President Donald Trump announced that he had signed three bills "to support tribal sovereignty and native culture" in a tweet on Dec. 27.
Thank YOU Indian Country for being such an IMPORTANT part of the American story! I recently signed 3 bills to support tribal sovereignty....— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) December 27, 2019
It is the first time the President, known for using "Pocahontas" as a slur against a political opponent, has tweeted about legislation for Native American communities, according to Indianz.com.
The three bills include compensation to the Spokane tribe for the loss of their lands in the mid-1900s, reauthorization of funding for Native language programs and federal recognition of the Little Shell Tribe of Chippewa Indians in Montana.
For the Spokane, the compensation act comes more than half a century after the Grand Coulee Dam flooded more than 21,000 acres of their land. The bill orders the Bonneville Power Administration, an American federal agency based in the Pacific northwest, to pay the tribe $6 million per year for 10 years and $8 million each year afterwards in compensation for the losses of their land. However, the bill also prevents the Spokane from claiming a share of the hydropower revenues generated by the dam, which they were previously entitled to.
The Little Shell Tribe, based in Montana, has fought for federal recognition since the late 1800s, when treaty negotiations between the tribe and the federal government failed.
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"This has been a long journey for our people and I am proud that it is finally over. We have worked tirelessly in this fight and the United States has finally reaffirmed our existence. This fight has always been about the dignity, identity, and culture of our people. The Little Shell Tribe and its people have, and will always, persist and thrive," said Tribal Council Chairman Gerald Gray in a post on the tribe’s Facebook page on Dec. 17.
Meanwhile, the Esther Martinez Native American Languages Preservation Act, which became law in 2006 but expired in 2012, will be reauthorized, granting $13 million in funds to smaller groups of Native American students each year starting 2020 until 2024.
"The history of the United States tells us about the deliberate efforts to eliminate Indigenous peoples' languages and cultures through forced assimilation, boarding school forced attendance, treaties that have not been honored, and promises not kept," Arizona Rep. Raúl Grijalva, the chairman of the House Committee on Natural Resources, said during debate on the floor of the U.S. House of Representatives.
President Trump's relationship with the Native American community has been difficult, offending some with his use of the name "Pocahontas," that of a Native American woman associated with the colonial settlement in Jamestown, as a slur for Democratic presidential candidate and political opponent Elizabeth Warren. But in recent months, the president has acted on several issues that affect the Native American community. On Nov. 26 he created a task force to look into the crisis of missing and murdered women in Native American communities.
"We remain committed to preserving and protecting Native American cultures, languages, and history, while ensuring prosperity and opportunity for all Native Americans," the president said in a statement.