In early February, Mr. Biden signed a major disaster declaration for the Navajo Nation to provide more federal funding to support vaccine distribution, medical staffing and resources. With the help of the additional resources, Mr. Nez said the tribe had been able to dole out 98 percent of the vaccine doses it was given.
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Mr. Nez said he would now like to see the administration focus on aging infrastructure.
“Our roads, our bridges, our water lines, our electricity lines: Here on the Navajo Nation, 30 to 40 percent of our people don’t have running water, 30 to 40 percent of our people don’t have electricity,” he said. “So if there’s going to be a major emphasis on infrastructure, we want Navajo Nation to get running water and electricity.”
Esther Lucero is the chief executive of the Seattle Indian Health Board, a community health center that serves more than 6,000 urban American Indians and Alaska Natives. Ms. Lucero said she hoped to see significant investment in the current public health system for Native Americans.
The Indian Health Service, based in Rockville, Md., and often referred to as I.H.S., consists of 26 hospitals, 56 health centers and 32 health stations. The hospitals range in size from four beds to 133. The Indian Health Service is broken into a dozen service regions across the country, each one serving tribes living in that area.
For decades, the agency has been underfunded, understaffed and routinely criticized for providing inadequate care to the 2.2 million members of the nation’s tribal communities. Its performance during the pandemic came under especially intense criticism.
“We have to put together an aggressive budget formula to get the Indian Health Service fully funded,” Ms. Lucero said. Providing additional funding to the 12 tribal epidemiology health centers, for example, is key to maintaining and tracking health care data about their citizens, she said.
The intersection of federal land use and environmental and energy policy is also at the heart of the tribal agenda for the new administration. Mr. Biden is facing calls to shut down the Dakota Access pipeline after a court ruled that the Trump administration broke the law when allowing for the its construction. It’s a move that would spell victory for the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe which touches both North and South Dakota. The pipeline crosses just north of the Standing Rock Sioux Reservation.