Politics

Senate Committee on Indian Affairs observes 30th anniversary





The Senate Indian Affairs Committee is marking its 30th anniversary as a permanent part of the Senate.

The committee's origins reach back to the early 1800s. But it wasn't until 1984 that it was made permanent, following several years as a special committee.

“The Indian Affairs Committee has a bipartisan history of working to make life better for Indian Country. The members of this Committee are focused on making sure the federal government upholds its trust responsibilities while promoting economic development and self-determination for all American Indians and Alaska Natives,” Sen. Jon Tester (D-Montana), the current chairman, said in a press release. “I’m proud to have been a member since my first day in the Senate and honored to have the responsibility of chairing this Committee.”

Tester is the eighth chairman since 1984. His predecessors include one Native American -- retired Sen. Ben Nighthorse Campbell (R-Colorado), a member of the Northern Cheyenne Tribe -- and one Native Hawaiian -- retired Sen. Daniel Akaka (D-Hawaii).

Campbell has the distinction of serving as chair twice. Sen. John McCain (R-Arizona) and the late Sen. Daniel Inouye (D-Hawaii).

Since 1984, the committee has passed a number of significant measures that have changed lives in Indian Country. The list includes the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act of 1987, the Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act of 1990, the Tribal Self Governance Act of 1994, the American Indian Trust Fund Management Reform Act of 1994 and the Native American Housing Assistance and Self-Determination Act of 1996.

More recently the committee passed the Indian Health Care Improvement Act that was included in the Affordable Care Act of 2010, the Tribal Law and Order Act of 2010, and the Violence Against Women Act of 2013. The latter two measures address high rates of crime and domestic violence in Indian Country and include provisions to strengthen tribal courts and to recognize tribal jurisdiction over non-Indians in certain circumstances.