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Heitkamp, Murkowski Bill to Stand up for Native Children Unanimously Passes in U.S. House of Representatives

Date Posted: September 14, 2016       Categories: home-banner News

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Tuesday, September 13, 2016

CONTACTS

Julia Krieger (Heitkamp) – (202) 224-8898

Karina Petersen (Murkowski) – (202) 224-9301

 

Heitkamp, Murkowski Bill to Stand up for Native Children Unanimously Passes in U.S. House of Representatives

Senators’ Bill Continues to Gain Momentum after Unanimously Passing in Senate Last Year, and in U.S. House of Representatives‎ Committee in July

WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Senators Heidi Heitkamp (D-ND) and Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) today announced that their bipartisan bill to improve the lives of Native American children unanimously passed in the U.S. House of Representatives – bringing their legislation one step closer to reaching the president’s desk for his signature. Their bill passed in the U.S. Senate last year.

 

In July, Heitkamp and Murkowski’s bill unanimously passed in the U.S. House Committee on Natural Resources. The vote followed Heitkamp’s testimony before the Committee in May about the urgent need to pass their bill to implement solutions that would address the overwhelming obstacles Native children face – including experiencing levels of post-traumatic stress similar to newly returning veterans from Iraq and Afghanistan dramatically increased risks of suicide, and lower high school graduation rates than any racial or ethnic demographic in the country. Heitkamp and Murkowski’s bill would work to address these and other challenges to promote better outcomes for Native youth.

 

Specifically, Heitkamp and Murkowski’s bill would create aCommission on Native Children to identify the complex challenges facing Native children in North Dakota, Alaska, and across the United States by conducting an intensive study on these issues – including high rates of poverty, staggering unemployment, child abuse, domestic violence, crime, substance abuse, and dire economic opportunities – and making recommendations on how to make sure Native children get the protections, as well as economic and educational tools they need to thrive.

 

“Every day, children across Indian Country wake up with the odds stacked against them – but the U.S. Congress spoke with one resounding voice to change that,” said Heitkamp. “For generations, young people living on tribal lands have been exposed to some of the most insurmountable barriers to their success – from living in dilapidated homes, to experiencing abuse and severe lack of educational and economic opportunity. Our Native youth have had much to overcome without much help from the federal government. But by unanimously passing our bipartisan bill, the U.S. House of Representatives and U.S. Senate have united to change course – and to help light a better path for our Native young people. It’s been my priority since before I came to the Senate to work to urgently improve outcomes for our Native youth – that’s why this legislation was the first I introduced as a U.S. Senator. I’ll keep fighting to make sure our Native young people are heard, and given the opportunities that every American child deserves.”

 

“I can cite many examples of young Native people who are living healthy lives and doing great things for their people. Yet far too have found themselves in a world of despair,” said Murkowski. “There is an urgent need for a broad range of stakeholders to come to the table and formulate plans to give every young Native person a fighting chance at a productive life. This ‘high energy’ commission, established in memory of the late Dr. Walter Soboleff, a treasured Alaska Native elder and culture bearer and a champion for Native youth moves the needle in a new and badly needed direction.”

 

The Alyce Spotted Bear and Walter Soboleff Commission on Native Children, named for the former Chairwoman of Mandan, Hidatsa & Arikara Nation in North Dakota, and Alaska Native Elder and statesman, respectively, has gained widespread praise by a cross-section of tribal leaders and organizations from North Dakota, Alaska, and around the country. It has been lauded by former Chairman of the Senate Committee on Indian Affairs Byron Dorgan, the National Congress of American Indians, and the National Indian Education Association, among others.

 

Background:

Conditions for young people in Indian Country are tragic. For example:

 

 

Tribal governments face numerous obstacles in responding to the needs of Native children. Existing programmatic rules and the volume of resources required to access grant opportunities stymie efforts of tribes to tackle these issues. At the same time, federal agencies lack clear guidance about the direction that should be taken to best address the needs of Native children to fulfill our trust responsibility to tribal nations.

 

To help reverse these impacts, the Commission on Native Children would conduct a comprehensive study on the programs, grants, and supports available for Native children, both at government agencies and on the ground in Native communities, with the goal of developing a sustainable system that delivers wrap-around services to Native children. Then, the 11-member Commission would issue a report to address a series of challenges currently facing Native children. A Native Children Subcommittee would also provide advice to the Commission. The Commission’s report would address how to achieve:

 

  • Better Use of Existing Resources– The Commission will identify ways to streamline current federal, state, and local programs to be more effective and give tribes greater flexibility to devise programs for their communities in the spirit of self-determination and allow government agencies to redirect resources to the areas of most need.
  • Increased Coordination– The Commission will seek to improve coordination of existing programs benefitting Native children.  The federal government houses programs across numerous different agencies, yet these programs too often do not work together.
  • Measurable Outcomes– The Commission will recommend measures to determine the wellbeing of Native children, and use these measurements to propose short-term, mid-term, and long-term national policy goals.
  • Stronger Data– The Commission will seek to develop better data collection methods.  Too often Native children are left out of the conversation because existing data collection, reporting, and analysis practices exclude them.
  • Stronger Private Sector Partnerships– The Commission will seek to identify obstacles to public-private partnerships in Native communities.
  • Implementation of Best Practices– The Commission will identify and highlight successful models that can   be adopted in Native communities.

 

For a summary of the bill, click here. For quotations from the five Native American tribes in North Dakota, as well as Senator Byron Dorgan, strongly supporting the bill click here, and for quotations from national supporters, click here.

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Source: http://www.heitkamp.senate.gov/public/index.cfm/2015/6/heitkamp-s-bill-to-stand-up-for-native-american-children-unanimously-passes-u-s-senate#_blank

 


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