The Senate Indian Affairs
Committee held a hearing this afternoon to consider five bills.
The bills address a diverse range of issues. But they advance some common goals -- to improve health, public safety and child welfare in Indian Country.
"I think we can all agree that the most precious natural resource we have is our children," said Sen. Jon Tester (D-Montana), the chairman of the committee.
Witnesses from the Obama administration offered support for most of the bills. But the top officials at the Bureau of Indian Affairs and the Administration for Native Americans held off on endorsing S.2160,
the Native American Children's Safety Act, and
1570, the Indian Health Service Advance Appropriations Act.
S.2160 requires background checks of all adults in a potential tribal foster home.
The bill was just introduced and Assistant Secretary Kevin Washburn, the head of the BIA, said the Obama administration hasn't had much time to review it.
S.1570 funds the Indian Health Service a year in advance. Lillian Sparks, the commissioner of ANA, did not offer direct comments on the bill and the Obama administration did not send someone from the IHS to testify.
Washburn said the Obama administration supports S.
1474, the Alaska Safe Families and Villages Act.
The bill encourages the state of Alaska to enter into agreements with tribes
regarding law enforcement.
More significantly, it repeals Section
910, Special Rule for the State of Alaska from S.47,
the reauthorization of the Violence
Against Women Act. That means Alaska tribes would be able exercise jurisdiction over non-Indian domestic violence offenders.
"Justice needs to come to Alaska for sure," Washburn said.
Washburn also expressed general support for
the Indian Employment, Training and Related Services Consolidation Act. The bill
amends the Indian
Employment, Training and Related Services Demonstration Act, commonly known
as Public Law 477, to consolidate employment, training and related funding from
various federal agencies.
Washburn said the BIA wanted to make some changes to the bill. Sparks also expressed some concerns with language regarding reporting requirements for tribes that receive federal funds.
Finally, Washburn said the administration supports
the Alyce Spotted Bear and Walter Soboleff Commission on Native Children Act.
The bill creates a national
commission to study issues affecting American Indian, Alaska Native and
Native Hawaiian youth.
"There's no area that needs greater attention than this," Washburn said.
The hearing lasted about 2 hours. Audio can be found on the Indianz.Com SoundCloud.
Meeting to consider the following legislation (April 2, 2014)
Hearing to receive testimony on the following bills (April 2, 2014)
Witness list for Senate Indian Affairs Committee
hearing on bills (4/1)
Senate Indian Affairs
Committee sets business meeting & hearing (3/31)
The Native American
Children's Safety Act introduced in Senate (03/27)
Senate Indian Affairs
Committee schedules hearing on five bills (03/24)