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I. Collection of Tribal Enrollment Count

Tribal Consultation Written Comments Received American Rescue Plan – Indian Affairs Appropriations

This is section 1 of 5 sections. Access the Full Comment Compilation Here.

Comments in grey box formatting were received after the comment deadline.

A.  Support

The Community is in support of utilizing tribal enrollment as a key factor in determining funding

distribution. Tribal governments best know their current enrollment number and can be relied upon as the most accurate count; rather than relying on outdated numbers from certain calculation from previous grant applications from prior years or the ten (10) year Census data. The utilization of the current tribal enrollment is the best way to ensure the equitable distribution among Tribes across the nation. (11-Ak-Chin Indian Community)

Curyung supports the Bureau in using self-certified tribal enrollment data and recognizes that in doing so, the Bureau honors our Tribal sovereignty. Curyung is opposed to the use of unreliable census data, imperfect program participant numbers or any other metric. (62 - Curyung Tribal Council)

My team has reviewed the DOI enrollment certification form and we approve it. The simplicity is welcome and it appears relatively easy to provide the information and transmit back to DOI. We also agree that the BIA regional office is the most appropriate agency office to collect this aggregate information. From the consultation call, we accept that the Freedom of Information Act and Open Data Act require transparency of the BIA and that BIA Director LaCounte plans to publish the aggregate enrollment data on line as well as share that information with other federal agencies. Given the data leak with the CARES Act, we request that the enrollment data be handled carefully and appropriately and that the federal agencies actually utilize tribally certified enrollment data in the funding formula under the ARP. (17-Fort Berthold)

AVCP applauds the decision to collect accurate tribal enrollment data, certified by sovereign tribal governments. However, we have reservations about the ability of BIA to collect and process, and tribes to provide, this information efficiently to allow ARP funds to be distributed quickly and equitably. In rural Alaska, many tribes do not have access to broadband and many tribal staff are still working remotely or on a hybrid schedule. The BIA has not provided information about how the allocation method will be used for tribes who are unable to provide an enrollment certification under this compressed time frame.  (66 – AVCP)

We support the use of a simplified form that is certified by the Tribal Chair or an officially designated Tribal Official for submission of enrollment data. We agree with using our Regional Offices to collect and aggregate the Tribal enrollment data in order to protect the data from unnecessary public disclosure.

  • However, we question whether the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests could be made to access data that was collected at the Regional level pre-aggregation. If so, this would expose Tribal data to public scrutiny despite the steps DOI has adopted to protect it. (67 - Jamestown S’Klallam)

The Walker River Paiute Tribal Council is constitutionally required to protect the health, safety and well-being of all tribal members. The Walker River Paiute Tribe serves all members, in addition to non-tribal family members, regardless of location of residence. Our membership exceeds the population allowed in the IHBG formula by over 700. Use of any enrollment data other than self-certified data would result in severe underfunding to the Walker River Paiute Tribe.  (68 - Walker River Paiute)

Tribal population, as measured by the total number of enrolled Tribal citizens for each Tribe, not Census Bureau data or Indian Housing Block Grant formula area populations. Tribal enrollment data are more reliable than data from the Census Bureau.

  • American Indians are the most under counted group in the U.S. Census. More than 80% of reservation lands are in hard to- count (HTC) census tracts. Nation Wide, approximately one-third of all Indian people live in HTC census tracts In states with large Indian reservations, like South Dakota, that number is even higher: 52.4% of Indians in South Dakota live in HTC census tracts- The Census Bureau has identified twelve factors that are associated with census undercounts, including unemployment, poverty, linguistic isolation, lack of a high school diploma, and lack of a telephone. A recent study of these factors found that on-reservation Indians are, and Will continue to be, ''very difficult to enumerate accurately'' for the Census Bureau.
  • In addition to problems with undercounting, Census Bureau data capture self-reports of racial identities and tribal affiliations. They do not accurately count enrolled Tribal members.
  • By comparison, Tribal enrollment lists are comprehensive lists of all Tribal citizens enrolled in each Indian Tribe. Tribal enrollment data can be obtained from each Indian Tribe and verified by the twelve (12) Regional Offices in the Bureau of Indian Affairs. (73 - Sisseton-Wahpeton Oyate)

The Department of the Interior's collection of tribal enrollment information; I trust that we will be able to get BIA that information as needed and appreciate BIA handling this for us. (78 – Coeur D’Alene)

The CARES Act reserved $8 billion from the Coronavirus Relief Fund for payments to Tribal governments and provided that the allocation of payments to Tribal governments is to be determined by the Secretary of the Treasury in consultation with the Secretary of the Interior and Indian Tribes. The Treasury made payments in 2020, based on population to all Tribal governments. For purposes of the payments based on Tribal population, Treasury referred to the Tribal population data used by the Department of Housing and Urban Development in connection with the Indian Housing Block Grant program. If the American Rescue Plan is to follow the same allocation to tribes based on population, we asked that the Tribes are allowed to submit updated enrollment numbers, and not use what the Department of Treasury relied on in the past. (77 - Kotzebue)

The Choctaw Nation fully supports a process to acquire tribal certification of updated enrollment data upon which to make ARP funding distribution decisions.  We do not have any recommendations on the draft form or process for the collection of updated enrollment data from Tribes. (23-Choctaw Nation)

The Native Village of Tuntutuliak…has the tribal enrollment data locally and can be requested through secure means. (26-Qinarmiut Corporation; see comments for more background)

Leech Lake Band of Ojibwe has no issue provided updating tribal enrollment data to the DOI.  As many other tribes have expressed, the most accurate tribal data available is collected and shared by each tribe. (33-Leech Lake Band)

MCN maintains a centralized database of tribal enrollment information that is updated daily and provides information to verified users. As a government, we are well positioned to provide accurate and timely information regarding our population at any time. MCN recognizes the importance of collecting and supports utilizing available tribal data to determine distribution of available federal resources. As such, the Nation agrees that the Department of the Interior (DOI) is the best repository of this information. Further, MCN supports the proposed form for submission and acknowledges that this information may later be available to the public under existing federal law. (80 – Muscogee Creek Nation)

B.  Oppose Because of Timing

We oppose using the tribally certified enrollment data currently being collected as the “population” data in any funding formula. We do applaud the effort underway to collect tribal enrollment data in a uniform process, but respectfully suggest it is too big of project to be incorporated into the ARPA distribution in the time available. We operate BIA services for most of our member tribes, but did not even learn of the collection process until the last few weeks. We are extremely skeptical that even a 50% response rate is achievable in Alaska in the short term. (60 - Bristol Bay Native Assn)

We do not support a lengthy process to collect tribal enrollment information that will delay distribution of the funding available to our communities. (65 - Cook Island Inlet)

AFN supports a tribally driven process to update enrollment data, but kindly asks BIA to pause this initiative in order to give the task the time and attention it deserves. BIA Should Pause the Collection of Tribally Certified Enrollment Data; Such Data Should Not be Used for ARPA Allocations.

  • While AFN fully appreciates that tribes could provide BIA with a more accurate count of American Indians and Alaska Natives throughout the country, and that tribally certified enrollment data would contribute to greater planning and decision-making within DOI—including how billions of dollars in federal resources (outside of ARPA) are annually allocated to tribal entities through contracts, compacts, and grants, we believe the timing and unintended consequences of this request for information outweighs the benefits.
  • Specifically, BIA is scheduled to disburse $1.75 billion in ARPA funds to American Indian and Alaska Native tribal governments within the next 60 days. This is a Herculean task. Having to develop and implement an educational campaign to procure updated tribal enrollment data while simultaneously allocating these funds will be difficult, if not impossible, even if tribes even agree to help with the effort. Larger BIA regions like Alaska, with 229 tribes, compared to Navajo, with just one tribe, will be especially disadvantaged in soliciting this information on the desired timeline. (see comment for additional justification) (69 - Alaska Federation of Natives)

BIA is scheduled to disburse $1.75 billion in ARPA funds to American Indian and Alaska Native tribal governments within the next 60 days. That is a very small amount of time to disburse such large distributions of funding. Having to develop and implement a strategy to implement and achieve updated tribal enrollment data during a pandemic while simultaneously allocating these funds will be difficult, if not impossible, even if tribes even agree to help with the effort. Larger BIA regions like Alaska, with 229 tribes, compared to Navajo, with just one tribe, will be especially disadvantaged in soliciting this information on the desired timeline, particularly since some tribal leaders only learned of this plan two days ago. This is nowhere near enough time for TCC to coordinate a satisfactory response to BIA’s request for updated tribal enrollment data within our Region, particularly in the midst of a pandemic – when the majority of our rural tribal communities within the region are still on lockdown and emergency services are on-going; the season is changing dramatically – making travel on thin and melting river ice very dangerous (ice roads on rivers and waterways are the primary mode of transportation in the region); and there is limited (or no) internet service in several villages within the region. This puts the 37 tribes that TCC provides support too, most of which are among the poorest in the nation, at a severe disadvantage in applying for and receiving ARPA funds.

For these reasons, and others, we believe federally recognized tribes would be better served if the Bureau placed this initiative on pause and focused exclusively on allocating the $1.75 billion in ARPA funds to American Indian and Alaska Native tribal governments. Additionally, these same reason show why the isolated tribal governments in Alaska are in dire needs of resources. After this task is complete, BIA can turn its attention back to updating tribal enrollment data, which TCC agrees is important. The extra time will allow the Bureau to solicit tribally vetted criteria for the certification form, the least of which must include uniform criteria for defining who is and who is not a “tribal member” and a corresponding audit function to fact-check this data, as well as a tribally agreed upon process for collecting and securing this information, and the permitted uses of such data. (83-Tanana Chiefs Conference)

C. Concerns About Public Availability

Some of our tribes view enrollment data as proprietary information and may never be willing to submit it to the federal government. Once this data is incorporated into a funding formula, it becomes public. (60 - Bristol Bay Native Assn)

Moreover, all of the tribal enrollment data that BIA collects would be publicly discoverable through the Freedom of Information Act9 and other federal statutes, and shared with other federal agencies. One can imagine how this information could be used to harm the economic, political, social, or traditional well-being of any federally recognized tribe who submitted the requested certification form to the Bureau. As such, AFN believes that American Indians and Alaska Natives would be better served if BIA placed this initiative on pause and focused exclusively on allocating the $1.75 billion in ARPA to tribal governments. After this task is complete, the Bureau can turn its attention back to updating tribal enrollment data, which AFN agrees is important. (69 - Alaska Federation of Natives)

Sharing or publishing Tribal data has often been a double-edged sword for Tribes. While there are benefits to agencies having access to Tribal data there have been numerous instances where Tribal data has been used by the agencies and Congress in a detrimental way that is harmful to Tribes.

  • We strongly oppose any course of action that could subject Tribes to future harm.
  • It should also be noted that Tribal enrollment data is not a fixed data point and will need to be updated frequently due to births, deaths, and other Tribal procedures for determining membership. Agencies have not faired well in the past when it comes to collecting and updating Tribal data. There should be processes and procedures in place to ensure Tribal data is current and accurate. (67 - Jamestown S’Klallam)

USET SPF understands DOI’s interest in collecting up-to-date enrollment information for the purposes of the distribution of certain portions of ARP funds.  However, recognizing this concerns the collection of Tribal Nation data, we defer to our member Tribal Nations for any guidance regarding the appropriateness of this action, including any personally identifiable information.  We do have questions about the public availability of such data, as well as unfettered access to said data on the part of other federal agencies.  There must be appropriate safeguards and oversight in place regarding the use of this data, particularly as it relates to the development of federal policy and funding mechanisms.  In addition, we caution against an overreliance on this data, as it is but one factor in the scope of Tribal governmental action and responsibilities. (32-USET SPF; see comments for more background)

The BIA draft Enrollment Form is ok, but, the Effective Date should be the date the Tribe signs the form, not February 1st. For example, Red Lake has several hundred new enrollees pending final Council action on April 13, 2021. These new enrollees should be counted!  (03-Red Lake Band)

Tribal Enrollment Data Collection form. Our tribal laws requires that release of tribal enrollment information must be done by the express written permission of the tribal council when such information is requested by any person or organization. We would like to see an option to have this done by resolution of the tribal Council. (70 - Yupiit of Andreafski)

If the BIA chooses to rely on self-certified enrollment data, the Nation urges BIA to accept enrollment numbers on the date the tribe submits the form to the agency instead of being backdated to February 1, 2021. Additionally, the Nation encourages the BIA to consider how land base may be incorporated into the formula, as tribal members living on remote tribal lands require more support from tribal governments, and providing services can be more costly due to the extra transportation costs involved. (57-Navajo Nation)

Tribes are trustworthy partners in the government to government relationship and may be counted on to supply accurate, updated information as needed.  A simple signed certification on tribal letterhead from an elected official should suffice.  Your agency's certified enrollment form threatening federal action under the False Statements Accountability Act is unnecessary and is insulting to tribal leaders.  We suggest you remove this statement immediately. (37-Citizen Potawatomi Nation)

E. Counts Provided

The Community has completed and verified the total number cited on the Tribal Enrollment Data Collection form, verified and confirmed by our Tribal Enrollment Department for our Tribal enrollment of 1, 119 as of February 1, 2021, certified by Community leadership. (11-Ak-Chin Indian Community)

Our [tribally] certified tribal enrollment count as of today, March 30, 202 1, is 1,431. (15-Asa’carsarmiut)

The Karuk Tribe has 3,734 enrolled tribal members and 5,050 enrolled descendants. (59 - Karuk Tribe)

Sac and Fox Nation signed the DRAFT Tribal Enrollment Data Collection agreement form, see submission. (64 - Sac and Fox Nation OK)

F. Other Comments Re: Enrollment Collection

Calista will assist the 56 Y-K Delta Tribes as requested to gather and self-certify their tribal enrollment data.

  • As DOI stated during the tribal consultation held Monday, March 29, 2021, any data collected is likely to be subject to requests made under the Freedom of Information Act. Additionally, with the data breach that occurred during the CARES Tribal Relief Fund (“TRF”) distributions, only non-sensitive information should be requested in this form. Should DOI determine sensitive data is needed for the finalized allocation formula, a secure portal should be utilized. Many Y-K Delta Tribes lack access to reliable internet and regular mail service.
  • Any requests for tribal information should give ample and adequate time for Tribes to obtain and submit the needed information.
  • Technical assistance should also be readily available to Tribes needing help with data submission. A dedicated technical service number should also be provided for Tribes to call in data submissions where internet is not a feasible option. (16-Calista Corp.)

The DTLL states that the tribal enrollment data is needed to ensure equitable and transparent allocation of the $900 million in BIA ARP funds, but it notes that the enrollment data is "also an important source of information for supporting equitable distribution of resources by Indian Affairs and other agencies" (suggesting that it could impact distribution of the ARP Fiscal Recovery Fund monies being handled by Treasury). The DTLL also states that Interior has attached a draft certification form for collecting enrollment information, on which it would like input; however, the form was not attached, but by separate email GTB received the attached form. No deadline for filing the form is provided. (20-Grand Traverse Band)

1. How will membership numbers affect the allocation if membership has been significantly increased after February 1? 2. Which parts of the funding will be allocated directly to the tribe and which parts of the funding if any do we have to apply for directly? The BIA infrastructure funds is this a portion that will be directly allocated or something we have to apply for?  (82-Picayune Rancheria)

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