February 24, 2009

Udall Projects Promote Native American Health, Education and Culture

WASHINGTON - U.S. Senator Tom Udall, D-N.M., today announced that legislation moving through Congress contains almost $5.8 million in funding initiatives to help New Mexico's Native American communities. As a member of the House of Representatives, then-Rep. Udall worked to ensure that the projects were included in the FY09 spending package. The senator currently sits on the Senate Committee on Indian Affairs.


"America has a special responsibility to ensure that our tribes receive the help they need in tough times and nowhere are times tougher than in Indian country," said Udall. "I am proud that the projects I requested for Indian Country are included in this bill and will help lay the groundwork for prosperity."


The legislation 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.


Said Udall, "I will not accept that the wealthiest nation on earth allows tens of thousands of its citizens to live without basic electricity. Lack of electricity makes daily life difficult and economic growth nearly impossible. The investments we make in this bill won't just put Indians to work now on high-paying jobs, it will remove a key impediment to building a strong economy on the Navajo Nation."


The bill also includes $3.5 million authorized by the Esther Martinez Native American Languages Preservation Act, funding for legislation Udall helped pass through the House, and secure initial funding in FY08, to preserve and pass down to younger generations Native American language and culture. 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."


Finally, the legislation includes $362,000 for the Institute of American Indian Arts distance learning initiative. The initiative gives Native American communities spread across New Mexico access to the IAIA's educational resources. It will focus on providing courses in teacher and grant writer training, enterprise development, preventive health, and tribal leadership.


"Every student should have access to a quality education regardless of where they happen to be born," said Udall. "Native Americans in rural areas have particular trouble accessing educational resources, and IAIA has a proven track record of reaching these areas. This legislation will help them do even more to help Native American students get the skills they need to succeed in today's workforce."