Government

Osage Congress passes resolution opposing federal budget cuts impacting Indian Country

The Osage Nation Congress is joining other critics of the 2018 federal budget cuts proposed by President Donald Trump and passed a resolution asking the U.S. Congress to reject spending cuts pertaining to Indian Country.

During the June 7-8 Special Session, the Osage Congress voted 10-0 to pass a resolution (ONCR 17-28 sponsored by Congressional Speaker Angela Pratt) to “request the United States Congress reject President Trump’s proposed budget cuts to American Indian and Alaska Native programs.”

In May, the Trump administration released its first budget proposal with reductions to several government areas including the Department of Interior, Department of Housing and Urban Development, Department of Education and the Department of Transportation.

According to a May 23 CNN article, “while most lawmakers are likely to dismiss most of it – as they traditionally do with most White House wishlists – the document provides fresh insight into the administration’s priorities. While the overall proposed spending is about on par with last year, at $4.1 trillion for 2018, the budget is notable for the knife it takes to domestic programs focused on science and research, the arts and, most notably, social welfare programs.”

Pratt’s resolution also cites concerns of proposed cuts that could affect the Osage Nation and other tribes including:

- “The (proposed) budget would eliminate programs like the Low-Income House Energy Program, which helps low-income households pay to heat or cool their homes. In 2016, 150 tribal groups and more than 43,000 Native households received LIHEAP funds.”

- “A reduction in funding for these core services would signal to federally recognized tribes that the federal government does not hold in proper regard its previous commitment in honoring previous treaties, case law and federal court decisions that form the basis of its trust responsibilities to American Indians and Alaska Natives.”

- “President Trump’s proposed budget titled ‘A New Foundation for American Greatness’ would be catastrophic for American Indian and Alaska Natives since it would cut $64 million in federal Native American funding for education, $21 million for law enforcement and safety, $27 million for natural resources management run by tribes, plus $23 million from human services, which includes the Indian Child Welfare Act.”

ONCR 17-28 received little discussion during the special session, but received 10 unanimous “yes” votes with two absences on June 8 from Congress members Shannon Edwards and James Norris. Pratt said she felt the resolution spoke for itself during a Congressional committee meeting initially held to consider special session legislation, which was then passed onto the Congress for final vote.

Like other tribes throughout the country, the Osage Nation receives grant funding from federal entities to administer some of its services or to build and maintain capital asset projects, roads, housing and government property. The Nation also receives federal grants to administer programs including LIHEAP funding mentioned in the resolution.

With the resolution’s approval final, Assistant Principal Chief Raymond Red Corn said the Executive Branch will send copies of ONCR 17-28 to the Oklahoma Congressional delegation in both the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives, the National Congress of American Indians (NCAI), the Senate Committee on Indian Affairs and directly to Alaska Sen. Lisa Murkowski who sits on the Senate Appropriations Committee. Red Corn noted Murkowski is also the current chairwoman of the Interior and Environment Subcommittee, which reviews budgets for the Department of Interior and Indian Health Service.     

As of Aug. 5, the U.S. Congress had yet to consider budget action. The Osage Nation and federal government observe the same annual fiscal year cycle, which begins Oct. 1 and ends Sept. 30.

The Congress will next meet for its regular fall Tzi-Zho Session starting Sept. 5. During that 24-day session, the Congress will consider the Nation’s own FY 2018 budgets, which will comprise budget spending mostly from tribal revenue, as well as federal grant funding awarded to the Nation.