Notable Quotes

I Have Been

I have been to the end of the earth. I have been to the end of the waters. I have been to the end of the sky. I have been to the end of the mountains. I have found none that are not my friends.

The Ground

The ground on which we stand is sacred ground. It is the blood of our ancestors.

We Must Protect

We must protect the forests for our children, grandchildren and children yet to be born. We must protect the forests for those who can't speak for themselves such as the birds, animals, fish and trees.

I Have Heard

I have heard you intend to settle us on a reservation near the mountains. I don't want to settle. I love to roam over the prairies. There I feel free and happy, but when we settle down we grow pale and die.

We Are Going

We are going by you without fighting if you will let us, but we are going by you anyhow!

Democrats Stoke Unnecessary Fear Over Ryan Budget and Indian Country

Rep. Tom Cole: Democrats Stoke Unnecessary Fear Over Ryan Budget and Indian Country

By Tom Cole

In their recent letter to Indian Country Today Media Network, Congressmen Ed Markey and Ben Ray Lujan expressed concern that chronically underfunded tribal programs are in jeopardy of damaging further spending reductions. I share these concerns and appreciate their efforts to highlight the unique challenges with which Indian Country struggles.

However, the fears stoked by the House Natural Resources Committee Minority regarding the effects of the Ryan budget simply do not match the reality of the funding actually allocated by the House Appropriations Subcommittee for Interior and Environment on which I serve. The House majority has already been operating under the Ryan budget for two fiscal years, and in each of those years the funds appropriated for Indian country have surpassed both the dollars authorized under the budget framework and the amount requested by President Obama. House-passed appropriations for Indian programs including BIA and IHS have also been higher than final levels negotiated with the Democratically controlled Senate.

The committee report cited by the ranking members claims that BIA’s budget would be cut by $375 million and the IHS budget would be cut by $637 million. Fortunately, action in the House of Representatives speaks louder than the words found in the committee report. And action the past two fiscal years has been good for Indian country. In FY12, House-passed BIA funding surpassed the president’s request by more than $18.9 million. For IHS, the House-passed legislation included $392.4 million more than FY 11, which was the single highest percentage of any program in the Interior Appropriations bill, and $595 million more than the final funding agreed to by the Senate. For FY13, BIA funding in the bill reported out of the House Appropriations Committee included $36.8 million more than FY 12, which was also $41.4 million more than president’s request. IHS fared equally well, with $183.4 million more than FY 12, which was $70.6 million more than the funding requested by President Obama.

Awareness is key. I’ve accompanied numerous congressional delegations to Native American reservations and seen the eye-opening effects such educational opportunities can have. Members with little prior knowledge of tribal issues come away with a sober and lasting appreciation for the challenges in Indian country, as well as the proven effectiveness and unrealized potential of support programs.

In addition to raising awareness and working to protect critical funding, there are structural changes we can make on a bipartisan basis. Earlier this year, I introduced legislation, H.R. 2362, that would have facilitated foreign investment on tribal lands with not only Turkey but any WTO nation. Unfortunately, the commonsense policy was brought down due in no small part to efforts by my Democratic colleagues to connect the legislation to the centuries old conflicts between Turks, Armenians and Greeks. My legislation had nothing to do with those disagreements and was simply aimed at drawing investments onto tribal lands, but some chose to make a political point rather than help Indian country. While it is critical that Congress appropriate money for tribal programs to help those in need and to meet our trust responsibilities to provide basic services, we could help tribes prosper if members who care about Indian Country will overcome partisan differences to enact policies breaking down barriers to development on tribal lands.

The United States’ treaty obligations are not partisan. Honoring our commitments to tribal citizens is not partisan. The work we do in the Appropriations Committee to fund essential tribal programs is not partisan. With a $16 trillion debt and persistently high unemployment, there are certainly no guarantees. Every program is subject to evaluation as we work to avoid fiscal catastrophe. However, the recent track record of the Appropriations Committee is encouraging. The reality is that in the 112th Congress, the House has funded critical programs for Indians while making cuts to other budget items, and we have done so in a bipartisan manner.

While Democrats and Republicans may not agree on the total amount the federal government should spend, there is agreement that we cannot balance any budget on the backs of the first Americans who statistically are the last Americans.

Rep. Tom Cole is a Congressman from Oklahoma.

A Very Great Vision

A very great vision is needed and the man who has it must follow it as the eagle seeks the deepest blue of the sky.

My Children

My children, education is the ladder to all our needs. Tell our people to take it.

We Are Living

We are living in a time when we all need to come together and help one another. The spirits say we need to learn to get along.

If One Native Child

If one Native child is belittled or ridiculed for being of Native ancestry as a result of schools using inappropriate Native names and symbols, this is unacceptable.