Last week, representatives from Moms Clean Air Force participated in the National Forum on Tribal Air Quality. It was an enlightening learning experience for us, culminating in the release of the Status of Tribal Air Report (STAR.) The STAR combines stories from Tribal air quality professionals operating air monitoring programs on Tribal lands. It includes a budget analysis of how much funding Congress needs to set aside to fully fund Tribal air programs.
Indigenous Tribes and Alaska Native villages across America are sovereign governments that have the right to manage independent air quality programs and to be consulted when projects beyond their boundaries may pollute the air on Tribal lands. Tribes frequently work in partnership with federal and state agencies to pursue common goals of protection from pollution and climate change. Tribal air programs provide vital resources to communities struggling with increasing wildfire-related pollution and pollution from oil and gas operations.
With wildfires increasing, extreme weather consistently on the uptick, and temperatures rising, Tribal air programs are getting by on a shoestring budget. According to Carol Kriebs, Chairwoman of the National Tribal Air Association, “Federal funding for Tribal air programs has been stagnant or declining for nearly 20 years.” The STAR calls for a much larger amount of funds allocated so that Tribal air programs can pay their staff a living wage and cope with new and worsening air quality problems stemming from climate change, wildfires, and oil and gas development.
Despite challenges with COVID, funding, and pollution, the STAR details the many happenings within Tribal air quality programs. Tiffany Lozada, of the Poarch Band of Creek Indians in Alabama, shared that her air quality program was able to repurpose Healthy Homes kits. These are typically used to improve indoor air quality and energy efficiency. They were repurposed to become COVID cleaning kits for families experiencing the virus. These were distributed along with food to families in quarantine.
The St. Regis Mohawk Tribes, who call their homeland Akwesasne, were able to use money from the Volkswagen settlement fund to switch old trucks owned by the Tribal government to low-emitting new trucks. With the remaining funds, they are installing vehicle charging stations across their lands, the first at their casino. Angela Benedict, the Air Quality Program Manager, shared, “For now and the next seven generations, the Akwesasne community has the same opportunity as big cities to plug into the future of zero emission driving.”
Please learn more about how air pollution impacts Indigenous communities by reading the resource the National Tribal Air Association and Moms Clean Air Force co-created. Please join us for a party celebrating the release of the STAR on June 14 at 3 PM Eastern. At the party, the National Tribal Air Association will offer an overview of the report and will highlight the stories told within the report.
Moms Clean Air Force is excited to take the message of the STAR to members of Congress in the coming weeks.
Tell Congress: Protect Indigenous Communities From Air Pollution and Climate Change