U.S. Senator Martin Heinrich (D-N.M.) released the following statement after the U.S. Department of Interior (DOI) and U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) announced plans to improve tribal education and support economic housing development for Native communities. Part of the initiative HUD announced includes assistance for tribes that are implementing the Helping Expedite and Advance Responsible Tribal Homeownership (HEARTH) Act -- a bill Senator Heinrich successfully passed through Congress, which was signed into law in 2012.
"Our tribal communities have always enhanced New Mexico's rich culture and traditions," said Sen. Heinrich. "I'm pleased that the Department of Interior took these critical steps to improve quality education for Native students. Not only will this help prepare our students for a successful future, but it also helps preserve their rich heritage. I am also pleased to see the Bureau of Indian Affairs' commitment to facilitating the use of the HEARTH Act by tribes that are seeking to control their own land leasing programs. This is an important tool for tribes to be able to exercise self-governance over their lands and resources, and I look forward to working with tribal leaders who are interested in using this law to help homebuyers and business owners in their communities."
As a former member of the House, then-Representative Heinrich was the lead sponsor of the HEARTH Act, which gives tribes the option of approving trust land leases directly through tribal regulations, rather than waiting for approval from DOI. The Bureau of Indian Affairs announced a new training series to help tribal leaders implement the HEARTH Act in their communities to make it easier for tribes to complete the approval process.
The DOI plan calls for a restructuring of the Bureau of Indian Education (BIE) from being a direct operator of schools into a resource provider for tribally-controlled schools. DOI also released a Blueprint for Reform report, a comprehensive plan to transform BIE to help tribes deliver world-class education to their students.