Commissioner Hovland: A Force For Change Over The Past Two Years

August 19, 2019
Commissioner Hovland visits OHA

Commissioner Hovland: A Force For Change Over The Past Two Years

June 30, 2020, marked my two-year anniversary as Commissioner of the Administration for Native Americans (ANA), and Deputy Assistant Secretary for Native American Affairs. During this time, ANA has accomplished much in partnership with Native American communities nationwide. Our combined efforts have created many outlets for Native communities to thrive culturally, socially, and economically. During my tenure, I have set eight goals as priorities; in keeping with my commitment to transparency, I have outlined the progress we’ve made in the last year.

Deputy Assistant Secretary Priorities

In my role as the Deputy Assistant Secretary, I committed to:

True and Meaningful Tribal Consultation, Listening Sessions, and Communications:

  • The COVID- 19 pandemic has created several barriers amongst Native communities. By using the resources available to us, the Administration for Children and Families (ACF) increased engagement with our Tribal Advisory Committee and held our first ever ACF virtual tribal consultation. Through this medium we reached more than 300 people including tribal leaders and community members. This is the first time ACF has been able to engage in government-to-government dialogue on that scale.
  • Last year, ANA hosted an in-person Native Youth listening session with Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) leadership. The youth included participants of ANA’s Native Youth Initiative for Leadership, Empowerment, and Development (I-LEAD) grant projects. I-LEAD grants work to empower Native youth across the country through cultural learning, leadership development, and traditional knowledge. In continuing my commitment to engaging at the highest levels of government, in June I hosted a virtual dialogue between ILEAD youth and members of the Operation Lady Justice (OLJ) Task Force Visit disclaimer page . This virtual dialogue included leadership from the Department of the Interior and the Department of Justice. It was an opportunity to hear from youth on how we can better address the crisis of Missing and Murdered Native Americans and OLJ gained very powerful insight from the youth.

Leverage Partnerships within ACF and Strengthen ACF Program Impacts in Native Communities:

  • In leveraging partnerships within the ACF, ANA has been able to work alongside the Office on Trafficking in Persons (OTIP) to evaluate best practices that aid in the prevention of human trafficking. This is achieved by increased outreach and training for Native American communities through a survivor-informed and culturally responsive lens.
    • In December 2019, OTIP announced the launch of the SOAR (Stop, Observe, Ask, and Respond) for Native Communities online module through the National Human Trafficking Training and Technical Assistance Center. Through a public health approach, the SOAR for Native Communities online module helps those serving Native American populations to better understand human trafficking and its impact on their communities.  
    • As a result of joint listening sessions hosted by ANA and OTIP, a special funding competition to build capacity of organizations to address human trafficking of Native Americans was announced by OTIP this year.
    • ANA and OTIP also partnered to combat human trafficking of Native Americans by creating the first-ever Native Human Trafficking Leadership Academy (HTLA). This six month leadership training, focused on cultural protective factors in the prevention of Human Trafficking. The HTLA is dedicated to developing and expanding survivor-informed services while providing leadership development opportunities to survivor leaders and ally professionals.
  • The passing of Public Law No: 116-94 encouraged ACF “to convene a working group of federal early childhood program administrators, tribal early childhood stakeholders, and tribal leaders to examine coordination issues that may be impacting early childhood initiatives in tribal communities.” To meet this unfunded request, ANA has partnered with the Office of Early Childhood Development to spearhead a Tribal Early Childhood Advisory Committee. This Committee will focus on coordination and collaboration across the federal government to make sure Native American children and their parents are getting the support they need to reach their highest potential.

Promote Economic Development:

  • In 2020, to support economic development of Native American communities, ANA introduced the Social and Economic Development Strategies for Growing Organizations (SEDS-GO) as an opportunity for tribes and Native organizations to grow their capacity for obtaining and managing federal funding for projects. ANA’s SEDS program addresses the principle that social and economic development are inter-related and essential for developing thriving communities. SEDS grants focus on workforce development, tribal agriculture, education, and other areas that essentially frame social determinants of health approach to improving wellbeing.
  • In promoting economic development, I was a keynote speaker at the 2020 Reservation Economic Summit (RES), hosted by The National Center for American Indian Enterprise Development (NCAID).  During this address, I presented examples of ANA grantees across the nation who are promoting business development, education, and economic mobility through their culturally centered community projects.
  • At the American Indian and Alaska Native Tourism Association (AIANTA),  I presented ways ANA funding can support Native tourism projects. By including existing grant projects with a tourism focus, I was able to highlight the potential of ANA funding in developing or expanding Tribal tourism initiatives.

Commissioner Priorities

In my role as the Commissioner of ANA, I committed to:

Promote Healthy Native Communities:

  • I was named to the HHS’ Rural Health Task Force hosted by the Deputy Secretary Eric Hargan to ensure that this internal group includes Native American perspectives. In participating in this task force, ANA has been able to bring awareness to food sovereignty as a social determinant of health for Native communities.  
  • This theme of “Growing Healthy Communities” was the focus of our February 2020 Biannual ACF Native American Grantee Meeting. The event intentionally centered around discussion of the social determinants of health and how ACF and other federal resources can support Native American populations in promoting health and wellness to ensure that Native communities are thriving.

Effective Resource Management:

  • In 2019, ANA was able to award 31 percent in funding requested which was 57 new awards.  Overall, ANA funded 170 grants for a total 2019 program funding of $45.5 million. I have also committed to working with federal partners to identify resources that can be leveraged and available to tribes. 

Government-Wide Advocacy for Native American Issues:

  • In November 2019, President Trump signed Executive Order 13898 creating the first federal task force dedicated to Missing and Murdered American Indians and Alaska Natives. As the HHS representative to this task force, designated as Operation Lady Justice, I have been given a broader platform to advocate for the concerns I hear from Tribal leaders across the country.
    • In February 2020, I participated in the first Operation Lady Justice Listening Session. My involvement with this task force has been pivotal in creating solutions and innovative ideas to support Native communities as they deal with members in their communities who may be missing and/or murdered.
  • Thanks to the steadfast support of tribal leaders and language advocates the Esther Martinez Native Language Programs Reauthorization Act was signed into law by President Trump in December 2019. I had the opportunity to testify twice, once in 2018 and again in 2019, before the Senate Committee on Indian Affairs about the role Native languages play for cultural cohesion and resiliency and in support of the proposed changes. The re-authorization allows for smaller class sizes and longer grants periods, both of which we are implementing this year. 
  • In partnership with the Department of Interior (DOI) and the Department of Education, I cohosted an annual language summit about the revitalization of Native Languages. We are looking forward to another great summit in the fall, which we plan to host virtually. We know that collaboration and coordination amongst federal agencies is key to supporting efforts to strengthen and grow our Indigenous languages.
  • During the peak of the pandemic, I was invited to join the COVID-19 White House Task Force to focus on the needs of Indian Country during this time. I pledge to continue listening and advocating for American Indians, Alaska Natives, Native Hawaiians, and Pacific Islanders as they face barriers of this novel coronavirus.
  • I am committed to building capacity within both states and Tribes to implement the Indian Child Welfare Act (ICWA) as intended by Congress. A chief priority is the need to work in collaboration across the federal government and with tribal communities to strengthen ICWA in state and family court systems to carry out its mandates. To this end, ANA and the Office of Justice Services (OJS) within DOI have partnered with the Casey Family Programs foundation to support opportunities to train state and Tribal court judges about ICWA. 

Provide Opportunities for All—Including Lower-Capacity and Underserved Communities:

  • In order to address the needs of Tribes and Native organizations that may not have the organizational capacity to successfully apply for federal grants, I directed the creation of a new funding opportunity called Social and Economic Development Strategies – Growing Organizations (SEDS-GO). SEDS-GO aims to build and strengthen capacity and enable Tribes and Native organizations to better understand and address the gaps in their organizational strength while solidifying their internal controls.

Better Serve Targeted Populations Including, Elders, First Responders, Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women, Human Trafficking and Veterans:

  • During my first year as Commissioner, as I visited communities and engaged with Native American leaders, I gathered input and further defined some special populations that ANA could support.
  • I have made a concerted effort to meet and speak with Native Elders throughout my travels. Elders play an important role in Native American culture, whether as keepers of Native languages or as a role model for youth in their communities. I was a keynote speaker for the Administration for Community Living (ACL) Title VI conference in August 2019, and shared my commitment to serve and advocate for the needs of Elders.  I also participate in ACL’s weekly COVID19 calls hosted by their Tribal Elder program.
  • I have also worked on strengthening relationships with first responders, especially tribal law enforcement, as they continue to protect Native communities nationwide. Over the past 15 years I have had the opportunity to meet and ride along with BIA and tribal law enforcement while on duty.  I gained a great deal of respect and admiration for their commitment to serve and protect.  Recently I issued a statement in support of BIA and tribal law enforcement officers who take have felt the weight of recent events in their daily jobs which can be found on the ANA Facebook page Visit disclaimer page .
  • In serving and honoring veterans, I attended the 5th National Gathering of American Indian Veterans hosted by ANA grantee Trickster Gallery. Through my travels I was able to meet with tribal veterans from across the nation, both those in active duty and retired from service, including Navajo Code Talker Thomas Begay.  I also had the opportunity to hear from tribal veterans on how I can better advocate for them in Washington, D.C. I met with Secretary Wilke of Veterans Affairs (VA) to discuss how ANA and the VA can work together to better meet the needs of tribal veterans and break down barriers of communication. 
  • In, November 2019 I attended the White House Veterans Conference that focused on honoring Native veterans who have served. Finding ways to recognize and celebrate Native veterans has always been a key component to my priorities. In February, ANA recognized and honored Dr. Marcella LeBeau, a member of the Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe who served as an Army Veteran Nurse during World War II.
  • To increase service to these targeted populations ANA added bonus points to the Fiscal Year 2020 Social and Economic Development Strategies (SEDS) funding opportunity announcement for projects focused on these groups. These bonus points apply to projects that include Elders, First Responders, Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women, Human Trafficking and/or Veterans.

It has been an honor to serve in this Administration as I continue to advocate on behalf of Native American communities nationwide. I have enjoyed every moment of the last two years and I look forward to the progress that we together can make.

The Administration for Native Americans is a program office within the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services’ Administration for Children and Families. To learn more about how ANA can assist your community, visit /ana.

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