Levi Rickert, editor-in-chief in Native Currents. Discussion »
WASHINGTON In her first bill as a member of the US Senate, Senator Heidi Heitkamp, D–North Dakota, today introduced a comprehensive plan to find solutions to the complex challenges facing Native American children throughout Indian country.
Senator Heitkamp is a member of the US Senate Committee on Indian Affairs. Her bill in being co-sponsored with Senator Lisa Murkowski, R–Alaska, who also sits on the Indian Affairs committee.
The bipartisan legislation, would create a national Commission on Native American Children to 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.
The proposed Commission has already been named 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,
“For me what this about is the beginning. Let’s quit talking about housing, foster care, substance abuse has separate issues. Let’s go back to the beginning and figure out how to give Native American children quality lives—both on and off the reservation,”
commented Senator Heitkamp in a telephone interview with the Native News Network Wednesday afternoon.
“We have all heard stories or seen first-hand the struggles that too many Native children and their families face from extreme poverty to child abuse to suicide. Since I've been in public office, I've worked to address many of these challenges, and I'm proud my first bill as a U.S. Senator will take a serious look at finding solutions to better protect Native children and give them the opportunities they deserve,”
“Tragically, for children in our nation's tribal communities, the barriers to success are high and they are the most at-risk population in the country, facing serious disparities in safety, health, and education.”
"We need to strive for a day when Native children no longer live in third-world conditions; when they don't face the threat of abuse on a daily basis; when they receive the good health care and education to help them grow and succeed. However, we don't just have a moral obligation to fix this, we have treaty and trust responsibilities to do so. The federal government pledged long ago to protect Native families and children. We haven't lived up to that promise. But we can change that."
“Last week at the Alaska Federation of Natives, a group of kids from Tanana speak up with tremendous courage and express that they have had enough of violence, alcohol, drugs, and suicide in their community. Their call for us to take a pledge to protect our villages against suicide, is a call to action for all of us. I am proud to be the lead Republican co-sponsor of the Alyce Spotted Bear and Walter Soboleff Commission with Sen. Heitkamp,”
said Senator Murkowski.
"We must ensure our federal government upholds the trust responsibility, especially to our Native children, and this Commission will examine from the lens of justice, education, and healthcare how to improve the lives of our Nation's native children."
"It is also time we honor Dr. Walter Soboleff, our champion for cultural education in Alaska. Dr. Soboleff, lived a life committed to ensuring our public education system honored cultural values, and that our University system provided an option for students to learn cultural practices with the established of the Alaska Native Studies Department at the University of Alaska Fairbanks."
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:
posted October 30, 2013 3:20 pm edt