Native American culture and traditions have deep roots in New Mexico. When I served as New Mexico Secretary of Health, I ensured that tribes and pueblos were a priority for state government, directing state and federal resources toward the unique needs of Indian country, while respecting the sovereign Native American nations. I am especially proud of my work to serve Native American elders by helping to create the Navajo Area Agency on Aging and the Office of Indian Elder Affairs, which serves the 19 pueblos and 2 Apache tribes.
Now, as a member of the Congressional Native American Caucus, I'm continuing my commitment to issues affecting tribal communities. In December 2013, I introduced the Native American Seeds Protection Act (H.R. 3782), legislation which would help preserve Native American seeds used for cultural, religious, medicinal, ceremonial and agricultural purposes. Specifically, the bill would allow tribes, working in conjunction with qualified research entities, to obtain grants from the U.S. Department of Agriculture to conduct research, education and training programs aimed at protecting the purity of Native American seeds. The legislation would also allow the construction of seed storage facilities to ensure these seeds can continue to play an integral role in tribal life for generations to come. Protecting native seeds keeps tribal communities connected to their ancestors and preserves access to a critical cultural resource.