Tribal Government & News

Council members meet Interior officials in Bend

10.28.2021 Dean Rhodes Tribal Council, Federal government


By Dean Rhodes

Smoke Signals editor

Tribal Council Chairwoman Cheryle A. Kennedy and Secretary Michael Langley traveled to Bend on Thursday, Oct. 14, to confer with Department of the Interior representatives who were visiting the state.

Unfortunately, Interior Secretary Deb Haaland, the first Native American to ever occupy a Cabinet post in the history of the United States, was unable to attend due to the death of her mother.

Assistant Secretary for Indian Affairs Bryan Newland (Ojibwe) and Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary Rachael Taylor visited southern Oregon to highlight conservation efforts, survey wildland fire damage and discuss the department’s support for rural and Tribal communities. Oregon Gov. Kate Brown and U.S. Sen. Jeff Merkley joined them.

The Interior Department contingent visited Cascade-Siskiyou National Monument and toured the site of the 2020 South Obenchain fire, which burned more than 30,000 acres and destroyed almost 100 buildings.

Department representatives and Merkley also traveled to Crater Lake National Park to highlight ongoing and future projects to make the park more accessible.

At Central Oregon Community College in Bend, Newland met with Tribal leaders to highlight the department’s work to strengthen the role of Tribal consultation in federal decision-making, support Indigenous resilience to the COVID-19 pandemic, combat the crisis of missing and murdered indigenous peoples and address the country’s dark history with the Federal Indian Boarding School Initiative.

“We did take the opportunity to talk about, in the bureau budget, the things that are lacking for our Tribe,” Kennedy said during the Tuesday, Oct. 26, Legislative Action Committee meeting. “I want to believe that they feel on open ears. The things that I talked about were public safety, fire management and establishing a line item for cultural recovery for all of the oversight in the trust responsibility area.”

“I talked about education because, especially in our rural community, education is really, really suffering,” Langley said. “It’s not just that, it’s an economic issue, it’s a mental health issue … there’s a lot of issues that are wrapped up in that. We think a lot of our urban schools, but they actually have way more resources than the rural schools right now. I think more attention needs to be paid to that and that’s what I was asking for.”

The next day, Newland and Taylor visited the Warm Springs Reservation, where they met with Tribal leaders and highlighted federal investments that the bipartisan infrastructure deal would make to local Tribal water infrastructure. The Warm Springs Tribe’s aging water system has led to an urgent need for investments in safe drinking water and sanitation facilities.

Newland said the infrastructure deal would make $250 million available to help improve drinking water quality and services for the Warm Springs Tribal community.

Interior representatives ended their Oregon visit on the Columbia River, where they discussed ongoing work to secure treaty fishing on the river and ensure that Tribal communities have the resources they need to fish along their ancestral lands and waters.