|U.S. Government Funding | The Entitlement Myth|
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|Indian Country Partnership & Services|
It is vitally important to understand that as a whole, Indian Country today is just now recovering from past genocidal events and outside administrative mismanagement. There are many positive indicators, as well as much work yet to be done, in all aspects of reservation life.
There are diseases and adverse medical conditions that remain statistically exponentially more frequent on reservations, across the U.S. These include diabetes, heart disease, liver disease, alcoholism and other addictions, tuberculosis, mental illness, suicide, malnutrition and physical abuse of Native American women by non-Indians.
Health services for Native Americans are primarily provided by Indian Health Services. But service delivery has been decentralized and commonly provided by disparate, well-intentioned but under-funded non-profit groups.
The Blue Lake Rancheria Tribal Government is heavily involved with all organizations along the Indian health care continuum, and seeks new ways to partner with health care professionals and insurance providers to create a modern health care system that transcends the borders of Indian Country.
It may come as a surprise that many reservations and rancherias are still lacking basic infrastructure for their inhabitants. Paved access roads, public water, sewer and power systems and other utilities – these basic services have been promised over the years, but many projects remain unrealized due to remote locations and/or erosion of will and non-enforcement of previous legal commitments over time.
Tribes are increasingly funding, managing and supplying the labor for their own infrastructure improvements. In many cases these improvements benefit both the Tribe and the surrounding community. Furthermore, often the infrastructure projects create a perfect opportunity for new and better government-to-government relationships to form around these public assets- including Tribes’ participation in Public Utilities Commissions, Joint Powers Authorities, Land Trust Partnerships, and Conservation Committees.
The single most important factor in Native American Tribes’ economic recovery and success is the ability to self-govern. Harvard University has done major empirical investigation into Tribal sovereignty and its profoundly positive impact on economic development. For more information, please click here.
- Tribal gaming has been the only economic generation tool to work successfully throughout Indian Country. And it has worked, generating revenues for much needed education, housing, social services, sewer, water and power infrastructure, health care, and other basic needs.
- Why don't Tribal Governments pay taxes on gaming revenues? Exactly like the State of California and its lottery, governments that use gaming proceeds to fund social programs do not pay taxes on those revenues.
- Tribal governments, like state and local governments in essence contract with the U.S. Federal Government to provide social services to their citizens.
- And all social programs are administered by Tribes in accordance with Federal law.
- If Tribal Governments decide to give gaming revenues to individual members in "per capita" bonus payments, these 'personal income' dollars are taxed according to federal and state income tax regulations.
- Further, all gaming dollars distributed to individuals are required to be in compliance with a “Distribution and Allocation Plan” approved by the U.S. Bureau of Indian Affairs.
- A portion of gaming revenues from gaming tribes are often contributed to a Special Distribution Fund, and distributed to the non-gaming Tribes in their state.
- The success of Tribal gaming has benefited Indian Country unevenly.
- The gaming business is risky. As with any other business, to succeed, gaming venues must turn a profit over the long term. This does not happen automatically, and for some Tribes with struggling casinos, gaming has not provided economic self-sufficiency.
- There are approximately 220 federally recognized tribes nationwide with casinos, 50 of these take in over half the total Native gaming revenue. The others are "only marginally profitable."
- Special Distribution Funds are helping to further extend the success of gaming, but the amounts actually distributed are far less than contributed due to administrative overhead.
- Tribal gaming has come under closer scrutiny as its success and the number of casinos have grown. As quickly as possible, Tribes need to create endowments for their long term financial survival and self-sufficiency, as there is no guarantee of the permanence of Native gaming.
- There are many misunderstandings and misconceptions about Indian Country, perhaps none more common than the perception that Tribes are "on the dole" from the U.S. Government.
- While it is true Tribes receive federal funding, these monies are required to be utilized in very specific ways for health, housing, infrastructure, environmental protection and other pre-determined social needs.
- Accounting is strict and required for every federal dollar utilized.
- Under the "Single Audit Act" Tribes are audited annually.
- The Blue Lake Rancheria also utilizes U.S. Government and other organizations' grant monies for specific purposes, most of which benefit both the Tribe and the surrounding community.
- The Blue Lake Rancheria spends the majority of its funding on social initiatives that benefit not only Tribal Members, but the local community as well.
- Monies distributed to individual Tribal Members are most commonly for education tuition and supply reimbursement. Assistance in times of financial hardship is typically facilitated in the form of low interest loans.
- All Blue Lake Rancheria Tribal Members are expected to work and generate their own personal incomes.
- The Blue Lake Rancheria Tribe does not give out per capita distributions of Tribal monies. All Tribal revenue is allocated to social services as needed, the Tribe's Community Giving fund, economic development and diversification, and endowment creation.
- Federal funding for Tribes is shrinking, and Tribes can not rely on its continuation.
- The Blue Lake Rancheria Tribe is steadily working toward financial self-sufficiency.
Indian Country has been interacting with the United States’ federal and state governments for hundreds of years. Sometimes tragic, sometimes productive, these relationships have changed dramatically over the last few decades as the “Era of Self Determination” in Indian policy has taken hold.
Because sovereign nation status and reservation territories have remained largely unchanged for the last 20 years, it is tempting to think of these structures as permanent. Tribes should not make this assumption. Tribes must remain vigilant stewards of their lands and inherent rights. To do this effectively today means a different type of interaction with neighboring governments – it means involvement.
One of the most powerful ways to maintain Indian Country advances and rights is to support people elected into public office in neighboring governments who have a comprehensive understanding of Indian Country, and who will fight for Tribal resources and justice. State and federal leaders who understand Indian Country issues and are supported by the Tribes will work to safeguard Native American rights, lands and resources from further encroachment.
New partnerships with neighboring governments and agencies in charge of common public assets are possible, and should be explored by Tribal leaders. Public Utilities Commissions, Joint Powers Authorities, Land Trust Partnerships – Tribes’ participation in these collaborative mechanisms will further establish Indian Tribes as allies in policy determination, business endeavors, social services and resource management.
Only through participation is it possible for Tribes to directly impact decisions made outside Indian Country on matters of shared interest.
The Blue Lake Rancheria actively supports the advances apparent throughout Indian Country today. In the course of implementing improvements, Tribes may encounter questions or issues regarding:
- Business Development | Diversification
- Business Administration | Finance
- Gaming Development | Operations
- Governmental Formation | Documentation | Structure | Recordkeeping
- Grant | Program Management
- Tribal Court Proceedings
- Political | Public Relations
- Other Tribal Issues
The Blue Lake Rancheria stands ready to assist other Tribes at any time. If our experience would be helpful, for a completely confidential discussion, please contact the Blue Lake Rancheria Tribal office at (707) 668-5101.
- For statistics and other objective study of current Native American issues, please visit the Government Accountability Office.
- Harvard University: Harvard Project on American Indian Economic Development