Abstract: The following initial report presents a data-supported sampling of the nature and gravity of the unmet infrastructure needs that Indian Country currently faces, and the vast economic promise that Tribal Nations can unlock when properly resourced and properly equipped with the right instruments for self-determined, effective action. It is intended to serve as foundational context for the emerging dialogue between Tribal Nations and the new Administration and Congress about how best to revitalize and empower the infrastructure of Indian Country and the nation as a whole, and the seminal role that Tribal Nations can and should play as primary decision-making partners in this process.
There is growing support across the political spectrum at the federal, state, Tribal, and local governmental levels about the glaring need for a bold national plan to repair and revitalize this country’s rapidly decaying infrastructure. Crumbling roads. Deteriorating water and sewer systems. Unsafe bridges that remain in use long past their expiration dates. Antiquated, under-resourced public transit systems that fail to keep up with the needs of our growing population. And the list goes on.
A historic investment in our nation’s infrastructure is not just about fixing what is broken or replacing what is no longer useful. It is about unleashing America’s full economic potential and enhancing its competitiveness in today’s global economy. In many places across this country – from urban areas to rural communities – governments and citizens alike are hampered by the pervasive economic costs of outdated 20th Century infrastructure. In turn, they lack the critical foundation for achieving economic prosperity that cutting-edge, 21st Century infrastructure provides.
While there is, appropriately, a fervent debate about how to undertake this monumental task – as well as how to pay for it – there is no disputing one incontrovertible fact: in order for a national infrastructure investment plan to be truly comprehensive and thus transformative, it must consciously include Indian Country.