Salazar announces $500 million for tribesInterior Secretary Ken Salazar says $500 million in federal stimulus money will go to American Indian tribes for schools, housing, infrastructure improvements, loans and job programs on reservations. Salazar’s announcement on Saturday does not include funding for additional officers on reservations though it does in-clude more than $7 million for repairs and maintenance to tribal detention centers.
By: By James MacPherson, The Associated Press, The Jamestown Sun
BISMARCK — Interior Secretary Ken Salazar says $500 million in federal stimulus money will go to American Indian tribes for schools, housing, infrastructure improvements, loans and job programs on reservations.
Salazar’s announcement on Saturday does not include funding for additional officers on reservations though it does in-clude more than $7 million for repairs and maintenance to tribal detention centers.
He made his announcement Saturday at the United Tribes Technical College in Bismarck, after a private meeting with tribal leaders. The Interior De-partment oversees the Bureau of Indian Affairs.
Salazar’s news conference after the meeting was delayed and he took only a few questions from re-porters.
Afterward, he said fighting crime on the nation’s Indian reservations is “a very high priority for me.”
The Interior secretary, wearing a bolo tie and cowboy hat, said Indian Country faces serious challenges and President Barack Obama wants to help American Indians have a “new beginning.”
He said the Interior Department plans to invest at least another $2.5 billion in Indian Country, during the Obama administration.
Sen. Byron Dorgan, D-N.D., who chairs the Senate Indian Affairs Committee, said the U.S. government has not kept its promises to American Indians. With Salazar heading the Interior Department “it’s a step down the road toward keeping those promises,” Dorgan said.
Salazar, a Democrat, is a Colorado lawyer and rancher who resigned his U.S. Senate seat to take the Interior job.
Dorgan and tribal leaders have long pushed for more law enforcement officers on reservations to help curb violent crime. Dorgan said programs to provide law enforcement to Indian communities have consistently been underfunded and has called it a “national disgrace.”
Scott Davis, director of the North Dakota Indian Affairs Commission, said a long-term solution is needed to curb violent crime on reservations. He called it the No. 1 issue in Indian Country.
“Education and economic development are givens, but what can you do without a safe community?” Davis said. “We need a long-term fix, even after Obama leaves, or we’ll be right back here talking about the same issues.”
Salazar planned to visit several places in North Dakota, including an energy center on the Fort Berthold reservation and the Great Plains Synfuels plant to look at its carbon capture project.
The Interior secretary has been an advocate for wind, solar and other “green” energy projects. He said Saturday he is committed to developing a comprehensive energy plan that also includes conventional fuels.
Salazar also planned to visit North Dakota communities hit by flooding this spring. He made an early morning stop at the National Guard headquarters in Bismarck to visit with emergency workers who have been on the front lines of the flood fight.
Salazar called it a good example of “government working together.”
The Interior Department oversees about 500 million acres of public land, in-cluding national parks. The agency protects wild-life and endangered spe-cies and oversees development of energy resources.