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Trump Policies Toward Native Americans Discussed In Milwaukee

Wisconsin Leader Questions Proposed Federal Tax Law Changes

National Congress of American Indians, Native American, indigenous
In 2017, the newly-elected president of the National Congress of American Indians, Jefferson Keel, center, poses for a photo at the NCAI convention in Milwaukee. Chuck Quirmbach/WPR

The Trump administration is promising to help Native American tribes, but the new president of a multi-tribal organization says it remains to be seen how the administration will address the many issues that are of specific concern to native communities.

U.S. Department of the Interior Deputy Secretary Dave Bernhardt spoke Thursday in Milwaukee to the National Congress of American Indians convention. Asked about President Donald Trump’s vision for what the tribes call “Indian Country,” Bernhardt said, “Start with a great commitment to improve lives in rural America. That applies to all Indians and non-Indians in rural America. No difference.”

The newly-elected president of NCAI, Chickasaw Nation Lt. Gov. Jefferson Keel says the organization can work with Trump, if the president acknowledges the concept of tribal sovereignty.

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”About anything that affects tribal lands, tribal governments need to be involved in the consultation process,” Keel said in an interview. That applies to economic development, energy production or any other issue, he said. However, Keel also said he’s concerned about proposed Trump administration changes to health care and possible reductions in tribal lands.

Also at the convention on Thursday, a Wisconsin Native American leader said she wants Congress to do a better job of including the tribes in the debate over possible federal tax law changes.

Cristina Danforth formerly chaired the Oneida Nation. She’s now president of the Native American Finance Officers Association. Danforth says the current Republican tax overhaul plan leaves many questions unanswered, “including how they plan to avoid adding an estimated $1.5 trillion deficit over a decade, which most likely would mean deep cuts for federal programs that includes the benefits and beneficiaries in Indian Country,” Danforth said.

She said she’s especially worried about potential cuts to native health and education programs, and to the “New Markets Tax Credit,” which Danforth says helps economic development.

Republicans say their tax plan would boost business and job growth in the U.S.

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