GM 16-018

U.S. Commission on Civil Rights Briefing on Updating its 2003 Report on Unmet Need in Indian Country; Comments Requested

On February 19, 2016, the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights held a briefing with representatives of Indian organizations and federal agencies as part its plan to update its 2003 report, A Quiet Crisis: Federal Funding and Unmet Needs in Indian Country (Quiet Crisis report). The Quiet Crisis report evaluated the budgets and expenditures of six major federal agencies which fund Indian programs and found that federal funding for these programs was inadequate to meet the needs. The Quiet Crisis report looked at health care, education, public safety, housing and rural development and found that “significant disparities in federal funding exist between Native American and other groups in our nation, as well as the general population.” The Commission is accepting further comments through March 20, 2016. Comments should be submitted to:

There has been tribal advocacy for an update of the Quiet Crisis report, and that effort was helped by a letter to the Commission in May 2015 from Representative Derek Kilmer
(D-WA) and a bipartisan group of Members of Congress. The letter requested the Commission to update the report “[i]n order to help ensure that the federal government is making progress in fulfilling its trust and treaty responsibilities.”

The Commission heard from two panels during the February 19 briefing: one of tribal advocates and others and another from federal agencies. In his opening remarks, Commission Chairman Martin Castro noted while there has been some improvement since the Quiet Crisis report there are still “clear needs and challenges” which need to be addressed.

The first panel consisted of : Jackie Pata, Executive Director, National Congress of American Indians (NCAI); Stacey Bohlen, Executive Director, National Indian Health Board (NIHB); Dante Desiderio, Executive Director, Native American Finance Officers Association (NAFOA); Sarah Deer, Professor of Law, Mitchell Hamline School of Law; and Terry Anders, Property and Environment Research Center.

The second panel consisted of : William Mendoza, White House Initiative on American Indian and Alaska Native Education; Randy Akers, Acting Deputy Assistant Secretary for Native American Programs at the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD); Elizabeth Fowler, Deputy Director for Management Operations, Office of the Director, Indian Health Service; Michael Black, Director, Office of the Director, Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA); and Vicki Forrest, Deputy Director of School Operations, Bureau of Indian Education (BIE).

Indian organizations praised the 2003 report, with NCAI calling it a “pivotal report for advocacy efforts” and NIHB terming it “monumental” in explaining what was going on in Indian Country regarding health care. NAFOA spoke of progress that has been made since 2003 but said that tribes are a long way from having parity with other governments in terms of in access to public and private capital and federal programs. All advocated for increased resources and equitable access to opportunities.

We reported on the Quiet Crisis report in our General Memorandum 03-108 of August 1, 2003. Among the recommendations of the Commission at that time was that the six federal agencies, Congress, and the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) implement a series of reforms to better ensure that federal funds go to Native American populations in need. The recommendations included: (1) urging each agency to conduct internal monitoring of its spending and budgeting for Native programs and to ensure better cooperation with other agencies; (2) urging Congress to ensure that needed funds are appropriated for Native programs and to require agencies to monitor unmet needs; and (3) that OMB should develop uniform standards for tracking spending on Native American programs.

The Commission is expected to complete its update of the report this calendar year. Please let us know if we may provide additional information or assistance regarding the updating of the Quiet Crisis report.