Fiscal Year 2019 Indian Country Budget Request
Honoring the Promises, Building Strong Nations
This FY 2019 Indian Country Budget Request benefits rural America, prioritizes federal programs and services that honor the federal trust responsibility, as well as many programs that are critical components of strong tribal economies and public safety systems. The programs highlighted in this document meet the federal treaty and trust obligations as identified by experts at national and regional tribal organizations and through FY 2019 budget formulation consultations between tribal leaders and federal agencies.
For a nation that bases its greatness to a significant degree on its rule of law, treaties and intergovernmental agreements carry paramount importance. In 1884, Supreme Court Justice Samuel Miller remarked:
“A treaty is primarily a compact between independent nations. It depends for the enforcement of its provisions on the interest and the honor of the governments which are parties of it.”
Over the last two centuries, the United States, a nation founded on Indian land, has become the richest economy in the world. Legal scholars note that Chief Justice Marshall described the trust responsibility in terms of the responsibility that sprang from “a landed people to those from whom the land had been taken.”
As America expanded from “sea to shining sea,” federal Indian policy in the age of Manifest Destiny led to the loss of billions of acres of Indian land, and the related promises the United States made in exchange for this land too often remain unfulfilled. Yet, despite the expropriation of land, relocation, and attempted tribal termination and assimilation, tribes in the era of self-determination and self-governance have begun rebuilding their nations, rooted in their values, quite successfully.
While the United States has yet to fully live up to the promises it has made to tribal nations, tribal leaders are pursuing goals for their citizens similar to those of US national policy makers: building strong and prosperous nations, including economic growth and the efficient provision of necessary public services. Economic diversity characterizes modern Indian Country, but a common factor cited by tribal leaders as hindering tribal economic development is the need for adequate federal funds for essential governmental services, such as public safety, housing, education, and workforce development. Economic development also faces hurdles in Indian Country due to insufficient infrastructure, including roads, housing, water, sewer systems, and broadband.
While prosperity to many Americans draws on a version of the American Dream based on wage, income, and commercial success, prosperity to Native people includes preservation of culture, family, and homelands as well. For a number of reasons, American Indian populations, especially on reservations, have faced lower intergenerational upward mobility, which simply is a measure of doing better than one’s parents. Exacerbating the lack of upward mobility are barriers to economic development, including inadequate fulfillment of treaty and trust obligations, insufficient infrastructure, and lack of access to capital.
Solutions for facilitating broad-based economic growth in Indian Country must be multi-faceted. For instance, tribes are working to create a positive business environment via good governance and legal infrastructure, such as commercial codes and courts. However, some pieces of the growth puzzle still rely on improving basic physical infrastructure and fulfillment of other fundamental aspects of the trust responsibility, such as public safety and education.
Although Indian Country continues to face immense economic challenges, upholding Indian trust and treaty obligations holds the promise of tremendous economic success. Congress and the Administration have expressed support for Indian self- determination and honoring the trust responsibility. Indeed many tribes have made tremendous gains in the social and economic wellbeing of their communities when Congress has respected the responsibility of tribes as governments and invested in self-determination. These FY 2019 tribal budget program requests have been compiled in collaboration with tribal leaders, Native organizations, and tribal budget consultation bodies. Tribes respectfully request that these recommendations be included in the appropriations process.
Download the entire FY 2019 document (PDF 3.3 MB) or individual sections below (PDF versions).
Table of Contents
Support for Tribal Governments
Public Safety & Justice
Homeland Security & Emergency Management
Economic & Workforce Development
Agriculture & Rural Development
Historic & Cultural Preservation
Suggested Citation: National Congress of American Indians. (February 2018). Fiscal Year 2019 Indian Country Budget Request: Honoring the Promises, Building Strong Nations. Washington, DC: Author.