Native American News Roundup Nov. 27-Dec. 3, 2022

Audience members listen as President Joe Biden speaks at the White House Tribal Nations Summit at the Department of the Interior in Washington, Nov. 30, 2022.

Here is a summary of some of the top Native American-related headlines in the U.S. this week:

Administration Makes New Commitments At Tribal Nations Summit

President Joe Biden underscored an all-of-government commitment to Native Americans, Alaska Natives and Native Hawaiians during a two-day White House Tribal Nations Summit in Washington this week.

“On my watch, we're ushering in a new era of advancing a way for the federal government to work with tribal nations,” Biden told more than 300 tribal leaders at the first in-person summit of his presidency.

The Biden administration announced new programs and initiatives to boost tribal economies, restore tribal homelands, improve infrastructures and the health and safety of tribal citizens, including:

  • Developing uniform guidance for federal agencies on consulting with tribes and incorporating Indigenous knowledge into federal decision-making.
  • Boosting tribal co-stewardship of public lands, waters and sacred sites.
  • Relocating 11 tribal communities threatened by rising water levels.
  • Implementing new rules and policies to protect tribal interests and resources from the impacts of mining.

“Too often in Native history, tribal displacements, forced relocations and other tragedies were driven by the expansion of mining. We must acknowledge and remedy these injustices as our nation considers expanding domestic mining in order to produce the minerals that are necessary for current technologies and clean energy projects,” Interior Secretary Deb Haaland told tribal leaders.

Interior Sec. Deb Haaland arrives at the White House Tribal Nations Summit at the Interior Dept. in Washington, Wednesday, Nov. 30, 2022.

The administration announced Thursday that the FBI and the Bureau of Indian Affairs have signed an agreement to establish guidelines for handling criminal investigations in Indian Country, a move that Associate Attorney General Vanita Gupta said will advance investigations “including reports of missing or murdered Indigenous people, quickly, effectively and respectfully.”

President Biden said he has also asked Congress for significant increases in funding, including:

  • $9.1 billion for the Indian Health Service, which provides health care to federally recognized tribes.
  • $420 million for the Bureau of Indian Education, which provides education to Indian youth.
  • $7 million for the Federal Boarding School Initiative, an investigation into the troubled legacy of federal Indian boarding schools.
  • $35 million for culturally specific Violence Against Women Act program services.

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The Fair Housing Act (FHA) and the Equal Credit Opportunity Act (ECOA) prohibit unfair and discriminatory practices.

Study Shows Native American Homebuyers Less Likely to Get Loans Approved

A new analysis of fairness in lending shows that despite nationwide laws prohibiting racial bias, financial institutions are persistently unfair to Native Americans looking to buy new homes.

Researchers at FairPlay AI analyzed more than 350 million mortgage applications from 1990 to 2021 via the Home Mortgage Disclosure Act database to measure whether and how mortgage fairness in the U.S. has changed over the past three decades.

Using a control group of white male borrowers, researchers used the industry standard Adverse Impact Ratio metric to compare the approval rates for Black, female, Hispanic, Asian and Native American loan applicants.

In the metric, if protected class applicants had a 60% loan approval rate and white males had a 90% approval rate, the AIR would be 60/90, or 67%. FairPlay AI considers any AIR less than 80% to be an indicator of unfair lending.

Study results show a steep decline in mortgage fairness for Native Americans with a drop from 94.8 percent in 1990 to 81.9% in 2001. The study found that five states have been “persistently unfair” to Native American loan applicants: New Mexico, Mississippi, Louisiana, North Carolina and Arizona.

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Fones Cliffs on the Rappahannock River in Virginia, part of the ancestral homelands of the Rappahannock Tribe.

Virginia Tribes Receive State Grants to Buy and Preserve Ancestral Forestlands

Two federally recognized tribes are getting state grants toward the purchase and preservation of forestlands lost to English settlers in the 17th century in what is now Virginia.

The Virginia Land Conservation Fund awarded the Rappahannock Tribe of Virginia $500,000 to acquire more than 280 hectares acres of land adjacent to the 160 hectares it successfully acquired in April along the Rappahannock River’s Fones Cliffs. Prior to contact with the English, the Rappahannock Tribe lived in at least three villages on the Cliffs -- Wecuppom, Matchopick and Pissacoack.

The state fund awarded the Mattaponi Indian Tribe $310,000 to acquire more than 320 hectares in King William County.

There is a catch, however. The grants won’t cover the full price of the land, and the tribes have two years to raise the remaining funds themselves.

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Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi of Calif., and Coche Tiger, 9, a member of the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians, at the U.S. Capitol Christmas Tree Lighting Ceremony, Tuesday, Nov. 29, 2022. (AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin)

Cherokee Fourth-grader Lights Up US Capitol Christmas Tree

Catcuce “Coche” Micco Tiger, a 9-year-old citizen of the Eastern Cherokee Nation in North Carolina, helped House Speaker Nancy Pelosi light the U.S. Capitol Christmas Tree on Tuesday evening.

The fourth-grader won that honor with a winning essay that included a traditional Cherokee story on the sacredness of evergreens.

“When all the trees, plants and animals were created, they were asked to stay awake to fast and pray for seven nights to honor the Creator. The first night they all stayed awake, but the second night some fell asleep; the third night more dropped out, and so on.

By the seventh night, only a few were still awake. Of the animals, the owl (u-gu-gu), the panther (tsv-da-tsi), and a few others were still awake. These animals were given the power to see and go about in the dark and make prey of the birds and animals that must sleep at night.

Of the trees, only the cedar, the pine, the spruce, the holly, the hemlock, and the laurel were awake to the end. The Creator gave these trees the ability to keep their leaves and stay green all year round and gave them special power to be medicine for the Cherokee people.

Therefore, these trees are sacred and used for medicine by the Cherokee people to this day.”

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