Tribal leaders urged lawmakers to pass bills that would protect sacred sites by creating a new tribal designation and require Native input on decisions.
"I am grateful that Tribes, some of whom have been waiting for this funding for decades, are finally getting the resources they are owed," Interior Secretary Deb Haaland said.
“I think the average wait for families is around seven years,” he said, “so these are families that have been waiting and in desperate need."
The funds are part of an $8 billion pandemic relief package promised to the Tribes in late March, and were supposed to be distributed by April 26.
Payments totaling $4.8 billion will go to tribes over the next several days, and further payments will go out later, the Treasury Department said.
The corporations are unique to Alaska and own most Native lands in the state under a 1971 settlement but are not tribal governments.
Experts have blamed the lack of internet access in Indian Country and the arrival of the coronavirus for tribes' low Census response rates.
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