PRESS RELEASE:NCUIH Honors 2022 Urban Indian Health Champions

Yesterday, NCUIH celebrated 2022 honorees: Libby Washburn, Senators Padilla and Moran, along with Representatives Leger Fernandez and Joyce.

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

WASHINGTON, D.C. (May 25, 2022) – On May 24, 2022, the National Council of Urban Indian Health (NCUIH) awarded four Congressional Urban Indian Health Champion Awards and one Award for Advocacy and Leadership in Urban Indian Health during its 2022 Annual Conference: No More Broken Promises: A Path to Health Equity in Indian Country. The Congressional Urban Indian Health Champion Awards were given to four members of Congress for their outstanding advocacy on behalf of urban Indian health: Senator Alex Padilla (D-CA), Senator Jerry Moran (R-KS), Representative Teresa Leger Fernandez (D-NM-03), and Representative David Joyce (R-OH-14). Libby Washburn (Chickasaw Nation of Oklahoma), the former Special Assistant to the President for Native Affairs, was awarded the Advocacy and Leadership in Urban Indian Health award. Last year, NCUIH recognized Senator James Lankford (R-OK), Senator Tina Smith (D-MN), the late Representative Don Young (R-AK-AL), and Representative Ruben Gallego (D-AZ-7) as the 2021 Urban Indian Health Congressional Champions.

NCUIH thanks the awardees for their dedication to upholding the federal trust and treaty obligation to provide the highest level of health to all American Indians/Alaska Natives.

“California is home to more urban Indian civic, service, and advocacy organizations than any other state in the nation serving more than 450,000 individuals, and I am proud to advocate for greater federal support of urban Indian health and autonomy […] The federal government must honor our country’s responsibility to Tribal Nations and urban Indians in all our policy decisions. Urban Indian organizations are a lifeline to Native Americans living in urban areas across California and across the nation and yet too many facilities are aging and underfunded,” said Senator Padilla.

“We know that there are more Native Americans living off our Tribal lands than on, and we know that the United States trust duty to provide quality healthcare does not stop when you move into a city or town. We also know that too often the urban Indian health centers are overlooked and underfunded,” said Representative Leger Fernandez in her remarks.

“I recognize that upholding the Tribal trust obligation is a responsibility shared by all members of Congress regardless of the congressional districts we represent. This trust obligation is not optional. The federal government’s push to relocate Native peoples off the reservations and into cities like Cleveland with the promise of job training and other services during the Termination Era had a profound impact on the lives of individuals, families, and Tribes. When those promises, like so many others, went unfulfilled, the right thing to do was, and still is, to provide culturally responsive healthcare access for urban Indians,” said Congressman Dave Joyce.

Award for Advocacy and Leadership in Urban Indian Health

Libby Washburn

During her time as the Special Assistant to the President on Native Affairs, Libby was a strong advocate for Indian Country including urban Indian communities. Her advocacy and leadership were responsible for the inclusion of urban Indian organizations in Executive Order 14053 which addresses the crisis of Missing or Murdered Indigenous People. Libby was also influential in including urban Native Americans in the Biden-Harris Plan for Tribal Nations and played a significant role in the development of the first-ever mandatory funding proposal for IHS that was released as part of the President’s FY 2023 budget.

Urban Indian Health Congressional Champions

Senator Alex Padilla

California is home to 10 urban Indian organizations (UIOs) with a service population of 450,000 AI/ANs. Sen. Padilla has made it a priority to ensure that these communities are provided with the resources and care needed. He introduced the bipartisan Urban Indian Health Providers Facilities Improvement Act to pave the way for increased investment in the renovation and construction of urban Indian health facilities. The Bipartisan Infrastructure Framework included the Padilla–Moran–Lankford Amendment to allow UIOs to make their facilities more COVID-19 compliant and safer by fixing a technicality that prevented clinics from using their federal funding to make renovations.

Sen. Padilla and 13 other senators sent a letter to the Biden Administration requesting the establishment of an Urban Indian Interagency Work Group to identify the needs and develop strategies to better serve urban AI/AN populations. He sent a letter to the Senate Committee on Finance urging for inclusion of permanent 100% Federal Medical Assistance Percentage (FMAP) reimbursement for UIOs and Native Hawaiian Health Care Systems in the reconciliation bill. Recently, he joined Senator Smith’s letter to the appropriations committee to request full funding for the urban Indian health line item in FY23. NCUIH is forever grateful for his commitment to helping us achieve crucial goals through his bipartisan leadership to ensure that UIOs are funded equitably and that urban AI/AN values are upheld.

Senator Jerry Moran

Senator Moran has advocated for the health of all AI/ANs and was an original cosponsor of the Urban Indian Health Facilities Provider Act. On April 9, 2021, Senator Moran arranged the first-ever visit of a U.S. Secretary of Veterans Affairs (VA), Denis McDonough, to a UIO at Hunter Health Clinic in Kansas as a part of a renewed partnership between the VA and UIOs and was instrumental in the enactment of the VA-IHS MOU legislative fix to allow UIOs to be reimbursed for services provided to veterans.

He also introduced the now-enacted Native American Veterans PACT Act to exempt Native veterans from copayments and co-sponsored the Improving Trauma Systems and Emergency Care Act – which included UIOs as eligible entities.

Senator Moran has taken many actions throughout his career on behalf of AI/AN people and we are grateful for his service.

Representative Teresa Leger Fernandez

From the time that Representative Leger Fernandez entered congress, she has been a fierce advocate for our AI/AN communities. As the Chair of the Subcommittee for Indigenous Peoples of the United States, she has been an influential voice on legislation impacting Indian Country. She was also a co-sponsor of the Urban Indian Health Confer Act and the NCUIH-endorsed Truth and Healing Commission on Indian Boarding School Policies Act and was a signee of the Gallego Grijalva letter to the appropriations committee to request full funding for the urban Indian health line item. Representative Leger Fernandez forties leadership that cares and expresses the values of human dignity.

Representative David Joyce

Representative Joyce has been a strong advocate in upholding the federal treaty and trust obligations to Indian Country. His commitment to urban Indians is most prevalent in his legislation as co-sponsor of the Urban Indian Health Confer Act, co-sponsor of the Stronger Engagement for Indian Health Needs Act which elevates the IHS director to an assistant secretary, and his leadership as the Ranking Member of the House Appropriations Committee’s Subcommittee on Interior, Environment, and Related Agencies which passed the Tribal Budget Formulation Workgroup recommendation of $200.5 million of urban Indian health for the FY22 bill. We are humbled by his generosity of spirit and compassion for his fellow human beings.

Honoring Congressman Don Young

NCUIH also honored the late Representative Don Young, who previously received NCUIH’s 2021 Urban Indian Health Congressional Champion Award. As the longest-serving member of Congress, Rep. Young was a long-time ally of all Native people and tirelessly worked on critical issues affecting Indian Country throughout his incumbency. His leadership on the Subcommittee for Indigenous People was unwavering when it came to upholding the federal treaty and trust obligations and its extension to urban Indians. He championed programs such as the Special Diabetes Program for Indians (SDPI) and led efforts to amend the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) to criminally prosecute offenders on Native lands, among countless other efforts for the betterment of Indian Country. His fierce leadership, voice, and dedication to upholding the trust responsibility to all Native people will truly be missed and remembered.

NCUIH Contact: Meredith Raimondi, Vice President of Public Policymraimondi@ncuih.org

Resource: Funding for Urban Indian Health FY2020-2022

The National Council of Urban Indian Health (NCUIH) recently released a one-pager showcasing the history of funding for the urban Indian health line item of the Indian Health Service (IHS) budget. This document shows a graph of the Tribal Budget Formulation Workgroup Request, President’s Budget Request, and enacted funding amounts for urban Indian health for fiscal years 2020, 2021, and 2022. Unfortunately, year after year, the Tribal Budget requests have gone largely ignored as evidenced in this resource. The graphs are intended to convey how far we need to go to begin meeting the health care needs of all American Indians/Alaska Natives (AI/AN).

View the resource

Urban Indian organizations (UIOs) provide a range of services for the urban AI/AN population and are primarily funded by a single line item in the annual Indian health budget, which constitutes about 1% of the total IHS annual budget.

The FY 2022 urban Indian health line item is currently just $73.4 million, which represents a 17.13% increase above the FY 2021 enacted level and the highest increase in the past 10 years. This amount, however, is insufficient and falls well below the Tribal Request of $200.5 million.

The Declaration of Nation Indian Health Policy in the Indian Health Care Improvement Act states that “Congress declares that it is the policy of this Nation, in fulfillment of its special trust responsibilities and legal obligations to Indians to ensure the highest possible health status for Indians and urban Indians and to provide all resources necessary to effect that policy.” Despite the trust and treaty obligation of the federal government to provide health care to AI/ANs, urban Indian health has been historically underfunded and insufficient to meet the needs of AI/ANs living in urban areas. Each year, Tribal leaders calculate the funding needs for IHS and urban Indian health, but these critical requests continue to be ignored by the federal government.

Resource: American Indian/Alaska Native Data on COVID-19 Document Released on NCUIH Website

The National Council of Urban Indian Health (NCUIH) recently released an infographic about American Indian/Alaska Native (AI/AN) Data on COVID-19 on the NCUIH website. This document shows the disproportionate impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic on AI/ANs and Indian Country’s success with vaccinations for the virus. Native communities face some of the harshest disparities in health outcomes of any population in the U.S. and are disproportionately impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic. The impact of COVID-19 on American Indian and Alaska Native health will continue beyond the pandemic. Loss of American Indian and Alaska Native lives—especially the loss of elders—means loss of Native culture, including language, ceremonies, and more.

View the resource

Disproportionate Rates of COVID-19 Cases, Hospitalizations, and Mortality Among AI/ANs

American Indians and Alaska Natives have infection rates over 3.5 times higher than non-Hispanic whites, are over 3.2 times more likely to be hospitalized as a result of COVID-19 and have higher rates of mortality at younger ages than non-Hispanic whites.

AI/AN Children and Orphanhood Due to COVID-19

1 of every 168 AI/AN children experienced orphanhood or death of caregivers due to the pandemic, and AI/AN children were 4.5 times more likely than white children to lose a parent or grandparent caregiver.

Indian Country Lead on Vaccination Rates

As of February 2022, AI/ANs have the highest vaccination administration rates in the U.S with 70.6% of AI/ANs having received at least one dose of the COVID-19 vaccine, according to CDC Vaccine Administration Data. As of January 2022, UIOs that use IHS vaccine distribution have administered over 164,095 doses of the COVID-19 vaccine and fully vaccinated 65,957 people.

AI/AN Food Insecurity and COVID-19

NCUIH Endorses Bill to Understand and Address Long COVID, Including in Urban Indian Communities

On March 3, 2022, Senator Tim Kaine (D-VA) introduced the Comprehensive Access to Resources and Education (CARE) for Long COVID Act (S. 3726). This bill would improve research on long COVID as well as expand resources for those dealing with the long-term impacts of the virus. Specifically, the bill authorizes $50 million for each of fiscal years 2023 through 2027 to fund grants to eligible entities, including Tribes, Tribal organizations, and urban Indian organizations (UIOs), to support legal and social service assistance for individuals with long COVID or related post-viral illnesses. Additionally, UIOs are included in outreach and research activities of the long-term symptoms of COVID–19 by the Patient-Centered Outcomes Research Trust Fund.

“The National Council of Urban Indian Health (NCUIH) is pleased to endorse Senator Kaine’s Comprehensive Access to Resources and Education (CARE) for Long COVID Act. The pandemic has taken a disproportionate toll Indian Country and the public health crisis continues to affect Native communities experiencing symptoms of long COVID. This bill is a step in the right direction to better understand the long-term effects of the virus and provide support for those suffering.” – Francys Crevier (Algonquin), CEO, NCUIH.

The Comprehensive Access to Resources and Education (CARE) for Long COVID Act is co-sponsored by Senators Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), Tammy Duckworth (D-IL), Edward Markey (D-MA), and Tina Smith (D-MN). The bill was referred to the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee. It currently awaits consideration.

This bill has been added to the NCUIH legislative tracker and can be found here.

Background

The COVID-19 pandemic has had devastating and disproportionate impacts on American Indians/Alaska Natives and continue to feel the lingering effects of the virus. This legislation aims to address this issue by:

  • Accelerating research by centralizing data regarding long COVID patient experiences;
  • Increasing understanding of treatment efficacy and disparities by expanding research to provide recommendations to improve the health care system’s responses to long COVID;
  • Educating long COVID patients and medical providers by working with the CDC to develop and provide the public with information on common symptoms, treatment, and other related illnesses;
  • Facilitating interagency coordination to educate employers and schools on the impact of long COVID and employment, disability, and education rights for people with long COVID; and
  • Developing partnerships between community-based organizations, social service providers, and legal assistance providers to help people with long COVID access needed services.

 

Senate Text of Bill

Senator Kaine’s Press Release

Bipartisan Group of Over Two Dozen Congressional Leaders Request Increased Resources for Urban Indian Health and Support Mandatory Funding for Indian Health in FY23

On April 26, 2022, 28 Congressional leaders requested up to $949.9 million for urban Indian health in FY23 and advanced appropriations for the Indian Health Service (IHS) until such time that authorizers move IHS to mandatory spending.

Reps. Grijalva and Gallego requested up to $949.9 million for urban Indian health in FY23 and advanced appropriations for IHS until such time that authorizers move IHS to mandatory in a letter to Chairwoman Pingree and Ranking Member Joyce of the House Interior Appropriations Committee. The letter stated that “this increase in funding is necessary to address health disparities in the American Indian and Alaska Native (AI/AN) population. AI/ANs are 3.2 times more likely to be hospitalized for COVID-19 and 2.2 times more likely to die from the virus when compared with white patients.”

This letter comes as a continued effort by the National Council of Urban Indian Health (NCUIH) to address acute health disparities for AI/ANs living in urban areas, who suffer greater rates of chronic disease, infant mortality and suicide compared to all other populations that have only been exacerbated by COVID-19. Congress has acknowledged these significant health care disparities in Indian Country, but continuously underfunds IHS at around $4,000 per patient, and urban Indian organizations (UIOs) at less than $700 per patient even though AI/ANs living in urban areas comprise over two-thirds of the total AI/AN population.

The Congressional leaders also stated their support for the President’s proposal of mandatory funding. The Indian health system is currently not shielded from the negative impacts of government shutdowns, continuing resolutions, and automatic sequestration cuts. Already underfunded, these disruptions can have serious consequences to UIOs’ ability to provide critical patient services. The letter states that, “until authorizers act to move IHS to mandatory funding, we request that your subcommittee provide advance appropriations to the Indian health system to improve certainty and stability.”

This Appropriations letter sends a powerful and straightforward message to Chairwoman Pingree, Ranking Member Joyce, and members of Congress that in order to fulfill the federal government’s trust responsibility to all AI/ANs to provide safe and quality healthcare, funding for urban Indian health must be significantly increased.

NCUIH is grateful for the support of the following Representatives:

  1. Ruben Gallego
  2. Raul Grijalva
  3. Don Bacon
  4. Nanette Barragán
  5. Shontel Brown
  6. Salud Carbajal
  7. Sharice Davids
  8. Diana DeGette
  9. Chuy García
  10. Sylvia Garcia
  11. Steven Horsford
  12. Pramila Jayapal
  13. Ro Khanna
  14. Teresa Leger Fernandez
  15. Zoe Lofgren
  16. Doris Matsui
  17. Donald McEachin
  18. Jerry McNerney
  19. Gwen Moore
  20. Eleanor Norton
  21. Tom O’Halleran
  22. Raul Ruiz
  23. Kim Schrier
  24. Terri Sewell
  25. Adam Smith
  26. Melanie Stansbury
  27. Greg Stanton
  28. Rashida Tlaib

Full Letter Text

Dear Chairwoman Pingree and Ranking Member Joyce:

We write to thank you for your proven commitment to urban Indian health and Urban Indian Organizations (UIOs) and to request you continue your support by funding urban Indian health at the highest level possible up to $949.9 million and supporting advance appropriations for IHS in the FY 2023 Interior, Environment, and Related Agencies Appropriations Act.

UIOs provide health care for the over 70% of American Indians and Alaska Natives (AI/ANs) living off-reservation and are an important part of the Indian Health Service (IHS), which oversees a three-prong system for the provision of health care: the Indian Health Service, Tribal Programs, and UIOs (I/T/U). UIOs do not have access to other federal line items that IHS and Tribal facilities do, like hospitals and health clinics money, facilities funds, purchase and referred care (PRC) dollars, or IHS dental services dollars.

Our FY23 request for $949.9 million for urban Indian health reflects the recommendation made by the Tribal Budget Formulation Workgroup (TBFWG), which is comprised of sovereign Tribal leaders representing all twelve IHS service areas. For FY22, the House accepted and passed the TBFWG’s recommendation of $200.5 million for urban Indian health, reflecting the minimum investment we must make in urban Indian health. The marked increase between the FY22 and FY23 request is a result of Tribal leaders’ decision, over several decades, to provide budget recommendations based on a plan to phase in full funding for IHS and UIOs over 10-12 years to address growing health disparities that have largely been ignored. In FY23, Tribal leaders are unified in their request to fully fund UIO need at $949.9 million.

In its report, the TBFWG states that “Due to historically low funding levels for urban Indian health, UIOs are chronically underfunded. Full funding of UIOs will directly benefit urban Indians that rely on UIOs to access culturally-competent care.” If urban Indian health funding continues to be funded at its current pace, it will continue to contribute to the severe health disparities. Due to this fact, we respectfully request the highest possible funding for Urban Indian Health up to TBFWG’s recommendation of $949.9 million, and no less than the FY22 House passed level of $200.5 million.

This increase in funding is necessary to address health disparities in the American Indian and Alaska Native (AI/AN) population. AI/ANs are 3.2 times more likely to be hospitalized for COVID-19 and 2.2 times more likely to die from the virus when compared with white patients. Even before the pandemic, the population served by UIOs and IHS was particularly vulnerable. Pre-pandemic life expectancy for AI/ANs was more than four years below the national average and re-occurring health problems are more acute for AI/ANs living in urban areas, who suffer greater rates of chronic disease, infant mortality, and suicide. Yet, despite the historical acknowledgement from Congress of the significant health care disparities in Indian Country and among urban Indians, IHS is underfunded at around $4,000 per patient, with UIOs receiving less than $700 per patient. In order to fulfill the federal government’s trust responsibility to all AI/ANs to provide safe and quality healthcare, funding for urban Indian health must be significantly increased. It is also imperative that such an increase not be paid for by diminishing funding for already hard-pressed IHS and Tribal providers.

We also support the President’s proposal to make IHS funding mandatory. The Indian health system, including IHS, Tribal facilities and UIOs, is the only major federal provider of health care that is funded through annual appropriations. If IHS were to receive mandatory funding or, at the least, advance appropriations, it would not be subject to the harmful effects of government shutdowns, automatic sequestration cuts, and continuing resolutions (CRs). When IHS is funded through a CR, the IHS can only expend funds for the duration of a CR, which prohibits longer term purchases, disrupts the contracts that allow UIOs to provide health care, and quite literally puts lives at risk. Because UIOs must rely on every dollar of limited federal funding they receive to provide critical patient services, any disruption has significant and immediate consequences. Until authorizers act to move IHS to mandatory funding, we request that your subcommittee provide advance appropriations to the Indian health system to improve certainty and stability.

We thank you for your consideration of our request to provide as high a funding level as possible for urban Indian health and the 41 Title V UIOs up to $949.9 million and to support advance appropriations for IHS in the FY 2023 Interior, Environment, and Related Agencies Appropriations Act.

NCUIH Endorses Bipartisan Bill to Make Indian Health Service Loan Repayment Assistance Tax-Exempt

On April 18, 2022, Representatives Gwen Moore (D-WI-04) and Tom Cole (R-OK-4) reintroduced the bipartisan Indian Health Service Health Professions Tax Fairness Act of 2022 (H.R. 7539). The bill would amend the Internal Revenue Code for payments under the Indian Health Service (IHS) Loan Repayment Program and the Indian Health Professions Scholarships Program to provide health care professionals who receive student loan repayments from IHS the same tax-free status enjoyed by individuals under other similar programs such as the National Health Service Corps (NHSC) loan repayment program. The Indian Health Service Health Professions Tax Fairness Act of 2022 is co-sponsored by Representatives Andre Carson (D-IN-7), David Joyce (R-OH-14), and Eleanor Norton (D-DC-1). The bill has been endorsed by leading Native American advocacy groups— including the National Indian Health Board, AI/AN Health Partners, and NCUIH.

“The National Council of Urban Indian Health (NCUIH) is pleased to endorse Rep. Moore and Rep. Cole’s Indian Health Service Health Professions Tax Fairness Act of 2022. This bill would assist with the challenges faced by Indian Country to recruit and retain quality health care providers by the IHS and at urban Indian organizations (UIOs). The entire IHS I/T/U system (Indian Health Service, Tribal, and UIO) struggles to hire the essential staff needed to provide culturally competent health care and to fill vacancies for physicians, nurses, dentists, and pharmacists.” – Francys Crevier (Algonquin), CEO, NCUIH.

“It is critical that Congress addresses health care provider shortages in IHS facilities, especially given they provide care to the majority of Native Americans and Alaskan Natives,” said Congresswoman Moore. “One way to reduce inequities facing these communities and combat this challenge is to exempt these programs from federal income tax requirements, which already exist for similar programs. This change will remove unfair financial barriers preventing IHS from filling crucial jobs and increasing staff retention and will help increase the quality of care for patients. With our bipartisan bill, we help Native Americans enter health professions and invest in the health of their communities.”

“To ensure the federal government meets its trust and treaty obligations to provide health care services to Native Americans and eliminate health care disparities, it is important to improve the ability to recruit and retain health care professionals in Indian country,” said Congressman Cole. “While IHS already offers scholarships and loan repayment assistance, making this assistance tax exempt, as it is for other federally-operated health care loan repayment programs, would be an important tool to help address the severe workforce shortages in Native American communities. I am proud to join in the bipartisan introduction of this commonsense legislation that supports tribal health and economic prosperity.”

Next Steps

The bill was referred to the House Ways and Means Committee. It currently awaits consideration. This bill has been added to the NCUIH legislative tracker and can be found here.

Background

IHS faces challenges with provider recruitment and retention. In 2018, the U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) released a report finding that IHS suffers from long-standing vacancy rates and faces ongoing challenges in filing provider vacancies. GAO estimated an average vacancy rate for physicians, nurses, and other care providers of 25%. To address this issue, IHS provides financial aid to qualified American Indian/Alaska Native (AI/AN) students through the Indian Health Professions Scholarships Program, and loan repayment assistance to health professionals through the IHS Loan Repayment Program. The IHS Loan Repayment Program (LRP) can help dedicated health professionals at Indian Health Service facilities, Tribally-Operated 638 Health Programs, and Urban Indian Organizations. The LRP funds IHS clinicians to repay their eligible health profession education loans — up to $40,000 — in exchange for an initial two-year service commitment to practice in health facilities serving American Indian and Alaska Native communities. Opportunities are based on Indian health program facilities with the greatest staffing needs in specific health profession disciplines. Under current law, amounts received from IHS are included in gross income for students under the Indian Health Professions Scholarships Program and for providers under the IHS Loan Repayment Program. The Indian Health Service Health Professions Tax Fairness Act of 2022 brings parity to IHS by excluding gross income amounts received under both programs and allowing for a tax-free status similar to other federal scholarship and loan repayment programs.

NCUIH has long supported this parity effort to assist IHS health professionals. In 2019, NCUIH endorsed Senator Tom Udall’s identical bill, the Indian Health Service Health Professions Tax Fairness Act of 2019 (S. 2871).

NCUIH President Elect Sonya Tetnowski Named to the Not Invisible Commission

The Administration has demonstrated a strong commitment to including urban Native communities in efforts to end the crisis of Missing and Murdered Indigenous Persons.

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

NCUIH Contact: Carla Vigue, Director of Communications, Events, and Community Engagement, cvigue@ncuih.org

WASHINGTON, D.C. (May 5, 2022) – Today, May 5, National Missing and Murdered Indigenous Persons (MMIP) Awareness Day, Secretary of the Interior Deb Haaland and Deputy Attorney General Lisa Monaco hosted an event to announce the U.S. Department of the Interior (DOI)’s Not Invisible Act Commission (Commission). The Commission is led by the Departments of the Interior and Justice and is aimed at reducing violent crime against American Indians and Alaska Natives. Members of the Commission include Sonya Tetnowski (Makah), the National Council of Urban Indian Health’s President-Elect and the Chief Executive Officer of the Indian Health Center of Santa Clara Valley. NCUIH supported the nomination of Ms. Tetnonwski who also serves on the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) Advisory Committee on Tribal and Indian Affairs.

“I am honored and proud to be appointed to the Not Invisible Act Commission. In this role, I will work hard to shed light on the devastating impact of violence against American Indians and Alaska Natives (AI/ANs) living in urban areas. Thank you to Secretary Haaland and Deputy Attorney General Lisa Monaco for this tremendous opportunity to represent American Indians and Alaska Natives who reside in urban areas,” said Commission Member Sonya Tetnowski.

“On behalf of all the brothers and sisters we have lost to the horrible epidemic of violence, I am encouraged by this Administration’s commitment to ensuring that urban Native people are no longer left out of efforts to find solutions to end this crisis. From the President’s Executive Order on MMIP to Secretary Haaland’s work on this Commission, we are grateful that our leaders are listening and focusing on Indigenous-led conversations that include urban Native voices like Ms. Tetnowski. We look forward to the day when we no longer fear for the safety of our relatives,” said Francys Crevier (Algonquin), CEO, NCUIH.

About the Not Invisible Act and the Administration’s Work to Include Urban Natives on MMIP Efforts

NCUIH worked closely with Congress on the Not Invisible Act, which was enacted in October 2020. The Act calls for the Interior Department to coordinate prevention efforts, grants, and programs related to missing and murdered Indigenous peoples. Secretary Haaland was the lead sponsor of the Not Invisible Act when she served in Congress. The bill was passed unanimously by voice vote in both chambers of Congress. The Act also established the Commission. Earlier this week, DOJ announced the creation of a Missing or Murdered Indigenous Persons Webpage (https://www.justice.gov/tribal/mmip).

On November 15, 2021, President Biden signed Executive Order 14053 (E.O.) on Improving Public Safety and Criminal Justice for Native Americans and Addressing the Crisis of Missing and Murdered Indigenous People (MMIP) during the White House Tribal Nations Summit. The E.O. states, “Given that approximately 70 percent of American Indian and Alaska Natives live in urban areas and part of this epidemic of violence is against Native American people in urban areas, we must continue that work on Tribal lands but also build on existing strategies to identify solutions directed toward the particular needs of urban Native Americans.”

About Commission Member Tetnowski

The following was included in a nomination letter prepared by NCUIH in support of Ms. Tetnowski:

Ms. Tetnowski will bring a deep understanding of the impact of violence on the health of American Indians and Alaska Natives (AI/ANs) living in urban areas to the Commission. As a board member of both NCUIH and CCUIH, Ms. Tetnowski is a leader in the provision of health and wellness services to AI/ANs living in urban areas. Violence is a key public health issue and is considered a social determinant of health (SDOH) and both NCUIH and CCUIH are committed to the reduction of violence of AI/ANs. Furthermore, as Chief Executive Officer of the Indian Health Center of Santa Clara Valley, Ms. Tetnowski has first-hand experience with the provision of health and wellness services to crime victims.

Ms. Tetnowski’s commitment to serving victims of violent crime is evidenced by her work supporting the Red Women Rising Project. The Red Women Rising Project works to uplift the voices of urban AI/AN survivors of domestic violence and sexual assault. It does so through increasing awareness around urban AI/AN women’s domestic violence issues and enhancing survivors’ access to domestic violence services. The Red Women Rising Project was formed as a direct result of the gap in resources and culturally relevant services dedicated to serving the needs of the majority of American Indian women created by the Tribal Law and Order Act of 2010 and the of the Violence Against Women Act’s lack of focus and resources for AI/AN women living in urban areas. As a member of the Commission, Ms. Tetnowski will bring key knowledge and experience about the impact of violent crime against AI/ANs living in urban areas.

Finally, Ms. Tetnowski’s unique background will contribute to the Commission’s diversity of experience, background, and geography. Ms. Tetnowski is a member of the Makah Tribe and grew up on the Tribe’s land on the tip of the Olympic Peninsula. As a Soldier in the United States Army, Ms. Tetnowski was stationed at both Ft. Lewis, Washington and Ft. Bragg, North Carolina and deployed in support of Operations Desert Shield and Desert Storm and Operation Uphold Democracy. She has served AI/ANs in numerous capacities including as the CEO of the Lower Elwha Klallam Tribe in Port Angeles, Washington, as the Executive Director of the Affiliated Tribes of Northwest Indians, Economic Development Corporation in Portland, Oregon, and as the Economic Development Director for the Makah Tribe in Neah Bay, Washington. Currently, Ms. Tetnowski works as the CEO of the Indian Health Center of Santa Clara Valley, in San Jose, California.

About the Commission

Among its mission, the Commission will:

  • Identify, report and respond to instances of missing and murdered Indigenous peoples (MMIP) cases and human trafficking,
  • Develop legislative and administrative changes necessary to use federal programs, properties, and resources to combat the crisis,
  • Track and report data on MMIP and human trafficking cases,
  • Consider issues related to the hiring and retention of law enforcement offices,
  • Coordinate Tribal-state-federal resources to combat MMIP and human trafficking offices on Indian lands, and
  • Increase information sharing with Tribal governments on violent crimes investigations and other prosecutions on Indian lands.

The Commission has the authority to hold hearings, gather testimony, and receive additional evidence and feedback from its members to develop recommendations to the Secretary and Attorney General.

Members of the Commission:

  • Bazil-Lu Adams, Officer, Yakima County Sherriff’s Office
  • Natasha Anderson, Nez Perce Tribe, Assistant Prosecutor for Nez Perce
  • Deidra Angulo, Sonder Mind Mental Health Services
  • Eric Broderick, retired physician
  • Ruth Buffalo, Legislator, 27th House District of North Dakota
  • Grace Bulltail, survivor or family member of missing or murdered person
  • Francisco Burrola, Special Agent in Charge for Immigration and Customs Enforcement at Homeland Security Investigations, U.S. Department of Homeland Security
  • Elizabeth Carr, Senior Advisor to the Director, Indian Health Services – U.S. Department of Health and Human Services
  • Kerri Colfer, National Indigenous Women’s Resource Center
  • Christine Crossland, Senior Social Science Analyst, National Institute of Justice – U.S. Department of Justice
  • Amber Crotty, Navajo National Councilmember
  • Jordan Dresser, Northern Arapaho, Tribal Business Councilmember
  • Michelle Demmert, Judge, Tlingit & Haida Indian Tribes of Alaska
  • Dale Fine, Jr, Special Agent, Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigation
  • Leanne Guy, survivor or family member of missing or murdered person
  • Jolene Hardesty, Michigan State Police, Missing Children’s Clearing House Analyst
  • Carmen Harvie, survivor or family member of missing or murdered person
  • Karen ‘Kari’ Hearod, Director, Office of Tribal Affairs and Policy; Substance Abuse & Mental Health Services Admin – U.S. Department of Health and Human Services
  • Don Hedrick, Chief of Police, Rapid City Police Department
  • Tamra Truet Jerue, Alaska Native Women’s Resource Center
  • Vivian Korthuis, CEO of the Associated Village of Presidents, Native Village of Emmonak
  • Hope MacDonald LoneTree, Deputy Commissioner, Administration for Native Americans – U.S. Department of Health and Human Services
  • Annita Lucchesi, survivor or family member of missing or murdered person
  • Jason O’Neal, Director, Office of Justice Services, Bureau of Indian Affairs, Department of the Interior
  • Gregg Peterman, Supervisory Assistant U.S. Attorney for District of South Dakota; US Attorney’s Office—U.S. Department of Justice
  • Kim Poyer, Section Chief, Victim Services Division, Federal Bureau of Investigation – U.S. Department of Justice
  • Allison Randall, Acting Director, Office of Violence Against Women— U.S. Department of Justice
  • Shawnna Roach, Investigator, Cherokee Nation Marshal Service
  • Delight Satter, Senior Health Scientist/Advisor to the Director for Center for State, Tribal, Local and Territorial Support – Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
  • Katherine Drake Schmitt, Deputy Director, Office of Victims of Crime – U.S. Department of Justice
  • Heston Silbert, Colonel, Arizona Department of Public Safety
  • Sonya Tetnowski, National Council of Urban Indian Health
  • Karonienhawi Thomas, Sergeant, Saint Regis Mohawk Tribal Police Department
  • Kristen Welch, Walking Women Healing Institute
  • Patricia Whitefoot, survivor or family member of missing or murdered person
  • Cord Wood, Captain, Oregon State Police
  • Daniel Yonkin, Detective, Montana Lake County Sheriff’s Office