Schatz Urges Infrastructure Deployment in Native Communities
US Senator Brian Schatz, D-Hawai‘i, chairman of the Senate Committee on Indian Affairs, led a roundtable discussion, “Concrete Solutions: Building a Successful Foundation for Native Communities’ Infrastructure Development,” to hear from Tribal, Native Hawaiian and administration witnesses on improving deployment of infrastructure in Native communities.
The roundtable included representation from the Department of Hawaiian Home Lands.
In his opening statement, Schatz described the infrastructure challenges Native communities continue to face, even as historic levels of federal funding flow to Indian Country and the Native Hawaiian community though COVID-19 relief and recovery legislation.
“Native communities’ critical infrastructure needs such as roads, sanitation, electricity, and housing have been well documented – yet underfunded – for decades. We made a dent in that with the CARES Act, but more importantly, with the American Rescue Plan, which represented the biggest investment in Native communities in American history,” said Chairman Schatz. “But it is a shame that it took a global pandemic for us to recognize how these unmet needs put Native communities behind the 8-ball when it comes to health care and economic recovery. As Congress acted to address both, it became clear that federal investment in building new and updating existing infrastructure in Native communities was no longer ‘nice to have’ but actually essential.”
Schatz concluded by explaining how the roundtable will guide Congress’s consideration of additional investment in Native communities’ infrastructure development.
“The need for interagency coordination is one of the topline takeaways here. I’m hoping that the White House and the Department of the Interior … can assist us with that,” said Chairman Schatz. “But what matters the most in my judgment is what we do next. So let this be the continuation of an ongoing conversation. We are anxious to get your guidance on what the American Jobs Plan should look like, what the American Families Plan should look like, what the appropriations process should look like, how NAHASDA should be not just reauthorized but improved, and how we can better represent … and better serve Native communities across the country.”
The following panelists participated in the roundtable:
- Anthony “Morgan” Rodman, Executive Director, White House Council on Native American Affairs, Washington, D.C.
- Jason Freihage, Deputy Assistant Secretary of Management – Indian Affairs, Department of the Interior, Washington, D.C.
- The Honorable Janet Davis, Chairwoman, Pyramid Lake Paiute Tribe, Nixon, NV
- The Honorable David Flute, Secretary, South Dakota Department of Tribal Relations, Pierre, SD
- William Ailā, Jr., Chairman, Department of Hawaiian Home Lands, Kapolei, Hawaiʻi
- Anthony Walters, Executive Director, National American Indian Housing Council, Washington, D.C.
- Carol Gore, President & CEO, Cook Inlet Housing Authority, Anchorage, Alaska
- Godfrey Enjady, President, National Tribal Telecommunications Association, Chandler, AZ