WASHINGTON, D.C. – Navajo Nation Speaker Crystalyne Curley, Chairwoman Eugenia Charles-Newton, Council Delegate Nathan Notah, and tribal leaders of the Coalition of Large Tribes (COLT), recently met with Elizabeth Hidalgo Reese, the Senior Policy Advisor for Native Affairs for the White House Domestic Policy Council in Washington, D.C.
The purpose of the meeting was to discuss issues facing large tribes such as public safety, the potential government shutdown, education, and Indian Health Services (IHS). During the meeting, Chairwoman Charles-Newton, who Chairs the Law and Order Committee, advocated to make federal funding for the Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA) and Bureau of Indian Education (BIE) mandatory spending.
“We understand that the potential for a federal government shutdown may occur if Congress doesn’t come to an agreement in the coming days,” said Chair Charles-Newton. “Many of the funds tied to discretionary funding given to tribes fund social service programs. If mandatory funding was in place for the BIA and BIE, it would help to ensure these programs that help tribes would not be impacted by any federal shutdown, and our communities would continue to receive the assistance they need.”
In addition, Charles-Newton offered a comprehensive document detailing public safety and law enforcement statistics. The report illustrates that, despite a 27,000 sq. mi. land base and an estimated 200,000 Navajo residents living on the Navajo Nation, there are only 214 Navajo police officers and 34 criminal investigators, a level that falls significantly short of the national average of 2.6 officers per 1,000 individuals.
In her remarks, Chairwoman Charles-Newton also made a case to create a budget line for School Resource Officers with the BIE budget. These officers would be responsible for safeguarding students and teachers, and to curb school violence. She highlighted the police response times, a consequence of the scarcity of law enforcement officers, as a reason for employing officers to keep Navajo children safe.
Speaker Curley underscored the need for forward-thinking appropriations, akin to those received by the IHS from Congress the previous year. Such policies would ensure that, even in the event of a federal government shutdown, IHS funding would remain unaffected, allowing critical services to persist unabated for tribal communities.
“We are very thankful to the White House for meeting with our Nation’s leaders and providing a path forward for future discussions,” said Speaker Curley. “We are optimistic that working with our federal partners will result in solutions and improvements that ultimately benefit our Navajo people.”