Kara Briggs: The fight to reauthorize IHCIA

"All the right steps are being taken by America Indians and by those in Congress who still have hearts to get the reauthorization of the Indian Health Care Improvement Act passed this session.

The act is the underlying legislation for the IHS. It enumerates congressional responsibilities for appropriating money for Indian health, and without it the IHS could be in jeopardy under a presidential administration that appears determined at every turn to end America's trust responsibility to tribal America.

That tribal and Native health leaders have renewed energy to keep taking the right steps after a decade-long fight for reauthorization is an indication of the profound perseverance that allowed Native people to survive the last 500 years.

That we have to continue to fight for this human rights legislation, which 30 years ago two Republican presidents promoted as simple fairness, shows a frightening step backwards in federal attitudes toward tribal America.

Not least among these missteps was the latest iteration of the unsigned, undated Department of Justice memo that conjectures about liability risks in providing a modern standard of health care to American Indians. The announcement earlier this year by the Republican Steering Committee that it would oppose the reauthorization as ''race-based'' legislation was straight out of the 1950s termination playbook, while ignoring the U.S. Constitution's acknowledgement of ''Indian tribes'' as political entities."

Get the Story:
Kara Briggs: Justice undone: The ongoing fight to reauthorize the Indian Health Care Improvement Act (Indian Country Today 3/21)

House Bill:
Indian Health Care Improvement Act Amendments of 2007 (H.R.1328)

Relevant Documents:
Letter to President Bush | Letter to Alberto Gonzales | DOJ White Paper

Relevant Links:
Indian Health Service - http://www.ihs.gov
National Indian Health Board - http://www.nihb.org

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