Heitkamp Bill to Improve Lives of Native Children Moves Forward During Senate Committee Hearing

e-mail icon

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE                                       

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

CONTACT

Abigail McDonough/Todd Deutsch, 202-224-8898

 

Heitkamp Bill to Improve Lives of Native Children Moves Forward During Senate Committee Hearing

Senator Dorgan Testifies at Hearing about Importance of Heitkamp’s Bipartisan Bill to Repairing Broken Promises to Native Families

WASHINGTON, D.C. – During a Senate Committee on Indian Affairs hearing, U.S. Senator Heidi Heitkamp today advanced her bipartisan bill which aims to address the challenges facing Native children and offer real solutions to tackle them.

Former U.S. Senator Byron Dorgan testified at the hearing at the request of Heitkamp. He spoke about the importance of Heitkamp’s bill to making real changes to help improve the lives of Native American children by addressing the economic, education, crime, and health care disparities that Native children too often face. Dorgan is the former Chairman of the Senate Committee on Indian Affairs, and the Founder and Chairman of the Center for Native American Youth at the Aspen Institute.

Kevin Washburn, Assistant Secretary – Indian Affairs with the U.S. Department of the Interior also testified, expressing the Department’s support for Heitkamp’s bill. He noted that the bill takes a collaborative and holistic approach across government and the private sector and will make recommendations for concrete solutions moving forward.

Senator Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) helped introduce the bipartisan legislation which currently has 15 additional bipartisan cosponsors, including Senator Jon Tester (D-MT), Chairman of the Senate Committee on Indian Affairs.

“Today marked another important step forward toward securing successful futures for Native children,” said Heitkamp. “We will fail the next generation of Native children if we do nothing but I know we can make a meaningful difference if we all work together to fight for children who too often don’t have a strong voice standing behind them. Working with Senator Murkowski, we have built strong support from both sides of the aisle for this bill because standing up for our Native children should not be a partisan issue – rather, it’s about doing the right thing and putting the next generation first.

“I also greatly appreciate Senator Dorgan speaking at today’s hearing and thank him for his strong support of my bill. We both care deeply about making sure Native kids throughout North Dakota and the country have every chance to succeed and aren’t forced to jump through so many hurdles before it’s possible. That’s what my bill would do.”

“I am proud of Senators Heitkamp and Murkowski for their leadership on efforts to improve the lives of Native American children,” said Dorgan. “Indian children have too often been left behind by our federal government. The stand Senator Heitkamp is taking against addressing broken promises to our youngest First Americans as her first bill in Congress is important. This Commission, working with tribal leaders, will help to provide much-needed information and data, support for more effective solutions, and recommendations to policy-makers for addressing the challenges that Indian children face in this country.”

Heitkamp has worked to stand up for Native families since her time as North Dakota’s Attorney General in the 1990s. Her bipartisan bill would create the Alyce Spotted Bear and Walter Soboleff Commission on Native Children, which would conduct an intensive study into issues facing Native children – such as high rates of poverty, staggering unemployment, child abuse, domestic violence, crime, substance abuse, and few economic opportunities – and make recommendations on how to make sure Native children are better taken care of and given the opportunities to thrive.

When Heitkamp introduced her bill in October 2013, she spoke on the Senate Floor about the importance of this legislation to address some of the most pressing challenges for Native children. The bill has the strong support of all five tribes in North Dakota and many national Native American organizations.

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, increased coordination, measurable outcomes, stronger data, stronger private sector partnerships, and implementation of best practices.

###