Published on Jun 03, 2021
WASHINGTON D.C. -- Shannon Holsey, Treasurer of the National Congress of American Indians (NCAI) and President of the Stockbridge-Munsee Band of Mohican Indians, delivered opening remarks today as the White House announced Broadband deployment as a key component of President’s Biden infrastructure plan, also known as the American Jobs Plan. Vice President Kamala Harris, Secretary of the Interior Deb Haaland, and Secretary of Commerce Gina Raimondo also delivered remarks from the White House complex and discussed how this investment would be aimed toward tribal communities. Secretary Raimondo announced that the Department of Commerce would make $1 billion in funding available to tribal governments, tribal colleges and universities, and tribal organizations for broadband infrastructure.
“Thanks to President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris - my community and others like mine are finally being heard, and our longstanding infrastructure issues are addressed. Indian Country is 100 percent behind the Administration and looks forward to working through a strong partnership with the Biden-Harris Administration,” Holsey said. “Expanding broadband to our communities is not just a game changer - it is a life changer to tribal communities like mine and all Tribal Nations across the country.”
There are 574 federally recognized Tribal Nations within the United States that are rich in their geographic, political, and cultural diversity. For decades, the federal government has recognized that Indian Country has substandard infrastructure in every sector. According to a 2019 Federal Communications Commission report, individuals residing on tribal lands are nearly 4.5 times less likely to have Broadband internet access as compared to those on non-tribal lands. This chronic underfunding of infrastructure exacerbated the vulnerability of American Indian and Alaska Natives (AI/ANs) to the COVID-19 pandemic and resulted in tribal communities having at times the highest rate of COVID-19 infections, hospitalizations, and deaths per capita in the United States.
On April 13, 2021, NCAI and 30 AI/AN organizations, which collectively serve over 580 federally recognized tribal governments, sent a letter to Congress and the White House requesting resources to urgently address neglected and dilapidated infrastructure that requires improvements to meet the health, safety, welfare, and development needs of AI/AN communities. On May 28, 2021, the President released his Fiscal Year 2022 budget request to Congress. This budget proposal includes substantial investments in tribal infrastructure, which Tribal Nations are urging Congress to include in any upcoming budget negotiations. In an effort to address immediate broadband needs today, the National Telecommunications and Information Administration released its Notice of Funding Opportunity for tribal governments, tribal colleges and universities, tribal organizations, and Alaska Native Corporations to access approximately $1 billion in funding for broadband infrastructure. The deadline to apply for this funding is September 1, 2021.
About the National Congress of American Indians:
Founded in 1944, the National Congress of American Indians is the oldest, largest and most representative American Indian and Alaska Native organization in the country. NCAI advocates on behalf of tribal governments and communities, promoting strong tribal-federal government-to-government policies, and promoting a better understanding among the general public regarding American Indian and Alaska Native governments, people and rights. For more information, visit www.ncai.org.