Agency Renews Commitment to Strengthening Partnerships with Tribes and Tribal Communities to Ensure Native People Thrive
WASHINGTON, Nov. 1, 2022 – Today, U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Rural Development Under Secretary Xochitl Torres Small announced that USDA is renewing its commitment to strengthen its partnerships with Tribes and Tribal communities and ensure Native people have access to the critical infrastructure and economic resources they need to thrive. Today’s announcement is one of the many ways USDA is observing Native American Heritage Month.
“During Native American Heritage Month, we celebrate the countless contributions of American Indians and Alaska Natives and honor the vital influence they have had on the advancement of our nation,” Torres Small said. “Under the Biden-Harris Administration, USDA Rural Development reaffirms our commitment to working hand in hand with Tribes and Tribal communities to create a bright future.”
USDA Rural Development Maine State Director Rhiannon Hampson said, "For thousands of years, Indigenous peoples have made their home on the land we now call Maine. Stewarded by many generations of the Wabanaki, People of the Dawnland, we now find ourselves collectively engaged in protecting and preserving our critical natural resources.
"At Maine USDA Rural Development, we are honored to help support the Wabanaki communities, tribes, and people through the delivery of our programs," Hampson added. "As we fulfill our role in uplifting all our neighbors, we want to specifically acknowledge the critical work that needs to be done in building trust and partnerships with our Tribal community members. Ensuring that the Wabanaki Tribes and Maine’s Indigenous peoples also benefit from the federal dollars invested throughout our state is critical to our mission here at Maine USDA Rural Development. We support the Biden-Harris Administration’s commitment to Equity, Diversity and Inclusion and are ready to do the hard work to benefit our neighbors and our shared home."
USDA is issuing a policy statement that recommits the agency to:
- Upholding the agency’s Trust responsibility to Tribal communities.
- Respecting Tribal sovereignty by protecting Tribal treaty rights and fostering economic and cultural prosperity.
- Engaging with Tribes through timely and meaningful consultation on USDA’s policies and programs.
- Reflecting on the shared and complex history between Tribes and the federal government.
The statement also calls for the Department’s Tribal Relations Team to develop, implement and institutionalize a Tribal Training program for Rural Development employees.
USDA Rural Development has many programs dedicated to achieving equity and partnering with Indian Country on economic development, housing, and infrastructure interests.
For example, USDA recently made historic changes to the ReConnect Program by setting aside a significant amount of grant funding with no matching funds required for Tribal projects serving Tribal lands. This development increased applications from Tribes and Tribal entities and caused additional grant awards for Tribal applicants.
USDA also recently reinvested in a pilot program to expand homeownership opportunities for people living on Tribal lands in South Dakota and North Dakota. Through this program, USDA provides capital to two Native Community Development Financial Institutions that will relend the funds to ensure Tribal members on several Reservations in the Dakotas have access to affordable housing.
To learn more about how USDA Rural Development works in partnership with Native Americans, visit www.rd.usda.gov.
Under the Biden-Harris Administration, Rural Development provides loans and grants to help expand economic opportunities, create jobs and improve the quality of life for millions of Americans in rural areas. This assistance supports infrastructure improvements; business development; housing; community facilities such as schools, public safety and health care; and high-speed internet access in rural, Tribal and high-poverty areas. For more information, visit www.rd.usda.gov.
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