March 12, 2009

Udall Initiatives Help New Mexico Native Americans Access Electricity, Housing, Transit

WASHINGTON- U.S. Senator Tom Udall, D-N.M., today announced that New Mexico's Native American communities will receive $12 million in funding through projects and initiatives Udall helped include in the omnibus appropriations bill the president has signed into law. The assistance will promote rural electrification, build housing for low-income families and help create a transportation system that will make future job creation possible.


"The federal government has a unique responsibility to America's first residents, and I am proud to say that this bill helps to meet that responsibility," said Udall. "With these resources, New Mexico tribes will be able to address the extremely difficult economic conditions in Indian Country and build economies that can continue to produce jobs in the future."


The omnibus bill includes more than $1.9 million for the Navajo Electrification Demonstration Program of the Navajo Tribal Utility Authority. This project provides for the rural electrification of homes on the Navajo reservation that lack basic electrical services, nearly 18,000 homes in total.


"In 21st Century America, it is unacceptable that families are deprived access to electricity," said Udall. "They face barriers that can prevent them from finding jobs, educating their children and keeping themselves safe. This worthy investment sends the message that the wealthiest nation on earth will not allow large numbers of its citizens to live without the most basic amenities of modern life."


The legislation also includes $950,000 for the Southwest Indian Foundation's Operation Footprint. The program builds houses on tribal land for low-income Native Americans.


"For too many Native American families, the American dream of home ownership is simply out of reach," said Udall. "Operation Footprint will help our Navajo citizens find a safe and stable place for their families."


Additionally, the bill contains $1 million for the Intertribal Bison Cooperative to help restore buffalo on tribal lands. The Consortium helps Native Americans offer a healthy source of food, address diet-related diseases and provide economic opportunities. Many of New Mexico's pueblo nations have buffalo herds that benefit from the tribes' membership in the cooperative.


"Many of the worst problems that Americans face-from childhood obesity to chronic unemployment-can be addressed in large part by solutions that are engrained in Native Americans' cultural heritage," said Udall. "This funding will help our Native communities improve their lives by relying on their own traditions."


In addition to funding of the Institute of American Indian Arts, this omnibus appropriations bill includes funding to help Native American communities from throughout New Mexico access the educational and cultural resources provided by IAIA. The bill includes $362,000 for IAIA to provide educational resources, particularly courses on teacher and grant writer training, enterprise development, preventive health and tribal leadership throughout the state.


"Students from tribes across the nation have long benefited from the Institute of American Indian Arts," said Udall. "With the added funding in this bill, more New Mexico tribes can directly benefit from this great cultural and educational resource."


The omnibus package also includes:


· $3 million for rural water systems on the Jicarilla Apache Nation.

· $700,000 for the Navajo-Gallup water supply project. The support will allow continued planning and environmental compliance activities for a crucial project that will provide water to the Navajo Nation, the Jicarilla Apache Nation and the City of Gallup.

· $237,500 for the Navajo Nation Transit System to expand services and routes within New Mexico, purchase replacement transit vehicles and construct a transit facility. The additional funding is meant to accommodate a growing population on the Navajo Nation with a growing need for public transit.

· $214,000 for the Na'Nizhoozhi Center to help reduce alcohol-related problems in and around Gallup.

· $190,000 for the Museum of Indian Arts and Culture's Center for New Mexico Archaeology to preserve the cultural legacy of New Mexico's Native American communities.

· $122,821 for the Navajo Nation Department of Information Technology's Connect Navajo program to expand broadband access on Navajo lands.


Udall also helped secure $3.5 million in funding authorized by the Esther Martinez Native American Languages Preservation Act. He helped pass this legislation through the House, and secured initial funding in FY08, to preserve and pass down Native American language and culture to younger generations. This is a $1.5 million increase over the amount Udall helped secure in FY08.


"Native American communities are the caretakers of a priceless cultural legacy," said Udall. "By protecting Native American languages, they ensure that the traditions and wisdom of America's native peoples are not lost. With this legislation, we are helping these communities to preserve their cultures so that all Americans can live in a more vibrant and diverse nation."