National Congress of American Indians 12 (The oldest, largest and most representative American Indian and Alaska Native organization serving the interests of tribal governments and communities, “Fiscal Year 2013 Indian Country Budget Request: Our trust. Our people. Our America”, http://www.ncai.org/resources/ncai-publications/indian-country-budget-request/fy2013/FY2013_Budget.pdf)
Over the past few years, Americans everywhere have endured some of the worst economic conditions since the Great Depression. What America is experiencing today has been the story of Native peoples for decades. Tribal nations are familiar with the work required to overcome economic conditions that are stark and long-running, the remnants of broken treaties, land expropriation, and federal policies of forced removal and assimilation. In the face of such challenges, Native peoples have utilized the promise of self-determination to build the foundation for a prosperous future. Native peoples, who inhabited their ancestral homelands in North America for 10,000 years before contact, have contributed immensely to the American story. Tribes are America’s oldest governments and make up one of the three sovereigns recognized in the US Constitution, alongside states and the federal government. Although tribes have, at times, faced relentless political oppression and paternalism, they are rising from harsh economic conditions to contribute to a prosperous American tomorrow. Even before the Self-Determination Era, American Indians and Alaska Natives have shown commitment to the mutual success of tribal nations and the United States. These FY 2013 budget recommendations represent necessary elements for a strong economic foundation in Indian Country. For instance, education is fundamental to long-term economic opportunities. Investments in tribal infrastructure must be made to address the inadequate roads, housing, and broadband that are all essential to commerce. Bolstering public safety is also a prerequisite for long-term economic development. Finally, support for energy and industry must be ramped up; although tribal lands contain a vast amount of the nation’s conventional and renewable energy resources, tribal governments face an array of challenges in developing those energy resources. All of these investments hold immense promise to contribute to regional economies, which serves to strengthen the American economy and build a better future for all Americans. The United States is facing serious fiscal challenges caused largely by the imbalance between revenues and rising costs in the health care system. Over the next decade, federal budget deficits are projected to grow primarily due to the economic downturn, the 2001 and 2003 tax cuts, and war spending. Decision-makers in Congress and the Administration are focused on the goal of reducing deficits sufficiently to stabilize the debt relative to the size of the economy. Last year, Congress passed the Budget Control Act of 2011, which includes binding limits on annual appropriations that reduce projected funding for discretionary programs by about $1 trillion through 2021. Under these caps, discretionary spending will shrink from about 9 percent of gross domestic product (GDP) in 2011 to 6.2 percent in 2021, well below the 8.7 percent average over the past 40 years. Indian Country recognizes the state of the economy, the pressures on government at all levels, and the related challenges for job seekers. Tribes have been doing more with less for generations, and we propose the following general recommendations to help our communities, our neighbors, and the United States as a whole. As Congress and the Administration consider ways to address the deficit, tribal leaders urge them to sustain funding for human programs as a central part of the trust responsibility.