian Health Service of Chicago
“Denver Indian Health and Family Services endorses the Honoring Promises to Native Nations Act because it will allow all Urban Indian Organizations (UIOs) to leverage their services and sustain their funding despite many healthcare challenges. (i.e., the pandemic, the opioid crisis, suicide prevention, etc.) It is time the federal government met its trust and treaty obligations to Native peoples, particularly regarding federal spending. Failing to fund Indian Health Service (IHS) fully and UIOs fails to fulfill the federal government's trust responsibilities. As recipients of less than 1% of the Indian Health Service budget, inadequate funding requires UIOs to depend on every dollar of federal funding and find creative ways to stretch limited resources. The Act will cover a wide range of issues that impact Indian Country; specifically, urban confer for HHS and the VA; 100% FMAP for UIOs; and Special Diabetes for Indians, reauthorized at $300 million for ten years.” – Adrianne Maddux (Hopi Tribe), Executive Director, Denver Indian Health and Family Services, Inc.
“On behalf of the nearly 1/4 UIOs in California, CCUIH endorses the Honoring Promises to Native Nations Act because it will increase health access for American Indians no matter where they live. California is home to the largest population of American Indians, with more than 90% living in an Urban area. Full, mandatory, inflation-adjusted funding for the Indian Health Service; funding for the Special Diabetes Programs for Native Americans; permanent FMAP for Urban Indian Health Programs; and Medicaid coverage of any services provided by Indian health care providers will offer critical funding necessary to address the continued disparities in health experienced by American Indians.” – Virginia Hedrick, Yurok, Executive Director, California Consortium for Urban Indian Health, Inc.
“The Oklahoma City Indian Clinic (OKCIC) endorses the Honoring Promises to Native Nations Act because it will provide promised and necessary funding for Indian Health Care services. The OKCIC is the largest Urban Indian Health Care Center in the United States, serving 22,000 patients from over 200 tribes. Many of our patients are chronically ill and require high levels of expensive medical care. To provide that care it is very important that Title II of the Honoring Promises to Native Nations Act, specifically a full, mandatory and inflation-adjusted funding for the Indian Health Service and permanent adequate funding for the Special Diabetes Program for Indians is not only necessary but vital to maintaining the good health of our people.” – Robyn Sunday-Allen (Cherokee), CEO, Oklahoma City Indian Clinic
“South Dakota Urban Indian Health enthusiastically supports the Honoring Promises to Native Nations Act. This bill secures funding for essential health services and through the inclusion of Medicaid reimbursements for substance use disorder facilities, recognizes the urgency of addiction for our relatives. For generations, Native Americans have persevered through forced assimilation, forced removal from our ancestral lands, and broken promises from the United States government. Despite these challenges, we remain a thriving group of sovereign nations and peoples across the geographic United States. This bill is a stride toward health equity for the more than 70% of Native Americans who live in urban areas of the United States.” – Michaela Seiber (Sisseton-Wahpeton Dakota), CEO, SDUIH
“Native Health endorses the Honoring Promises to Native Nations Act because it will provide resources to fulfill the Federal Government’s obligation to provide health care to AI/AN’s. The bill supports urban Indian organizations through 100% FMAP and SDPI reauthorization. These measures are especially needed by the underserved AI/AN urban community. In the current environment, UIO’s are overwhelmed by the rising demand and the rising costs of providing health care.” – Walter Murillo (Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma), CEO, Native Health
“The Honoring Promises to Native Nations Act is a major step forward in recognizing the trust and treaty obligations to tribes and American Indian and Alaska Native peoples.” – Jacqueline Mercer, CEO, Native American Rehabilitation Association of the Northwest (NARA)
The National Congress of American Indians (NCAI) hosted a panel discussion on the legislation at its annual convention last month. That discussion addressed what is in the legislation and how it can be strengthened. Senator Warren and Congressman Kilmer invite comments and feedback on how to refine and improve the legislation in the next Congress. Written input can be submitted at HonoringPromises@warren.senate.gov.
During her time in the Senate, Senator Warren has worked to protect and advance tribal sovereignty, to emphasize the federal government’s trust and treaty responsibilities to Tribal Nations, and to affirm Washington’s government-to-government relationship with Tribal Nations:
- Senator Warren fought to ensure that sovereign Native Nations have the resources needed to protect the health and well-being of their citizens during this pandemic. She has introduced a number of bills and taken other steps to advance the health and welfare of Native peoples, including:
- the American Indian and Alaska Native Child Abuse Prevention and Treatment Act (S. 1868) (provisions of which were included in the Child Abuse Prevention and Treatment Act (CAPTA) Reauthorization Act of 2021);
- the Tribal Medical Supplies Stockpile Access Act (S. 3444), legislation that would guarantee that the Indian Health Service, tribal health authorities, and urban Indian organizations have access to the Strategic National Stockpile of drugs and medical supplies;
- the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) Tribal Public Health Security and Preparedness Act (S. 3968), which would ensure tribal nations have equal access to funding through the CDC to prepare for public health emergencies;
- the Comprehensive Addiction Resources Emergency (CARE) Act (S. 3418), which would provide nearly $1 billion a year directly to tribal governments and organizations to combat the substance use epidemic—building on insights she gleaned at roundtables in which she participated with the Mashpee Wampanoag Tribe and at the Choctaw Nation;
- the Native American Suicide Prevention Act, a version of which was enacted in December 2020 as part of the Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2021 (Public Law No. 116-260);
- the Coronavirus Containment Corps Act (S. 188), which would require contact tracing collaboration with Tribal health authorities and funding for IHS;
- the Maternal Health Pandemic Response Act (S. 4769, 116th Congress), which would ensure that the federal response to the pandemic, including vaccine development, considers and addresses the specific challenges faced by Native women;
- the Equitable Data Collection and Disclosure on COVID-19 Act (S. 3850, 116th Congress), which includes funding for Tribal data collection, and IHS consultation with Tribal Nations;
- the COVID-19 Emergency Manufacturing Act (S. 3847, 116th Congress), which would provide COVID-19 products at no cost to federal, state, local, and IHS and Tribal health programs;
- the COVID Community Care Act (S. 4941, 116th Congress), which would provide emergency funding for community organizations in medically underserved communities, including Native communities;
- delivering floor speeches urging the swift nomination of an IHS director during the Trump administration, and highlighting the toll of the 2019 government shutdown on workers and families in Massachusetts, including those who rely on urban Indian health programs;
- writing op-eds with other champions for Indian Country on health challenges facing Native communities; and
- cosponsoring more than a hundred pieces of legislation to benefit Indian Country.
- Senator Warren reintroduced the Truth and Healing Commission on Indian Boarding School Policies Act (S. 2907), which would establish a commission to formally investigate, document, and acknowledge the Federal Indian Boarding School Policies. In August 2021, she and Congresswoman Sharice Davids (D-Kan.), the House lead for this legislation, sent a letter to IHS urging the agency to ensure that culturally appropriate supports are in place for those affected by the Indian Boarding School Policies. Senator Warren also led a request that the Senate Committee on Indian Affairs hold a hearing on this bill. The Committee did so, and Senator Warren delivered remarks calling for passage of the bill. She originally introduced this bill in the last Congress with then-Congresswoman Haaland.
- Senator Warren reintroduced the American Housing and Economic Mobility Act (S. 1368), which invests more than $2.5 billion to build or rehabilitate homes for American Indians, Alaska Natives, and Native Hawaiians, and allows tribal housing authorities to administer their own voucher programs. NAIHC adopted a resolution supporting this bill when it was reintroduced in the last Congress. She has long been outspoken about the need to address Indian Country’s housing challenges.
- The Department of the Interior launched a process to review and remove derogatory names—including those containing slurs against Native Americans—from federal lands, consistent with Senator Warren’s bill with Representative Al Green, the Reconciliation in Place Names Act (S. 2400).
- Senator Warren helped push for the establishment of an Office of Tribal and Native Affairs at the Treasury Department. She led a bipartisan group of senators urging Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen to establish the Office, echoing longstanding calls from Indian Country. In June 2022, the Treasury Department established a new Office of Tribal and Native Affairs, per Senator Warren’s request.
- Senator Warren stood with the Mashpee Wampanoag Tribe in their successful fight to save their reservation in Massachusetts. The Trump administration attempted to disestablish the Tribe’s reservation and litigated the matter. Senator Warren twice cosponsored legislation to provide a fix to the 2009 Supreme Court case Carcieri v. Salazar, so that Tribal Nations’ lands—like those of the Mashpee Wampanoag Tribe—can be taken into trust and protected. Senator Warren objected to the Trump administration’s efforts, and worked with colleagues and the Tribe to fight the disestablishment. Senator Warren joined then-Congresswoman Haaland in filing a bicameral, bipartisan amicus brief opposing the disestablishment. The Biden administration withdrew the Trump-era legal challenges, preserving the trust status of the Tribe’s homeland and ending the legal challenges it had faced from the executive branch. Last December, the Department of the Interior conclusively reaffirmed the trust status of the Tribe’s reservation, thus securing its future.
- Senator Warren has been a leader in the push to rescind the Medals of Honor awarded to U.S. soldiers who perpetrated the Wounded Knee Massacre. She has twice introduced the Remove the Stain Act (S. 1073), pushed for the bill’s inclusion in the National Defense Authorization Act, and urged President Biden to use his executive authority to rescind the medals.
- Senator Warren has pushed to expand Tribal connectivity. She introduced the DIGITAL Reservations Act (S. 4331, 116th Congress) to affirm Tribal Nations’ and Native Hawaiian organizations’ ownership of broadband spectrum over their lands. And she twice introduced the Extending Tribal Broadband Priority Act (S. 1365), to extend the Federal Communication Commission’s 2.5 GHz Tribal Priority Window.
- Senator Warren has worked for Tribal sovereignty on cannabis, including twice introducing the bipartisan STATES Act, which would keep states, territories, and Tribal Nations safe from federal overreach when deciding the best approach to marijuana.
- Senator Warren has been outspoken in her support of the Indian Child Welfare Act (ICWA). She was an original cosponsor of a resolution marking the 40th Anniversary of ICWA, and has joined two amicus briefs in support of the law.
- For years, Senator Warren has fought back against threats to Tribal lands and waters. She joined efforts to resist the Trump administration’s assaults on Bears Ears and Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monuments. And she applauded the Biden administration’s decision to reinstate protections for the monuments. Senator Warren also opposed efforts to advance the Keystone XL, Dakota Access, Line 3, and other pipelines. She joined two amicus briefs to support Tribal Nations’ efforts to halt operation of the Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL). And she questioned Assistant Secretary of the Army for Civil Works nominee Michael Connor regarding the DAPL and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ relationship with Tribal Nations during his confirmation hearing.
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