Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto meets with Nevada tribal leaders
RENO, Nev. — Telling more than 500 representatives who attended the National Congress of American Indians (NCAI) conference last month that she and her staff do not hear from tribal leaders enough, Nevada Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto proactively shared her platform on Native American issues.
Cortez Masto served as a keynote speaker at the NCAI Executive Council Winter Session, which took place Feb. 12-15 in Washington, D.C.
“All too often, Indian voices are left out of the conversation,” she told elected leaders from throughout Indian Country. “A few months ago, I sat down with Native American staffers who work on Capitol Hill and they told me that one of their biggest struggles is the fact that members of congress just do not know basic information about our trust relationship with Native American nations.”
Having previously served as attorney general of the state of Nevada for eight years, Cortez Masto knows about the Paiute, Shoshone and Washoe people.
“During that time, I worked with tribal leaders to help them to keep their communities safe and prosecute crimes committed on their land,” she said.
Cortez Masto not only represents Nevada Tribes, but she is the first woman elected to represent Nevada in the senate, and she is the first Latina elected to serve in the Senate.
Further, Cortez Masto is on the Senate Indian Affairs Committee, as well as the Commerce, Energy and Banking committees.
“I am advocating for Indian nations in Nevada, and throughout the country, at the intersection of the issues that matter most,” Cortez Masto said. “One of my top priorities is to ensure that tribal leaders are empowered to make the changes they want to see in their communities.”
She explained that by helping the Shoshone and Paiute people of the Duck Valley Indian Reservation, that tribe is establishing its first public transit system in the area. The Sho-Pai Tribe received a $200,000 grant from the Department of Transportation.
“This infrastructure project will connect residents with health care and education services,” Cortez Masto said.
She also spoke of an Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) award of $4.59 million that went to 15 Nevada tribes to invest in their environmental programs.
“The funds will go towards promoting access to safe drinking water, modernizing waste management systems, reducing water pollution, and protecting natural resources on tribal lands,” Cortez Masto said.
She also mentioned that last summer, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development awarded over $14 million in block grant funding for Native American housing development to promote access to affordable housing.
“These resources are critical to improving the quality of life and ease of doing business
in Indian country,” she said. “I will continue to work with Nevada tribes to help them develop successful grant applications, and partner with my colleagues in the Senate to increase funding for projects like these.”
Stemming from her background as Nevada’s attorney general, Cortez Masto said that another top priority of hers is keeping Indian country safe.
She told the crowd that she signed on to the Native Youth and Tribal Officer Protection Act, a bill designed to build on the progress we made under the Violence Against Women Act of 2013.
“VAWA made it possible for tribal law enforcement to prosecute violent offenders who commit crimes on tribal lands, regardless of race.,” Cortez Masto said. “The bill I have co-sponsored extends those protections to women and children who have survived domestic abuse.”
She also reminded the Tribal leaders that she is focused on economic development,
especially in the renewable energy sector.
“Over the next 25 years, the solar power project on the Moapa River Indian Reservation. will provide power for nearly 100,000 homes in California,” Cortez Masto said. “I want tribes all across this country to be able to take advantage of the natural resources available to them, and to lead the way toward our renewable energy future.”
Lastly, Cortez Masto talked about her efforts to stave off the efforts of Secretary of Interior Ryan Zinke as he has targeted national monuments for review.
“Federal lawmakers have a sacred responsibility to fulfill the promises we made to Indian Nations centuries ago,” she said. “This is true not only for those of us who have tribes in our states, but for every member of Congress.
This article first published in the RSIC’s monthly newsletter, The Camp News, in its March edition, and is republished by First Nation’s Focus with permission. Visit http://www.rsic.org/rsic-newsletter to learn more.
USDA Rural Development Nevada State Director Phil Cowee said he is pleased to have the Washoe Tribe as one of 47 communities included in the national program.