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Budget request directs billions more to Indian Country

President Joe Biden (File photo)

The Biden administration sent its proposed 2023 budget to Congress on March 28 – a $5.8 trillion package that includes billions for Indian Country programs.

The Indian Country investments are in many cases increases from previous Biden budgets, which have already been described as historic for tribal communities. The funding request for the Department of Interior and its Bureau of Indian Affairs programs, for example, are $18.1 billion, an increase of $2.9 billion.

The White House said the budget reflects priorities from increased consultation with tribal communities.

“We are best served when tribal governments are empowered to lead their communities and when federal officials listen to and work together with tribal leaders when formulating budgets that affect tribal nations,” the White House said in a statement.

The budget seeks $562.1 million for public safety and justice operations under the BIA to support expanding needs in policing, detention and tribal courts. It also sets aside $70 million for the Department of Justice’s ongoing effort to address the epidemic of missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls.

The budget recognizes other Indian Country needs, too, from stewardship of trust resources to funding the Federal Indian Boarding School Initiative.

In addition, the Indian Health Service (HIS) would see a shift from discretionary funding to mandatory funding that would automatically grow to keep pace with rising health care costs and population growth. The 2023 budget includes $9.1 billion in mandatory IHS funding, a $2.9 billion increase.

Additionally, billions more would be directed to climate change programs and a job creation initiative intended to clean up abandoned oil and gas well sites and reclaim them for other purposes.

“The president’s budget request lays the foundation for revolutionary and transformational change in the diplomatic relationship between tribal nations and the United States,” United South & Eastern Tribes Sovereignty Protection Fund (USET SPF) president Kirk Francis, said in a statement. “We view each president’s budget request as an indication of that administration’s respect and reverence for its sacred trust and treaty obligations. With this request, the Biden administration is showing us that it intends to honor federal promises.”