[Public Papers of the Presidents of the United States: William J. Clinton (1998, Book II)]
[August 6, 1998]
[Pages 1408-1409]
[From the U.S. Government Publishing Office www.gpo.gov]

Memorandum on Economic Development in American Indian and Alaska Native 
August 6, 1998

Memorandum for the Secretary of Commerce, the Secretary of Housing and 
Urban Development, the Secretary of the Interior, the Secretary of the 
Treasury, Administrator of the Small Business Administration

Subject: Economic Development in American Indian and Alaska Native 

    Across America, communities are recognizing that technology and 
information technologies are key to creating economic opportunities and 
increasing productivity. My Administration has made substantial gains in 
spurring the development of an advanced information infrastructure in 
order to bring the benefits of the Information Age to all Americans.
    Looking to the future, we know that technology is critical to 
economic growth. We need to stimulate the growth of modern production 
facilities, small business incubators, capital access for start-up 
companies, and strategic planning to develop a vision for 
technologically competent communities. In particular, as 
telecommunications and information technologies continue to play a key 
role in providing new job and educational opportunities, we must ensure 
that all of our communities are able to participate fully in the new 
information economy.
    Because of their often remote locations, American Indian and Alaska 
Native communities stand to benefit greatly from the Information Age, 
yet are in grave danger of being left behind. For example, a recent 
Department of Commerce study on Internet and computer usage in America 
shows that, although many more Americans now own computers, minority and 
low-income households are still far less likely than white and more 
affluent households to have personal computers or access to the 
Internet. Even more disturbing, this study reveals that this ``digital 
divide'' between households of different races and income levels is 
growing. We must act to ensure that American Indian and Alaska Native 
communities gain the new tools they need to battle high levels of 
unemployment and low per-capita income.
    The ability to own a home and have access to capital are also very 
important for economic development. Residents of Indian reservations 
encounter several unique issues when seeking to obtain a mortgage. Trust 
land status, tribal sovereignty, and requirements to gain clear title 
from the Bureau of Indian Affairs are examples of issues that lenders 
and borrowers must grapple with during the mortgage lending process. 
Thus, individuals seeking to acquire a homesite lease or a residential 
mortgage are often required to obtain approval from several Federal, 
tribal, State, and local agencies as well as private providers.
    I am proud that the Department of Commerce, particularly through the 
Economic Development Administration, has a 30-year history of investing 
over $730 million in economic development projects in American Indian 
and Alaska Native communities, working with its existing network of 65 
tribal planning organizations. Additionally, the Commerce Department's 
National Telecommunications and Information Administration has funded 
demonstration projects that help show Native American communities how 
they can use technologies to improve the quality of life on 
reservations. And the Commerce Department's Minority Business 
Development Agency has funded eight Native American Business Development 
Centers that

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provide assistance with accounting, administration, business planning, 
construction, and marketing.
    To continue our focus on infrastructure technology needs and 
business development in American Indian and Alaska Native communities, I 
direct the following actions.
    First, I direct the Secretary of Commerce, in collaboration with the 
Department of the Interior and tribal governments, to report back to me 
within 9 months on the state of infrastructure technology needs in 
Indian communities, including distance learning facilities, 
telecommunications capabilities, and manufacturing facilities. This 
report should identify the infrastructure technology needs in Indian 
country and set forth proposals that would help address these needs.
    Second, I direct the Secretary of the Interior, the Secretary of 
Commerce, and the Administrator of the Small Business Administration to 
report back to me within 90 days with a strategic plan for coordinating 
existing economic development initiatives for Native American and Alaska 
Native communities, including initiatives involving the private sector. 
In developing this strategic plan, the Secretaries and the Administrator 
should consult with all interested parties, including tribal governments 
and other Federal agencies and offices--particularly, the Departments of 
Housing and Urban Development, Transportation, and Agriculture. The plan 
should build upon current efforts in the agencies and detail future 
efforts such as providing technical assistance, enhancing 
infrastructure, and developing software.
    Third, I direct the Secretaries of the Treasury and of Housing and 
Urban Development, in partnership with local tribal governments and in 
cooperation with other Federal agencies--particularly, the Departments 
of the Interior, Veterans Affairs, and Agriculture--to initiate a 
project to help streamline the mortgage lending process in Indian 
country in order to improve access to mortgage loans on Indian 
reservations. The Secretaries should initiate this effort through a 
year-long pilot program on the Navajo Nation and in at least one other 
    These steps, taken together, will help ensure the continued economic 
development of American Indian and Alaska Native communities and help 
them recognize the full benefits of the Information Age.

                                                      William J. Clinton