U.S. Department of the Interior recently announced a package of regulatory incentives to help tribal leaders spur investment opportunities and economic development in Indian Country.
Interior Secretary Sally Jewell noted in a June 16 news release than in more than 14 months on the job, she’s had the privilege of visiting just as many tribal reservations.
“As secretary, I have seen first-hand both economic success stories and the dramatic challenges tribes still face to generate employment and develop infrastructure within Indian Country,” said Jewell, who also chairs the White House Council on Native American Affairs.
Jewell pointed out that while some tribes have experienced economic progress in recent years, many others continue to face formidable economic hardship.
“Providing greater deference to tribes under the principles of self-determination and improving our federal regulations to meet the needs of the 21st century means we can help remove some of these barriers to economic development on tribal lands and lay a solid foundation for economic development as well as improve the quality of life for American Indians and Alaska Natives in their homelands,” she said.
The package of initiatives includes facilitating infrastructure development in Indian County, in areas such as internet access, water, road and energy. New regulations proposed by the Bureau of Indian Affairs would update and simplify the process for obtaining BIA approval for infrastructure development, offering interested parties greater certainty when working on infrastructure.
The list of initiatives also includes removing barriers to land development through increased tribal self-governance. One initiative would be training sessions to help tribal leaders implement the Helping Expedite & Advance Responsible Tribal Homeownership (HEARTH) Act. The HEARTH Act provides tribes the opportunity to establish and enforce their own land leasing regulations for residential, business, renewable energy and other purposes.
In addition, the Department of Interior’s bureaus and offices will increase federal procurement opportunities by increasing Indian Affairs’ purchases from Native American-owner small businesses by 10 percent, to increase economic activity and employment opportunities in Indian Country.
Assistant Secretary-Indian Affairs Kevin Washburn said that the Obama administration’s belief that tribal leaders must have a seat at the table underlies these initiatives, and Washburn noted they are part of a coordinated federal effort that builds on the progress made in partnering with tribes on a nation-to-nation basis.