Security Issues Dominated Arizona Indian Town Hall
One of the primary issues in the Town Hall report released last week is that state tribes say they are not getting their fair share of homeland security funding and want their money send to them directly from the federal government rather than funneled through state officials.
“Going through the state is just another step, another requirement for tribes,” said Jack C. Jackson executive director of the Arizona Commission of Indian Affairs which hosted the Town Hall.
Some of the funds are funneled through country governments which create another level of negotiations for tribes. Some tribes have good working relationships with their counties while others do not.
“Tribes have a trust relationship with the federal government and would like direct funding for any federal programs, ”according to Jackson, one of the 100 Town Hall participants. “They should be able to decide how to spend the money”
Of the $158.7 million given to Arizona since 2000, $2.5 million has gone to the tribes. The 2005 allocation has not yet been sent.
Frank Navarette, Arizona’s director of Homeland Security, said tribes are better represented through a regional advisory council his office has created with a full-time tribal liaison.
The Tohono O’odham Nation controls 75 miles of the U.S.-Mexico border and spends $7 million from its tribal budget, annually, to deal with security and the destruction caused by illegal border crossers and drug smugglers. That outlay creates a budget crunch as the money is not spent on the tribe’s pressing social needs such as healthcare, housing and education.
The report stresses the federal government should not rely on tribes to fund national security needs. Tribes complain they are not well informed about security issues, federal requirements for funding or even threat levels. Jackson added that tribes were not aware of services, programs, or where to turn or who to turn too in case of a terror threat.
The report concludes that tribes need to be better prepared for wildfires, floods and winter storms. They need emergency plans that address special needs such as communications systems within “dead zone” areas where radios and cell phones do not work, assisting people with limited English skills and a mechanism in judicial matters for detaining and prosecuting non-Indians for identity theft on tribal lands.
This column has been edited for length and content from an Internet report and a July 21st story from The Arizona Republic bylined Judy Nichols.
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