Department of Interior Secretary Sally Jewell has presented Congress with the Department’s overall budget request of $13.4 billion for 2017, which earmarks nearly $3 billion for Native American programs — a $137.6 million increase above the enacted level for the 2016 budget. It asks for a $1 billion investment to support native youth education and $278 million to fund contract support costs.

Secretary Jewell stated that the budget expands economic opportunities for Native Americans and promotes responsible energy development. “It gives us the tools to help communities strengthen resilience in the face of climate change, conserve natural and cultural resources … promote a balanced approach to a safe and responsible energy development and expand opportunities for Native American communities,” Jewell said. “These areas are core to our mission and play a vital role in job creation and economic growth.”

In response to questions about the department’s priorities for Indian Country and tribal policy, Jewell identified education as being “critically important.” One-third of DOI-supported Native American schools are in “poor condition,” Jewell said, adding that the department has begun a pilot program within schools to train parents and provide youth programs to address deep, persistent issues that have led to an epidemic proportion of suicides among Native Americans. The proposed 2017 budget also strives to provide 100 percent support for contract costs with the Indian Health Service and other agencies to address concerns about funding shortfalls from tribes working to attain self-determination, Jewell said.

Congressman Raul Grijalva, D-Ariz. has stated his support for the proposed budget: “The budget requests that the secretary submitted would result in more than $10 billion in revenue flowing into the pockets of American taxpayers,” Grijalva said. “The request also includes legislative proposals that, if enacted by the Congress, would result in another $4.5 billion in revenue. In other words, if Congress just got out of the way and enacted this budget request, the department would pay for itself and have more than a billion dollars left over.”