WASHINGTON - Legislation introduced in Congress by Senator Claire McCaskill (D-MO) and Rep. Bennie Thompson (D-MS), if enacted, would economically suffocate America’s Native people by killing one of the only successful indigenous economic development programs in U.S. history.
According to the Native American Contractors Association (NACA), the ill-conceived legislation would deny Alaska Native Corporations (ANC) and Alaska Tribes Congressionally-promised opportunities within the Small Business Administration’s 8(a) program that, in turn, have provided millions in essential benefits to Native people. The bills would strip ANCs and Alaska Tribes – including those serving tens of thousands of individuals – of all their rights in the 8(a) program, diminishing their participation to the same level as individually-owned 8(a) companies. Such a move would effectively end opportunities derived from the 8(a) program to achieve economic self-sufficiency, and halt critical benefits that today are improving the quality of life for thousands of Native people.
“It is unequivocally clear that this legislation is designed to extinguish all hope and opportunity for America’s Native people,” stated Sarah Lukin, Executive Director of the Native American Contractors Association (NACA). “Terminating Alaska Native rights in the 8(a) program will halt benefits that are desperately needed to lift entire Native communities.”
NACA maintains that under numerous treaties and land settlements, Native people gave up the vast majority of their traditional lands worth trillions of dollars in natural resources in exchange for opportunities to achieve socio-economic self-sufficiency through access to programs like 8(a). NACA also stated the House and Senate legislation targeting Native people would set a dangerous precedent by terminating a core element of U.S. Federal Indian policy. Lukin argued, “Participation by Tribes, ANCs, and Native Hawaiian Organizations in the 8(a) program did not occur on a whim. Senator McCaskill and Rep. Bennie Thompson intend to eviscerate long-standing Indian policies without any Native consultation or consideration of the drastic socio-economic impact to Native people.”
NACA’s initial analysis of the House and Senate legislation shows that the bills would have a direct impact to not just ANCs and Alaska Tribes, but Native Hawaiian Organizations as well. NACA is certain that Senator McCaskill’s and Rep. Thompson’s attempt to end any hope of economic self-sufficiency of Alaska Natives and Native Hawaiians is expected to soon spread to attacks on Indian Tribes. In response, the National Congress of American Indians, representing and serving hundreds of Tribes across the United States, stood in strong solidarity with the Alaska Native and Native Hawaiian people by unanimously passing a motion last week opposing Senator McCaskill’s legislation.
NACA maintains that contrary to Senator McCaskill’s baseless statements, ANCs have returned provable value to ANC shareholders. According to the ANCSA Regional Economic Report, since the formation of ANCs, the Alaska Native high school graduation rate has tripled, inflation adjusted Alaska Native household income has risen by 50 percent and the proportion of Alaska Native people living below the poverty line decreased by roughly 50 percent. In 2008 alone, the twelve Alaska regional corporations distributed roughly $171 million in dividends. ANCs made contributions of $11.1 million to 3,200 recipients and endowments the same year. The Government Accountability Office (GAO) and the SBA Inspector General have each issued reports that provably show Alaska Natives are receiving benefits from ANCs. Additionally, academic studies by UCLA, the Institute of Social and Economic Research (University of Alaska) and Harvard professor Jonathan Taylor further demonstrate the positive impact of ANCs on Alaska Native communities.
Native Enterprises provide exceptional value to U.S. taxpayers. All contracts are negotiated and scrutinized by experienced government professionals whose duty is to represent the interests of the American people. What’s more, SBA Associate Administrator Joe Jordon noted before Congress in 2009 that it is “a misnomer to say there is no competition when it comes to 8(a) ANCs.” Mr. Jordon pointed out that “over $650 million was through 8(a) competition,” concluding that “to say that the government did not get the best value because [an ANC contract] was sole sourced is, or should be, inaccurate.”
“Congress must stop the destruction of Native 8(a) and demonstrate, through action, that it stands with Indian Country, Alaska Native Villages, and Hawaiian Homelands,” Ms. Lukin continued. “Congress must honor its commitment to support programs that promote economic self-sustainability for America’s indigenous people. With no Tribes in her home state, Senator McCaskill’s actions continue America’s disgraceful history of broken promises to our country’s indigenous people. We urge other Members of Congress to stand with America’s Native people and oppose this misguided legislation.”
The Native American Contractors Association (NACA) is a national Native advocacy organization based in Washington, DC. NACA represents and serves almost 40 Tribal, Alaska Native Corporations (ANCs), and Native Hawaiian Organizations (NHOs) across the nation on issues relating to the economic self-sufficiency of America’s indigenous people, focusing on our members’ participation in government contracting and the Small Business Administration’s 8(a) Business Development Program. NACA’s members represent over 475,000 Tribal Members, Alaska Native Shareholders, and Native Hawaiians.