[Senate Prints 117-13]
[From the U.S. Government Publishing Office]

                                                         S. PRT. 117-13




                               before the

                      COMMITTEE ON INDIAN AFFAIRS
                          UNITED STATES SENATE


                             FIRST SESSION


                             MARCH 10, 2021


         Printed for the use of the Committee on Indian Affairs 
    44-201 PDF                WASHINGTON : 2020

                      COMMITTEE ON INDIAN AFFAIRS 

                     BRIAN SCHATZ, Hawaii, Chairman
                 LISA MURKOWSKI, Alaska, Vice Chairman
MARIA CANTWELL, Washington           JOHN HOEVEN, North Dakota
JON TESTER, Montana                  JAMES LANKFORD, Oklahoma
TINA SMITH, Minnesota                MIKE ROUNDS, South Dakota
BEN RAY LUJAN, New Mexico            JERRY MORAN, Kansas
       Jennifer Romero, Majority Staff Director and Chief Counsel
     T. Michael Andrews, Minority Staff Director and Chief Counsel 
                            C O N T E N T S

Roundtable held on March 10, 2021................................     1
Statement of Senator Cortez Masto................................    10
Statement of Senator Lujan.......................................     5
Statement of Senator Murkowski...................................     7
Statement of Senator Schatz......................................     1
    Prepared statement...........................................     2
Statement of Senator Smith.......................................    14
Statement of Senator Tester......................................     5


Buck, Hon. Shelley, President Prairie Island Indian Community....    14
Carlo, Nikoosh, Ph.D., Founder/Chief Strategist, CNC North 
  Consulting.....................................................     8
Davis, Hon. Timothy, Chairman, Blackfeet Nation..................    16
Nelson, Hon. Charlene, Chairperson, Shoalwater Bay Tribe.........    19
Torres, Hon. Amber, Chairwoman, Walker River Paiute Tribe........    10
    Prepared statement...........................................    12
Quanchello, Hon. Craig Governor, Picuris Pueblo..................     6
Wong, Livingston ``Jack'', CEO, Kamehameha Schools, Honolulu, HI.     3



                       WEDNESDAY, MARCH 10, 2021

                                       U.S. Senate,
                               Committee on Indian Affairs,
                                                    Washington, DC.
    The Committee met, pursuant to notice, at 3:13 p.m. in room 
628, Dirksen Senate Office Building, Hon. Brian Schatz, 
Chairman of the Committee, presiding.

                    U.S. SENATOR FROM HAWAII

    The Chairman. We are going to reconvene for the purpose of 
a roundtable. I want to thank everybody for participating in 
person and for logging on.
    Today we are going to hear about the range of impacts that 
Native communities are experiencing due to climate change, as 
well as the solutions that they bring to the table. I am going 
to kick things off by asking the panel some questions in a 
minute, but first I want to go over the housekeeping aspects of 
how to participate remotely. Each panelist is participating 
remotely. Members will be able to see you on the WebEx, and 
they will be able to call on you accordingly. I would ask the 
panelists and the members to remain on mute until you are 
    Panelists should feel free to jump in at any time, even if 
the question is not directed at them. Just be sure and raise 
your hand physically, or raise your hand in the chat so that we 
can recognize you and make sure you are on the monitor for 
everybody to see.
    Please identify yourself as you start to speak, so that our 
court reporter can accurately pick up who is speaking.
    Now, for introductions. We are honored to be joined by Mr. 
Jack Wong, the Chief Executive Officer of Kamehameha Schools in 
my home State of Hawaii. Mr. Wong will be joined by Ka'eo 
Duarte, the Vice President of Community Engagement and 
Resources at the Kamehameha Schools. Welcome to you both.
    On behalf of Senator Murkowski, who has been called back to 
vote, they told her that her vote was not recorded for the 
record--I was right next to her and she did vote--we want to 
welcome Nikoosh Carlo, Founder and Chief Strategist of CNC 
North Consulting. On behalf of Senator Cantwell, we want to 
welcome Chairperson Charlene Nelson of Shoalwater Bay Tribe of 
Washington. On behalf of Senator Tester, I want to welcome 
Chairman Timothy Davis of Blackfeet Nation of Montana. And 
Senator Cortez Masto, are you on the WebEx?
    Senator Cortez Masto. I am here, Mr. Chairman. If you would 
like, I would absolutely be delighted to have the pleasure to 
introduce Chairwoman Amber Torres, of the Walker River Paiute 
Tribe in Nevada, along with Ms. Elveda Martinez, who is joining 
her, who is the Water Resources Coordinator for the tribe. I 
can't say how excited I am, and thank you for the opportunity 
to invite Chairwoman Torres to this hearing.
    I want to highlight something that most people don't 
realize. I am so proud of our tribal communities in Nevada. The 
Walker River Paiute Tribe has really been proactive in 
combating the effects of climate change. In 2018, the tribe put 
forward a thoughtful climate adaptation plan to outline the 
potential impacts of climate change on their community. The 
tribe was awarded a tribal climate resilience grant of $69,000 
from the Bureau of Indian Affairs.
    I am so proud of the work they are doing. This is why it is 
so important to continue to support our tribes across the 
Country. I am so pleased that they both could join us today. 
Thank you for allowing me to introduce them.
    The Chairman. Thank you, Senator Cortez Masto.
    On behalf of Senator Smith, we would like to welcome 
President Shelley Buck from Prairie Island Indian Community in 
    I believe Senator Ben Ray Lujan is on the WebEx to 
introduce his guest from New Mexico.
    Senator Lujan. Thank you, Chair Schatz and Vice Chair 
Murkowski for holding this important roundtable today. I look 
forward to hearing how tribes are combating climate change and 
what Congress can do to support their efforts.
    I want to introduce Governor Quanchello of Picuris Pueblo 
of New Mexico, a fourth-term governor of New Mexico's smallest 
pueblo, where he was born and raised. We will also be joined by 
Lieutenant Governor Wayne Yazza, and Les Rubin, who is the 
chief financial officer for the Pueblo.
    At the start of his fifth term he helped spearhead the 1-
megawatt solar project in which the community puts out 
kilowatts in a purchase power agreement with the local electric 
    The Governor served on the tribal council for the past five 
years and also established a charcoal production project with 
the pueblo's forestry program that recycles timber from forest 
projects into an economic development resource.
    I very much appreciate Governor Quanchello being available 
today and look forward to his testimony.
    The Chairman. Thank you very much.
    I want to jump right into it. I have some opening remarks. 
I will submit them for the record.
    The prepared statement of Senator Schatz follows:]

   Prepared Statement of Hon. Brian Schatz, U.S. Senator from Hawaii
    Good afternoon. Welcome to today's roundtable. Thanks to everyone 
for participating and logging on.
    Today, we're going to hear about the range of impacts Native 
communities are experiencing due to climate change, as well as the 
solutions they are bringing to the table.
    I'll kick things off by asking the panel some questions in a 
minute, but first I want to go over some housekeeping matters on how to 
participate remotely.
    Each panelist is participating remotely today, so Members will be 
able to see you on Webex and call on you accordingly. I would ask that 
panelists remain on mute until you are recognized.
    Panelists should feel free jump in at any time, even if the 
question is not directed to them. Just be sure to raise your hand so we 
can recognize you and make sure you're on the monitor for everyone to 
    Please also identify yourself as you start to speak, so that our 
court reporter accurately picks up who is speaking.
    Now, for introductions.
    We are honored to be joined by Mr. Jack Wong, the Chief Executive 
Officer of Kamehameha Schools in my home state of Hawaii. Mr. Wong will 
be joined by Kaeo Duarte, the Vice President of Community Engagement 
and Resources at Kamehameha Schools. Welcome to you both.
    I will now recognize other Members to introduce their witnesses.
    Turning to today's discussion--this roundtable is designed for 
Native communities to share their perspectives on the climate crisis. 
We know that Native communities are experiencing disproportionate, 
adverse impacts resulting from contaminated air, land and water 
generally. But we want to hear about the actions your communities are 
taking to respond and adapt to climate change. And learn from your 
knowledge and experience to help shape the nation's response.
    I am particularly interested in the panel's input in three areas: 
the leadership role Native communities are taking in response to 
climate change; the costs of inaction; and what Congress and the Biden 
Administration can do to respond to the unique climate needs of Native 
    Before I begin, I would like to recognize the Vice Chairman for any 
opening thoughts she may have.
    With that, let me start with a few questions to get the discussion 

    The Chairman. I want to jump right into the questions. Of 
course, my first question is for Mr. Wong. I want to thank you 
for logging on, and I want to thank you for your good work.
    This is a question I want to put to the whole panel. The 
climate problem is described primarily as a problem for people 
in Washington to solve, and for others to kind of suffer 
through, right? And for us to address the disproportionate 
impacts it is going to have in vulnerable communities, 
including Native communities. Fair enough; I think that is a 
fair enough way to look at things.
    But I am more interested in what we on this panel and what 
we in this Congress can learn from Native communities in terms 
of resource management, not just adaptation to climate change, 
but developing solutions in the direction of climate action.
    So Mr. Wong, how is the use of traditional knowledge being 
used to develop climate mitigation and resilience strategies in 
Hawaii? After Mr. Wong, I will go down the line of the 

                        BY KA'EO DUARTE

    Mr. Wong. Aloha mai kakou. Thank you, Chair Schatz and Vice 
Chair Murkowski, and members of this Committee, for allowing us 
to be here.
    As a Native Hawaiian educational organization and 
landowner, we have a deep kinship to our island, for our lands, 
our ecosystems, our cultural resources, our water resources. 
Through our genealogy, we believe we have inherited the 
responsibility to ensure the health and vitality of our 
islands. That health and vitality directly impacts the health 
and vitality of our people, our children, and our students.
    In the face of climate change, Native Hawaiian people face 
grave threats to our island homes. Climate change for us 
impacts our coastal near-shore waters, impacts our terrestrial 
lands, our weather patterns, our economic and social systems, 
and cultural resources. Most importantly, it impacts our way of 
life and in many ways our very identity.
    Through our collective action, though, we have found that 
our people have successfully demonstrated our ability to come 
together, plan and implement culturally-driven, using 
traditional culture and knowledge, to come up with climate 
    I would like to introduce Ka'eo Duarte, who runs our 
community on AINA resiliency part of our organization to really 
share some examples.
    Mr. Duarte. Aloha to Chair Schatz, Vice Chair Murkowski and 
to the other esteemed Native leaders and representatives. Much 
aloha to you from Hawaii.
    To what Jack said, climate change is affecting and will 
continue to affect individual communities and ecosystems in 
very different ways. So solutions need to be place-based at the 
local level. This is where climate policy and plans hit the 
ground, this is where the rubber meets the road. Because 
indigenous people have longstanding generational and 
genealogical connections to specific environments, to place, we 
are most equipped to develop and implement innovative 
mitigation and resilience activities.
    To give you an example of what this looks like on the 
ground, in a place called Kahalu'u, 15 minutes down the road 
from where I am sitting, the Native Hawaiians of this place 
have large declines in our Native fisheries, our primary 
traditional food source. Such food insecurity contributes to 
reliance on imported goods, they obviously have a larger carbon 
footprint. It increases our community vulnerability to climate 
related, pandemic related and other disasters.
    So to address this community with ourselves as the 
landowner, developers, government agencies and other 
stakeholders created a plan to let the place rest, let the 
species recover. During this period, community members engaged 
in traditions and practices of people of that specific place to 
both observe and record species recovery and threats such as 
coral bleaching which is a serious issue for us here in Hawaii.
    It worked; it worked even better than imagined. It worked 
better than other marine managed areas around the State of 
Hawaii. And the species are recovering faster than expected.
    Now the community, with government and researchers and 
scientists are developing a long-term plan rooted in indigenous 
values and importantly, incorporating the knowledge of the 
people of that place.
    So kind of in a nutshell, trusting and relying upon the 
local Native community to co-develop and implement placed-based 
solutions works. We believe it is especially relevant to 
climate action and we encourage Congress to support this kind 
of collaboration and investment in Native community 
    The Chairman. I want to thank you both of you for your 
testimony, and say aloha to you guys. It has been a while since 
I have been home. I miss you; I miss Hawaii. Thank you for your 
    I am going to forego sending it down to the panel, because 
there are so many members who want to ask questions. But I just 
wanted to flag for staff and everybody who is thinking about 
the next steps in climate action to really listen carefully to 
what is being said here, that climate solutions are not 
exclusively found in spreadsheets or in tax credits or in 
incentives or even in the regulatory area. It is in the actual 
physical restoration of the land and the water and our streams 
and our lakes. That Native wisdom has to be incorporated into 
any climate policy that we have.
    With that, I will turn it over to Senator Jon Tester.

                 STATEMENT OF HON. JON TESTER, 
                   U.S. SENATOR FROM MONTANA

    Senator Tester. Thanks, Chairman Schatz. I am glad you 
prefaced what I am going to say with what you just said. I have 
an incredible appreciation for the Native Americans' grasp of 
Mother Earth, and their ability to do things that, as you said, 
may not be on a spreadsheet or a tax credit, but they are the 
right thing to do for the health of the earth.
    In that regard, I want to introduce today Chairman Davis, 
who is Chairman of the Blackfeet Tribe. Blackfeet Country 
extends from the Canadian line down, borders the east side of 
Glacier National Park. Even though I know that Chairman Davis 
would love to be with us today, he joins us virtually from 
Browning, Montana. He has been a great leader for the Blackfeet 
Nation. Under his leadership, he has led the way, the Blackfeet 
Nation has led the way in responding to climate change.
    Over the past few years, the Blackfeet Nation has assessed 
the impacts of climate change on their reservation and 
developed an adaptation plan to ensure the continued health of 
their people and their lands. The plan is a living document, so 
it speaks to the community and they will continue to update it 
as their needs hand priorities expand and grow.
    I work with Chairman Davis on everything from protecting 
sacred lands to building out water infrastructure in Blackfeet 
Country, all efforts that are part of the community's climate 
change response. I am eager to continue this work.
    I believe we have a great deal to learn from Native 
Americans about responding to climate change and how we do it 
in a commonsense way. So I look forward to hearing from 
Chairman Davis, and I appreciate any comments the rest of the 
panelists make today.
    Thank you, Chairman Schatz.
    The Chairman. Thank you very much, Senator Tester.
    Senator Lujan.

                  U.S. SENATOR FROM NEW MEXICO

    Senator Lujan. Thank you very much, Mr. Chairman.
    Governor Quanchello, thank you for joining us today. What 
you have done at Picuris Pueblo by providing the portable solar 
energy to members of the public and surrounding community is 
truly extraordinary. Currently, 50 percent of American 
households or businesses do not have access to rooftop solar. 
That is why last Congress I introduced the Community Solar 
Consumer Choice Act, to encourage greater adoption of community 
    Governor Quanchello, why did the Pueblo choose community 
solar as a model for your energy needs?

                    ACCOMPANIED BY LES RUBIN

    Mr. Quanchello. Picuris chose solar, as being in a rural 
setting and having been the smallest pueblo in New Mexico, 
being located in northern New Mexico, and being part of the 
poorest part of Taos County and seeing the climate change. We 
tend to see more sun and less moisture.
    With that said, and being able to harness the sun, it is 
two-thirds cheaper than electricity. Also, we wanted to provide 
a means, a mechanism for our tribal members, instead of a 
handout or instead of funds or stuff like that, this is 
something that could offset the community's utility costs, and 
it is something that everybody, it happens, it is a necessity. 
Being in northern New Mexico and not having access to natural 
gas and having to do propane and a high rate electricity to 
heat our homes, we felt that solar would be our best bet.
    And number one, how could we offset our utility bills. This 
is a means, a mechanism to do that. We have successfully done 
that now for going on about two years.
    Senator Lujan. Governor Quanchello, as the Biden 
Administration looks toward greater action on climate, why is 
it important that pueblos, tribes and indigenous communities 
have fair and equitable access to programs that combat climate 
change and promote clean energy?
    Mr. Quanchello. Senator, members of the Committee, 
Chairman, being stewards of the land and Mother Earth, we felt 
that it is in our best interests and the best interests of 
those around us because we all see climate change happening. It 
is happening every day. But we are not acknowledging that. And 
we wanted to do our small footprint to help better be stewards 
of the land in any way that we can.
    Senator Lujan. Governor Quanchello, can you share some of 
the lessons you have learned from implementing the Picuris 
community solar project that other pueblos, tribes, and 
indigenous communities can learn from?
    Mr. Quanchello. Senator, and members of the Committee, some 
of the things that we learned about this project have been, 
kind of what we are seeing now with Texas and all these areas 
is that we need to be able to harness our own power. Being in a 
rural setting it is vital that we have electricity. Because a 
lot of people forget that in an emergency situation, we can't 
call the ambulance. With no power, we can't call emergency 
services here in a rural setting.
    So we needed to find a mechanism which would allow us to be 
able to get the same, if not better, coverage than everybody 
else and have equal to everybody else when it comes to 
emergency services.
    I will have Les Rubin respond to that as well.
    Mr. Rubin. Thank you, Senator. In the process of us having 
our first megawatt system, we have had many, many tribes from 
New Mexico and the Southwest come through. One of the lessons 
is that there is a cooperative and collaborative relationship 
with our local co-op utility.
    Many of the tribes expressed, first of all, that 
cooperative opportunity occurred, Kit Carson co-op removed 
themselves from Tri-State which has a whole different 
philosophy in regard to a model that was using fossil fuels, 
not renewable energy. So when they removed themselves from Tri-
State and went on their own with a renewable energy philosophy 
and models, we immediately then partnered with them.
    But one of the feedbacks to the Committee is, there is a 
great deal of problems with utility companies. With the proper 
research by the Committee, if you can open that up in regard to 
the ability for tribes to then go on their own or have a 
collaborative relationship, that would be very helpful. Because 
there is friction there between creating community solar and 
the utility companies.
    Senator Lujan. Governor, I thank you and your team so much.
    Chair, I will yield back as I share with everyone that this 
project has been so successful that I understand Picuris Pueblo 
is also working on a second micro-grid solar array. It is going 
to be important for us to understand how the Department of 
Energy Office of Indian Energy Support has been instrumental to 
these projects and how we can improve that.
    Governor, thank you so much, and Mr. Chair, I yield back 
the balance of my time.
    The Chairman. Senator Murkowski.

                    U.S. SENATOR FROM ALASKA

    Senator Murkowski. Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
    I just want to comment on our colleague's observation about 
the micro-grids and Office of Indian Energy. We certainly see 
that play out in Alaska. I think there is much more potential 
that we have within that particular agency.
    I want to thank you, Mr. Chairman, for having this 
roundtable, and thank you to all the participants. I know that 
in Alaska we have certainly seen how resiliency and innovation 
have really helped in our rural areas, helped our Native people 
as they are experiencing the impact of climate change in a very 
real and oftentimes very personal way.
    Earlier this year, there was a family in Chefornak, which 
is a village on the Yukon Kuskokwim, and they were forced to 
evacuate because there was a sinkhole caused by thawing 
permafrost that opened up underneath the home there. That is 
pretty direct. That is pretty personal to your family.
    We are seeing the impact of coastal erosion on several 
dozen Alaska Native villages. We are seeing wildlife migration 
patterns that are changing, and thus the impact to subsistence 
resources and food security. Our subsistence hunters have seen 
unusual mortality events for certain seal populations. Bowhead 
whales are moving further offshore. Again, significant impact 
to our Native people when it comes to food security.
    Dr. Carlo, first of all, thank you for being part of the 
roundtable discussion. More importantly, just thank you for 
your leadership in so many different areas, both in our State 
and more broadly on the national scale. I want to ask about the 
communities that I mentioned, I said roughly a couple dozen 
communities are threatened by coastal erosion. The estimated 
need for these environmentally threatened communities is about 
$4.3 billion to address climate change impacts on 
infrastructure, at least another $2 billion needed to protect 
tribal infrastructure in the lower 48.
    As it relates, though, to those villages where we know that 
the threat to the community is real and requires action, I have 
been out to Newtok, which is literally sinking and washing 
away. Fortunately, that community is in the process of moving. 
I have been over to the new site, Mertarvik. It is testimony 
to, again, you want to talk about resilience, but also the 
difficulties in relocation and the expense.
    The Newtock village council navigated multiple Federal and 
State agencies to obtain funding and implement design, 
engineering, and construction. It has been a challenge. This is 
just one, this is just one of dozens of villages.
    So the question to you is, what can we in Congress do to 
better facilitate, to be working with the Administration to 
provide for more clear policy in terms of directive to Federal 
agencies, in collaborating with tribes as they are facing 
climate change issues and adaptation, but also to help them 
identify agency resources, specifically related to 
infrastructure development and need? If you can speak kind of 
generally to that. I know it is an issue for us in Alaska, but 
I also know that it is a broader issue throughout the Country.

                      CNC NORTH CONSULTING

    Dr. Carlo. Thank you very much, Senator, members of the 
    I first want to acknowledge that I am joining from the 
traditional lands of the Duwamish people, that is where I live 
and work. I was born and raised in the interior region of 
Alaska, in Fairbanks and in the village of Tama, which is on 
the confluence of the Tama and the Yukon River.
    I have a couple of points to make, some numbers to really 
highlight. In 2009, the Federal Government identified 31 
villages that were environmentally threatened due to increasing 
rates of coastal erosion and thawing permafrost. In 2019, in a 
statewide threat assessment, there were 144 environmentally 
threatened communities that needed to consider things like 
whether or not they were going to retreat, relocate, or protect 
in place. So this is a problem that we are all aware of, but it 
is going to grow, it is not just going to be Alaska. It is 
going to be across the United States.
    We know that through, after 25 years of persistence and 
planning, some residents of Newtok moved to their new village 
location of Mertarvik last year. That took an incredible amount 
of resources.
    So funding is one of those critical, critical questions and 
things to solve. We can look to existing programs in the 
Federal Government that are providing some of those funds now 
and ensuring they have the support they need, like the BIA 
Tribal Resilience Program. I think another panelist already 
mentioned that funding source. And much of that funding 
provides assistance for technical reports, [indiscernible] and 
vulnerability assessments, which are really critical to having 
that proactive long-term vision and approach to communities' 
response to climate change.
    Along those same lines, look at places or agency programs 
that exist that relate to resilience, building resiliency and 
climate response, and ensuring that there is a tribal component 
of those programs to help support local communities. And then 
really quickly, I will touch on the important of ensuring 
consistent and stable funding for this proactive climate 
adaptation. So stable, long-term, how do you build those types 
of resources, critically important in the short term and also 
in the long term for community safety and to ensure we are not 
in a position of responding once something has already happened 
and the consequences are even more dire.
    Lastly, I will quickly mention the need to increase cross-
agency, Federal agency coordination but also agency 
coordination at the State level and the Federal level and with 
tribal governments to ensure that there are those voices from 
the local level as part of the decision-making process. You can 
point to a couple of examples of where that has worked and 
places where we might to strengthen that. There is our 
executive steering committee that was formed to look 
specifically at our [indiscernible] issues and consider how to 
better equitably include tribes and indigenous peoples in that 
    There is also the White House Council on Native American 
Affairs, again, putting more resources and empowering them to 
provide that cross-agency coordination and communication.
    Senator Murkowski. I appreciate what you said there, 
particularly at the end, in recognizing the involvement of 
those that are most affected, those that are on the ground, the 
local knowledge, if you will. Far too often, I think we see 
government efforts to address, whether it is climate change, or 
whatever the initiative may be, developed by people who are 
outside of Alaska, more often than not back here in Washington, 
D.C., far from the communities that are impacted. So your input 
on that is important.
    You mentioned the cross-agency coordination. I think about 
the example of Newtok and the new community of Mertarvik. Some 
who are in a position where they are looking to also relocate 
are saying, well, that is the example, and they were able to do 
it, so we are next on the drawing board, without recognizing 
that it has been a decade-plus in the making. You mentioned the 
cross-agency coordination involving every agency out there, 
including the Department of Defense through the IRT.
    So it is an example of how it needs to be all knit together 
but also how challenging that is when you are a small village 
out in southwest Alaska, without a lot of resources to begin 
with, much less navigating a Federal bureaucracy, it is 
extraordinarily difficult.
    Final point that I would make on this is your point to 
ensuring that we are looking to the long term. Again, Newtok-
Mertarvik is yet another example, finding pots of money to be 
able to tap in, do one aspect of the project, but not really 
knowing where you are going to get the resources for next year 
to keep it going. This has been a challenge and a struggle that 
has added to the cost.
    There is no longer-term strategy. I think when you have no 
longer-term strategy for funding, it just of its own nature 
becomes that much more complicated, and ultimately more 
expensive. So these are some policy considerations that we need 
to be looking to.
    Dr. Carlo, I really appreciate what you have shared for the 
Committee. I will have a couple of other questions but I know 
that other members would like to weigh in here as well, Mr. 
    The Chairman. Senator Cortez Masto.

                    U.S. SENATOR FROM NEVADA

    Senator Cortez Masto. Thank you, Mr. Chairman, thank you, 
Ranking Member, for putting together this incredible 
    Let me reach out and ask Chairman Torres and Ms. Martinez 
to weigh in here. As a western State, we have such challenges 
right now with drought and extreme heat. We have wildfires that 
are happening. I know our tribal communities have been so 
significantly impacted for so many of the reasons that 
everybody has talked about today.
    Chairwoman Torres, can you talk to us about what are the 
most challenging climate impacts happening right now that are 
threatening your community and cultural resources?


    Ms. Torres. Thank you so much for the question.
    With us, the most challenging climate impacts are drought 
and high temperatures which affect water resources. During the 
last 15 years, the tribe has faced extreme drought. Drought 
impacts farming and ranching on the reservation, since all 
farms are flood-irrigated with water coming from the Sierra 
    The tribe is at the end of the Walker River watershed. That 
absolutely has to be noted as well. Crop production has 
decreased sometimes as much as 40 percent due to lack of water. 
Cattle grazing during the drought has caused a 50 percent 
reduction in cattle herds. And many of our tribal members 
depend on farming and ranching as a sole source of income. So 
the economic impacts are crucial and great.
    I will turn the time over to my technical assistance and my 
expertise on the subject matter, Elveda Martinez, my water 
resources coordinator, to talk about the mitigation issues.
    Ms. Martinez. Thank you, Senators, and Committee members.
    As Amber says, right now, I would like everybody to know, 
about 90 percent of the west is now either abnormally dry or is 
in a drought, which is among the highest percentages in the 
past 20 years according to last week's drought monitor. So 
again, in the southwest, which we are considered, water is more 
valuable than gold.
    As Amber said, we are an agriculture tribe. One of the 
things that we would really like to do here to save water is to 
upgrade our irrigation system, so that our farmers can have 
better crops. In the last couple of years, last year, when 
farmers are only getting 50 percent of what they normally get 
it really impacts their pocketbook and their livelihood. Again, 
our farmers and our ranchers are mainly impacted.
    Some of the things we were able to do though is, we were 
able to renovate a part of our irrigation system, only one 
mile. We have 44 miles of irrigation system. One mile of 
putting in a new pipe cost $2.1 million. Since then we have 
been looking to all these other agencies, the Bureau of Indian 
Affairs, Bureau of Reclamation, all these entities, to try to 
find additional funding. It is so hard to get anything done.
    The other thing that we have seen is with the different 
climate happening on the Sierra Mountains, one year we will 
have massive snowpack and then we will have flooding. So the 
flooding impacts our river system, and erosion and problems 
like that. Again, it is so hard to even get any money to even 
repair our river system. With that, we have searched out to the 
Army Corps of Engineers and other programs.
    It is just not enough for everybody to work together. I 
think somebody else is what we need to do, is, if all these 
other programs can all work together to help the tribes, it 
would really benefit us all.
    In 2019 we pulled everybody together, but what happened is 
there is just not money out there for tribes to do the projects 
that we need. The other thing that found out is that sometimes 
you have to have these extensive technical reports in hand in 
order to get funding like even through FEMA or some other 
entities. Right now, we don't have the staff or the expertise 
to do those technical reports.
    Again, we really appreciate the funding that we get through 
the Bureau of Indian Affairs for the climate change programs, 
but it is very limited, and it is not very much. So again, it 
is always like we are always trying to, it feels like we are 
all competing with other tribes in order to get a little piece 
of the pie. For example, on our reservation, some of the 
mitigation things that we would like to do also is to enhance 
renewable energy. We have been working on a geothermal project 
for eight years. We are kind of dependent on the BIA Energy and 
Mineral Resource Department. Sometimes we get funding but most 
of the time we don't. So it is like we are working at a snail's 
    The other thing that we would like to do is what the 
Pueblos are doing down there, we would like to retrofit our 
buildings and our homes with solar panels. Right now, in the 
last five years what we have found is we have over 30 days of 
100-degree weather. So what we are seeing is the increase of 
the heat and the sunlight. I love it. But the thing is, we need 
to utilize that to help our homes and our buildings, cut down 
on costs of utilities.
    I think all the tribes are experiencing a lot of the same 
issues. But us in the southwest, again, it is the heat, the 
drought and the funding, like I think everybody is going to say 
is, it is almost like if we could fix one whole system, one 
whole irrigation system, if we had $22 million to fix that, we 
would be good. We would be good for another 40 or 50 years. But 
when we are piecemealing it, and not getting it done, we are 
losing water, we are losing economics for our people.
    Again, I appreciate this hearing. Climate change is a big 
issue for us. Thank you.

   Prepared Statement of Hon. Amber Torres, Chairwoman, Walker River 
                              Paiute Tribe
    Thank you for allowing us to testify at yesterday's Roundtable on 
``Native Communities and the Climate Crisis''. Please forward our 
thanks to Chairman Schatz and Vice-Chairman Murkowski for their 
leadership and concern on t his issue. As we all heard from the 
different speakers, Climate Change has impacted Native communities in 
extreme ways. It was also good to hear how tribes and Native entities 
are working to mitigate the impacts.
    Our Tribe has been working for years to identify issues and they 
were identified in our Climate Adaptation Plan that was completed in 
2018; this is a working document and is designed to be amended with the 
Climate Changes. The Tribe was awarded a Tribal Climate Resilience 
grant of $69,000 from the Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA) last year, to 
develop and complete a vulnerability assessment for water users on the 
reservation, including public water systems, farmers, cattlemen, and 
recreationists. This assessment is an important step in protecting 
water resources on the reservation. As we stated yesterday, water is 
more valuable than gold here in the southwest.
    I would like to reiterate some of our priority issues:
    Agriculture/Drought: irrigation water for our reservation comes 
from the Sierra Nevada mountains; Climate Change shifts the patterns of 
water and snow in the mountains. This year the snowpack is below normal 
for our area. Shortages are likely to worsen for irrigation. We also 
have an In efficient irrigation system, losing water due to the 
inefficiencies. It is nearly impossible to find funding to repair or 
replace even a short section of the system. Even though we seek funding 
through the BIA, NRCS, BOR and others. We have a $22 million need to 
upgrade our 44 miles of canals. The drought is causing great economic 
losses to farmers and cattlemen; up to 40 percent losses in crops and 
50 percent decline in cattle herds.
    Health and Public Safety: There is a great potential for heat 
related illnesses (heat stroke, heat exhaustion, heat rashes) due to 
the increased temperatures; average annual temperatures have been above 
the long term average every year since the early 1980's; in the 
summertime we have experienced 30-days above 100 degrees for the past 
five years. Rising temperatures dry out the landscape leading to higher 
potential for wildfires. We do not have wildfires here, but we get the 
smoke from the California fires have ca used people to shelter in-doors 
during the hottest part of the summer and the bad air quality is hard 
on those with asthma and breathing conditions. There is a need to study 
the impacts and long-term health effects.
    Renewable Energy: We want to continue with our project to develop 
renewable energy on our reservation. We have been working on the 
research and analysis of geothermal energy for 8 years. We have been 
dependent on the BIA Department of Energy and Mineral Development 
(DEMO) funding for projects. We are in an area that has great 
geothermal potential as there are geothermal plants near our 
reservation. This would lead to long term economic benefits. This 
energy may also be sold and provided to the Fallon Naval Air Station. 
We also want to retrofit all tribal houses and buildings with green 
energy; it would be great to have all of them to have a secondary power 
source, so we are not so dependent on out-side energy and cut down on 
energy costs. This would include air conditioning systems on homes; not 
evaporative coolers that bring in smoke, pollens, etc. Tribal members, 
living in poverty cannot afford the necessary cooling systems. We are 
at the end of the electrical grid; when that goes down, the systems go 
down; we need a stable backup system, like solar panels. These projects 
mean jobs for our people; we have a high unemployment rate of 37 
    One of the most important issues that we want to stress is the 
effects that climate change is having on cultural resources and 
traditional food sources used by our tribal members.
    The Lahontan cutthroat trout has been gone from Walker River and 
Walker Lake for at least 10 years. Our Paiute people are called the 
``Agai Dicutta'' or ``Trout Eaters''. That was our traditional primary 
source of food and now it is gone, due to water evaporation, heat and 
the overuse of water upstream. Walker Lake's salinity level is too high 
and too warm to support trout. We have lost this part of our culture. 
Funding was provided through the Desert Terminal Lakes funding to 
purchase water for the lake. This water has started to flow to the 
lake, but it will be years before enough water can match the levels 
needed and meet the evaporation losses. It is up to us to make sure 
that our river system on the reservation is allowing for that water to 
flow freely. In 2019 we brought numerous agencies (ACOE, NRCS, BIA, 
State Departments, etc.) together to see what could be done to work on 
sediment and erosion problems that were caused by flooding. There were 
no immediate fixes or adequate funding identified.
    Pinenuts are also a main traditional food of our people. Pinyan 
Pine does not grow in abundance on our reservation. Tribal members 
travel to other parts of Nevada to pick the pinenuts on BLM and Forest 
Service lands. During the past 20 years, tribal elders have noticed 
that the trees are growing in lower elevations closer to water sources. 
The older trees are dying off at a greater rate and wildfire potential 
is extreme. The Tribe has met with US Forest Service and BLM officials 
in an effort to save the trees in areas that are most picked by tribal 
members as they are cutting down and thinning trees for fire management 
and sage grouse habitat. When the federal agencies first started 
thinning out the trees, most tribal members were in opposition, but 
with all the forest fires, the Tribe sees the need to do this. Climate 
Change is also impacting the tree growth.
    We are hoping to start planting buckberry bushes along our section 
of the Walker River. This will be dependent on the water flows. These 
berries are used for jellies and pudding. The bushes upstream have been 
taken out for increased agriculture. Planting of native plants along 
the river also helps with erosion and the berries are a source of food 
for birds and animals.
    We believe that the Committee got a good grasp of the many issues, 
including the historical lack of adequate funding, tribes competing for 
limited funding, tribes not having the broadband capability to apply, 
not having the matching funds, the need for consultation and the need 
for federal agencies, states and other organizations to work together.
    Thank you, and all members of the Committee, for allowing us to be 
a part of this important discussion. It all comes down to how are we 
going to secure adequate water, traditional foods, enhance our 
economies, develop renewable energy and look out for a healthy 
environment for the next seven generations. Chairman Brian Schatz ended 
with a statement that legislation will be forthcoming for this issue. 
We are looking forward to seeing how that will help our Native 

    Senator Cortez Masto. Thank you, Ms. Martinez.
    I just have one more question, and then I want to turn it 
back to my colleagues as well. Chairman Torres, you and I have 
talked about this, and the challenge that it is clearly on the 
funding piece. It always seems that the tribes are competing, 
not just with other tribes, but with the States and local 
communities for funding at times at the Federal level.
    Can you address that and talk a little bit about that? I 
know you and I have had this concern, that we should really be, 
if we are going to find the resources that are necessary for 
our tribes, maybe we should have separate set-asides or 
separate funds for our tribal communities.
    Ms. Torres. Most definitely, and again, thank you for the 
crucial question. We all know that there has not historically 
been enough funding for Indian Country and the projects that we 
want to pursue on our respective nations. That is why it is 
going to be so crucial to have that consultation process with 
tribal nations at the table to hear our issues, hear our 
feedback, hear our access barriers, and take a look at how we 
can collaborate and work together for equal access to those 
    As you heard, I sit in a lot of budget formulation for 
Indian Health Services and other crucial programs is, it pits 
us against one another as tribes. Again, it is so unfair, the 
access is unfair. The biggest thing is, we have to be able to 
work together for the next seven generations, the two-legged, 
the four-legged.
    So making sure that we are at that table to hear how we can 
work together for a better future is most definitely needed. 
Thank you so much for the question.
    Senator Cortez Masto. Thank you. And thank you, Mr. 
    The Chairman. Thank you.
    Senator Smith.

                 STATEMENT OF HON. TINA SMITH, 
                  U.S. SENATOR FROM MINNESOTA

    Senator Smith. Thank you, Chair Schatz, and Vice Chair 
Murkowski. I really appreciate you organizing this Committee 
hearing today. It is quite interesting to hear from Native 
leaders from around the Country. I greatly appreciate it.
    President Buck, [greeting in Native tongue], it is so 
wonderful to have you with us today. I am very eager for my 
colleagues on the Committee to have a chance to hear a little 
bit about what Prairie Island is doing.
    Colleagues, President Buck is in her third term as 
president of the Prairie Island Community. Prairie Island is 
located on the Mississippi River between Minnesota and 
Wisconsin. So it is interesting to hear from our leaders from 
Nevada, because in some ways, our challenge in Minnesota is too 
much water. President Buck can tell us about that as the 
community experiences the impacts of climate change along the 
    President Buck, I am going to turn to you in a minute. I am 
hoping that you can tell the Committee about Prairie Island's 
net zero project. I think it is quite interesting, it will be 
interesting for everyone to hear about. I am especially 
interested in you describing not only what the net zero project 
is, but how Prairie Island thinks about energy independence and 
what kinds of partnerships you have put together in order to 
make this project work.


    Ms. Buck. [Greeting in Native tongue]. Thank you, Senator 
Smith and Committee members. Our tribe is really excited about 
our net zero project, which we launched in February. It will 
provide us with a sustainable, onsite, clean energy system. We 
will on developing an energy system that results in net zero 
    We are excited, we partnered with two Native-owned 
companies, Indian Energy and Chief Strategy Group. These 
companies not only understand how to create the right energy 
solution for the tribe, but they also understand the Native 
culture and the importance of what this project means to our 
sovereignty and our future.
    We are one of the first tribal nations to take this on. We 
hope that it can serve as a model for communities across the 
United States that aim to protect the earth by reducing their 
energy impact on the environment. The net zero project for us 
is a huge step in our energy independence. We are looking 
forward to working with Indian Energy and Chief Strategy Group 
on renewable energy solutions that make sense for our tribe.
    It is clear that climate change is making energy 
independence and sovereignty even more vital for tribal 
communities. Recent events in Texas and Louisiana, where 
extreme weather conditions impacted grid stability for millions 
of people underscores this importance. It is critical that we 
plan ahead to secure energy sovereignty for the future 
    Senator Smith. Thank you so much, President Buck. Could you 
describe a little bit more how these partnerships work, and 
what your partners are bringing to the table, what Prairie 
Island is bringing to the table? I am especially interested in 
how you think about developing expertise, developing financing, 
all of that.
    Ms. Buck. Definitely. Thank you for the question. We 
started on a State level. We worked with the State legislature 
on trying to get a bill passed to provide some of the funding. 
We received funding from what we call the RDA fund, which is 
the Renewable Development Account, on the State level. With 
that money, we are able to go through a really robust RFP 
program, where we talked to Xcel Energy, the individual who 
owns Xcel Energy, who share an island with us. We have talked 
to Dakota Electric, who is our energy provider. We have talked 
with the State departments of Commerce, all these different 
partnerships that we have been working on, even before we got 
to the RFP stage.
    We had a really robust RFP process. We were able to receive 
20 applicants. We did 11 interviews, and then narrowed it down 
to the final four interviews. Indian Energy, Chief Strategy 
Group, they partnered together with some other companies to 
help us with this project.
    Indian Energy brings the technical expertise on the energy 
side, and Chief Strategy Group helps us with the communications 
and making sure that we have all stakeholders involved. I am 
not just talking like Xcel Energy, Dakota Electric, the State, 
I am also talking about our tribal members, our community 
members, surrounding community. We really want our project to 
be a community-run, community-based project that everyone that 
is involved will have a say in. We have a survey going out now 
to our tribal members to fill out. We are really excited about 
what we can do and where to go.
    We are in the really early stages, like I said, we just 
launched in February, so we are in the really early stages of 
gathering the information and trying to build out a plan. So I 
don't have any specifics as far as if we are going to do solar, 
wind, what we are going to do. But we are excited about the 
project and can't wait to see it move forward.
    Senator Smith. That is great, thank you so much, [phrase in 
Native tongue]. Chair Schatz, I can't see you on my screen, but 
I am happy to turn back and see if other of my colleagues have 
questions about this. Otherwise, I have other questions, too.
    The Chairman. Go ahead, Senator Smith. We are going to let 
you finish, then I have some final questions. I have one final 
question for all the panelists, then Senator Murkowski, then we 
will be done. So go ahead, Senator Smith.
    Senator Smith. Okay, great.
    So, to everybody else on the panel, I am interested in, as 
President Buck is talking about this, she is making the 
connection between energy independence and tribal sovereignty. 
I am thinking about what is it that we can do at the Federal 
level to support these kinds of projects. I would like to open 
it up to the others on the panel and have you share what you 
think we should be thinking about as we move forward with this.
    President Buck? Then I will come around.
    Ms. Buck. Perfect, thank you, Senator.
    We are thankful to the Committee and the Biden 
Administration for taking climate change and its impacts on 
tribal communities seriously. As you have been hearing, the 
climate crisis has impacted Indian Country in so many different 
ways. So it will be essential for this Administration and this 
Congress not to just think about the big picture solutions, but 
also work with the individual tribal communities on tailored 
solutions that address our unique situations and needs.
    My tribe is working on its own to combat climate change on 
our reservation. But the harsh reality is that the flooding and 
the nuclear threat that we are faced with just can't simply be 
solved with short-term solutions. We each have our own unique 
issues. For Prairie Island, we have too much water, unlike the 
tribes out west.
    Senator Smith. Thank you. Anybody else want to comment on 
this? Yes, please, go ahead, Mr. Duarte.
    Mr. Duarte. Aloha.
    Senator Smith. Aloha.
    Mr. Duarte. Building on what some of the others have said, 
an interesting thing to look at is looking at energy, water, 
and food, the nexus of energy, water, and food together when we 
can. So any time where we can make investments of money, 
people, or resources that get multiple outcomes at once, 
obviously that is a good place to put your efforts. 
[Indiscernible] there are Federal programs currently existing 
or that can be innovative that are able to tie to a safe food 
system, which is obviously good for health and nutrition, but 
to have good local food systems, agriculture, ranching, you are 
going to have to solve water issues, you are going to have to 
try and reduce the carbon footprint and get jobs and industry 
to Native communities.
    Any time you can connect the dots between that, although 
sometimes that is looked at separately, energy, water, food and 
so forth, we are headed in the right direction.
    Senator Smith. You could teach us a lot about how to think 
more holistically about these issues. Thank you.
    Chair Davis, did you want to say something?


    Mr. Davis. Yes, assuring that tribes are at the table in 
this legislation that is so critical for our survival. If you 
remember back in 1980, we had Mount Saint Helens erupt. The 
fallout from the ash, that next year there was just a regrowth. 
Then now, they are talking about what could happen if 
Yellowstone, Old Faithful, erupts.
    So I am glad you are taking so serious that it is not fake, 
it is real, we are all experiencing it, we all need to work 
together. But our tribes all need to be at the table on this 
important, important legislation.
    Thank you for having this very important roundtable, and 
for all your great work there. We are so thankful and grateful 
that it has come full circle.
    It was nice to hear Senator Murkowski mention the totem 
that Senator Inouye received. In one of your conference rooms 
there is a picture of one of our chiefs, Curly Bear, who was 
out there in 1913, talking about what was happening, there was 
no longer the buffalo to sustain us. We had to sell our bark to 
live and eat and all this stuff, about how we are connected 
with food certainty, the animals and us, human beings and the 
brain power we have. This net zero, low cost of energy, solar, 
electric powered cars we have to develop as we move forward.
    In 2050, we heard there will be a surplus of water in the 
Mississippi. But the Colorado, that might be dry in just 30 
years. We don't want that to happen. Look at the animals, the 
insects, the bees that are not pollinating the crops to sustain 
    We are glad you guys stopped that border wall. Our red 
brothers from there, we have to be one together, to work 
together, collaborate and negotiate to make sure that the 
tribes are at the table at this critical time in our history. 
We have a long history, so we would just like to make it 
better, as everyone is talking about.
    So again, thank you for this great opportunity to have this 
hearing of the Senate Select Committee on Indian Affairs, and 
all the work you do for the tribes. The Department of Energy 
was mentioned, the energy group there. That is a great place 
there. We need additional funding and be able to not have to 
compete with the State of Montana for the limited resources 
that are available, but to work together for sustainability.
    We really welcome this opportunity to bring this forward. 
Thank you, guys, for having this hearing today.
    Senator Smith. Thank you so much.
    Chair Schatz, I saw Chair Torres lifting her hand. I think 
you had something to say, then I will turn it back.
    Ms. Torres. Yes, again, thank you, Senator, for the 
    I think some of the crucial things that are needed are 
technical assistance, as you heard my expert say, for those 
smaller tribes at the table that are really striving to make a 
difference in their communities. I also think that policy 
change in conjunction with consultation is absolutely crucial. 
Sometimes decisions are made on a tribe's behalf as to what is 
going to fit them. But tribes know best about their own areas, 
and again, their own barriers. So I would like to see some 
policy change in some of these different areas in which we are 
going to have some projects.
    The last one, again, you have heard it around the table 
continuously, is funding opportunities, that there be proper 
funding for these projects that are on the table, and that 
everybody have the same access to those funds. So thank you so 
    Senator Smith. Thank you.
    The Chairman. Thank you, Senator Smith, and thank you to 
all of our testifiers.
    We are to do a bill here. We are going to work on, and 
whether it is part of a bigger package or not, we are going to 
try to do a bill on climate.
    I want to give all of our testifiers one last chance to 
very briefly, as specifically as possible, just tell us what 
you think we should be working on, whether it is money or 
technical assistance or regulatory change or partnership or 
whatever it may be. I will start with KHH Schools, either Mr. 
Wong or Mr. Duarte.
    Mr. Wong. Thank you, Senator. I will start.
    We know climate change is global. But what we hear from 
this panel and we know from our communities is that impacts are 
local. Solutions have to be local. They have to be driven by 
our communities. How can we have local solutions if we don't 
seek the knowledge in the context that our Native peoples bring 
to the conversation?
    I am hoping that in legislation there is room for the 
Native voices. I will make a plug, also, for our Native keiki, 
our Native kids, because it is really their generation that is 
being impacted by this. Our hope is that the solutions will 
also include them and their voice and their ability to talk to 
legislation as well as the policy.
    I will let Ka'eo add a few words, too. Thank you for the 
opportunity to be here.
    Mr. Duarte. Just real quickly, to add to Jack, again, how 
do we turn the challenges into opportunities. Climate change, 
as you heard today, it manifests itself very differently across 
the Native communities. Infrastructure, whether it is having to 
do with water, roads, with coastal issues, and so forth, it 
will be a challenge. It will be extremely costly.
    How do we look at the opportunity in that? How do we 
involve Native people as part of the solutions for 
infrastructure, and again, for food and energy, water, and 
training and educational opportunities, job opportunities, 
stimulate local economies, while we are trying to innovate and 
improve our infrastructure? Let's not lose another opportunity. 
A lot of this infrastructure was not designed in a way that 
really takes into account the places where we all live. Let's 
do it right this time and let's find those [indiscernible] 
    Thank you.
    The Chairman. Thank you.
    I am going to go down the line for the ease of people on 
the panel knowing when they are up. I will start with Nikoosh 
Carlo, followed by Chairperson Nelson. Then to Chairman Davis, 
Chairman Torres, President Buck and Governor Quanchello. So, 
starting with Nikoosh Carlo.
    Ms. Carlo. Thank you very much for the opportunity to join 
you today.
    Circling back to what I think is one of the key questions, 
not only for Indian Country and our tribal communities, but 
also across the U.S., is how are we going to pay for this, how 
are we going to fund a strong response to the impacts from 
climate change? We really need innovative climate financing to 
build those proactive, preemptive and long-term responses in 
local communities.
    Put really quickly, an idea that I have been working on is 
creating what I call climate response funds that can draw from 
diverse funding sources and use collaborative governance to 
structure and to finance innovative equitable and community-led 
climate mitigation and adaptation projects. The key there is 
being able to draw from different funding sources, like public 
funding but also private equity and non-profit, and even other 
revenue streams like carbon markets and bringing all those 
pieces together. Having a fund that is operated locally by the 
communities to put those funds where they know it needs to go 
and where it can make the most impact.
    So really it comes down to stable and reliable funding to 
support climate resilience in the long term. It will be a 
really big piece of the climate puzzle. Thank you very much.
    The Chairman. Thank you. Chairperson Nelson?"


    Ms. Nelson. Thank you. I really appreciate hearing all the 
words. I appreciate people saying we work together, because 
definitely I believe in that.
    I am speaking today to say that we as the Shoalwater Bay 
Tribe live by the ocean. We are stewards, stewards of the sea. 
We try to take care of the things that the ocean supplies us 
with, and the ocean itself. There are changes, the waters 
rising, things are happening that are not good for fish or 
anything out there.
    We as a tribe have worked together with the State, the Army 
Corps of Engineers, the Federal Government, and people around 
us, because that is what I believe in and we all believe in, is 
standing together to try to protect our oceanfront, our 
beaches, the ocean itself.
    We now look out of our own window, and the berm, which was 
a natural berm and has been repaired two times by the Army 
Corps, is devastated, torn down. Our tribe and our small 
reservation is threatened. Where we are is right on the edge of 
the sea, 15 feet, probably, is where I am right now above the 
ocean. We need to move uphill for protection. This is not 
something that, we are all sea stewards and we will always be, 
this is our land, the land of our ancestors, but we will have 
to move uphill for protection of our people.
    As I have heard many other people say, it will be expensive 
for what we want to do, and we will need help. And we help, we 
are building a tsunami tower that will protect not only some of 
our tribal members, but people in lower Tokeland, where they 
don't have a chance if the tsunami comes.
    As I look out at the berm, we have had many big, big 
storms. We are trying to protect estuaries and places that need 
to be where they are, to keep fish, salmon, alive. Things have 
changed. As we stand, we are asking for help to be able to 
finance, we have purchased some land. But getting up to it is 
going to be hard. It will be very, very expensive, the 
infrastructure will be expensive.
    But what we build will be good for the climate. We have to 
stop what we are using, we are using all the things up for us 
in this generation. We need to clean up and do better. I am 81, 
2 months and 10 days. I have seen, I have always lived by the 
sea or on the sea. I know what we are facing is very, very 
    Do you have any questions?
    The Chairman. Thank you so much, Chairperson Nelson. We 
will take additional questions for the record. We appreciate 
your compelling testimony and look forward to a partnership 
with you.
    Moving on to Chairman Davis, from the Blackfeet Nation of 
    Members of the panel, we are running out of time. If the 
final panelists could try to confine their response to a minute 
or so, that would be helpful, in terms of allowing Senator 
Murkowski to have some final questions before we actually run 
out of time.
    Chairman Davis?
    Mr. Davis. Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
    Water and climate change go hand in hand. The recent water 
settlement in 2016, we need that funded so we can assure our 
agriculture producers receive that much-needed water. Senator 
Tester is aware of the fact that, as a farmer, without water, 
our crops can't grow. If we don't have crops, we don't get to 
    Therefore, we desperately need the funding within these 
water settlement projects so we can begin to do our 
infrastructure development that is so critical for our 
    I would like to again thank the Committee for hearing us. 
We want to stress the need to fund our water settlement act so 
we can begin to work on these much-needed projects. We need to 
do these agricultural improvements and we need to get these 
water projects off the ground so we can begin to get our people 
back to work so they can continue to eat.
    The Chairman. Thank you.
    Chairwoman Torres?
    Ms. Torres. Pe-sha uh for allowing us to join you today to 
speak about such an important topic that has been long overdue. 
Climate change have had tremendous impacts on our people's 
daily life, which we have said. We are excited to work with you 
to make positive changes happen for the betterment of the next 
seven generations, and the two-legged and the four-legged.
    With that, it would take proper funding, policy changes, 
technical assistance, consultation and collaboration. Again, 
pe-sha uh for the opportunity.
    The Chairman. Thank you.
    President Buck?
    Ms. Buck. [Phrase in Native tongue.] Prairie Island needs 
tribal land taken into trust to get away from the threats we 
face that are exacerbated by climate change. We have the 
flooding from the Federal dam that was built in the 1930s. That 
flooding from the dam was bad enough when it began. Climate 
change is making it all worse.
    The flooding contributes to another risk. In addition to 
illegally flooding our lands, the Federal Government licensed 
nuclear power with storage of over 1,000 tons of nuclear waste 
is literally right next door to us on our reservation, on our 
island. The power plant relies on Mississippi River water for 
cooling purposes.
    Because of these threats, we desperately need a solution 
that will provide new reservation land for us at a safe 
distance away from the flooding and nuclear threats. [Phrase in 
Native tongue], I appreciate the time to be with the Committee 
    The Chairman. Thank you. And finally, Governor Quanchello.
    Mr. Quanchello. Thank you, Chair, members of the Committee. 
I wanted to say thank you for allowing Picuris to be here.
    I am echoing what everybody said, and our biggest thing is 
how Congress can help us, being the smallest community, or 
small, rural communities, is by recognizing the fact that 
sometimes we don't have population, and also educating. A lot 
of times there are matches that being a small reservation, we 
can't come up with some of these matches. So it is difficult 
for us to get the grant.
    Also, when we do get the money and there is a match being 
that it is for renewable energy, a lot of these banks and a lot 
of these lenders are not aware we are dealing with Federal 
lands. So it becomes another problem where we have to educate 
the bankers and educate all these people, so that they can do 
business with us on tribal lands. In turn, that costs money. 
That is money that we don't have that we could spend toward the 
project. But everybody is trying to learn off our plan. I think 
that is one of the ways.
    Also, Congress can support the smaller communities. 
Sometimes it takes more to do less just because we are in a 
rural setting. If we can take that into consideration. 
Additionally, any kind of rule or policy needs to be supported, 
support that government-to-government consultation and 
    Again, I thank the Committee and Chair for allowing Picuris 
to be here. Thank you.
    The Chairman. Thank you very much.
    Senator Murkowski.
    Senator Murkowski. Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
    Let me just provide a few concluding remarks. I think we 
have gotten some good, constructive feedback from those who 
have participated. I want to thank each of you.
    I think we recognize that so often, with our tribes, there 
is clearly that local knowledge, that indigenous knowledge, 
that needs to be taken into account. But there are capacity 
limitations. I know that for so many of our smaller tribes in 
Alaska, you have obstacles that confront you from the get-go. 
You lack reliable broadband, so you can't even begin the grant 
process because you can't even begin the download.
    I think we recognize that those tribes that have full-time 
individuals that can help them with grants, that is great. But 
not all are equally situated that way. So how technical support 
can be made available, I think that is a key part of how we can 
help with the navigation. Just making sure, again, that there 
is almost a clearinghouse for these funding opportunities, 
recognizing that you really have to be searching the Federal 
funding sources and really know how to navigate that. For many 
of our tribes, this is just not a practical reality. So how we 
are able to incorporate that.
    Dr. Carlo, I really appreciate what you said about the 
financing challenges and some kind of a climate response fund. 
I think that, too, is a significant impediment, and if there 
were a resource like that.
    Our last speaker just spoke to the matching grant issue. I 
know for us, whether it is a small water project, or whatever 
the project is, it has been challenge for them to come up with 
matching grants. So the projects never advance.
    I also recognize that particularly when we are talking 
about consultation, this has got to be, I always say it has to 
be more than just kind of a check the box exercise. I think it 
is important to recognize that historically we have seen 
certain environmental movements that have not particularly been 
a good ally to Native communities and people. I guess by way of 
example, we created the National Park System. This is something 
that we all respect and love, our national parks. But I think 
we also need to recognize that that moved Native people from 
traditional hunting areas.
    In Alaska, we have so many examples where a refuge, 
national refuge, is determined from back in Washington, D.C., 
and the local residents are now, their access to another area, 
an area that actually happens to have a pretty reliable runway 
for them to fly safely in and out has now been cut off. So 
making sure that there is true and meaningful consultation as 
we move forward.
    I know that one of the proposals in the Biden 
Administration is this 30 by 30 initiative that will help put 
more of our lands and waters into conservation status. I think 
the goal is clearly an admirable one. But again, working with 
our indigenous peoples, working with those who are on the 
ground, those who use the water, making sure that there is a 
level of consultation.
    I have heard so many times throughout this roundtable: 
cooperation, collaboration. But we need to be making sure that 
it is indeed that, and it is truly meaningful.
    I don't mean to just go on with my own soliloquy, Mr. 
Chairman. I am going to ask one more question, and this is 
about the BIA Tribal Climate Resiliency program. Several of the 
panelists have mentioned this. I guess the question, and 
hopefully to just no more than a couple of you, how do we move 
away from this competitive grant funding to more regular, 
reliable program funding? This is something that, Dr. Carlo, 
you have mentioned before. If it is just one small competitive 
grant after another, it is tough to bring about meaningful, 
lasting change, because you can't move forward with a real 
    Does anybody have any thoughts or ideas as to what we might 
be able to do to make the BIA Tribal Climate Resiliency Program 
a more effective and more meaningful program? I think 
Chairperson Nelson had raised this at one point.
    If we can take that, Mr. Chairman, because I know we are 
trying to wrap here, if members of the panel want to think 
about what we might be able to do. I think this has been a good 
opportunity for some building blocks here in terms of what the 
Committee needs to be looking at. So I appreciate that.
    The Chairman. Thank you, Senator Murkowski. I agree. When 
we say beneficiary consultation, we really mean it. As our 
retired friend, the senior Senator at the time from Maryland 
always said, ``nothing about me without me.'' I think that 
should be the way we operate generally speaking for this 
Committee. But also specifically as we think about climate 
solutions and climate adaptation, that we work together, that 
we exchange information, that we understand not just the needs 
but the knowledge in Native communities and how we can develop 
a little bit more of a symbiotic relationship.
    This has been a very constructive beginning to what I hope 
will be a partnership going forward on these very challenging 
issues that are not going to go away. So we thank all the 
panelists and all the members and all the staff that have put 
together a very, very constructive roundtable.
    Thanks very much.
    [Whereupon, at 4:27 p.m., the roundtable was concluded.]