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Funding bill directs Department of Justice to 'support' commission on Native youth





We have taken two important steps forward to get the Commission on Native Children – which was created by my bill that became law last October – up and running. The Commission will soon receive the federal funding it needs to operate, and we have another devoted member on the Commission, Dr. Tami DeCoteau from Bismarck, who has dedicated her life’s work to healing of the deep generational and systemic wounds Native children and families carry. Now that this Commission will have the funding it needs to begin its crucial work, we need to get the rest of the members of the Commission on board so they can get started on providing lasting solutions designed to improve outcomes for Native children.

Posted by Senator Heidi Heitkamp on Monday, May 1, 2017

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The spending bill that keeps the federal government up and running is also jump-starting a new commission that will focus on issues facing Native youth.

A provision in H.R.244, the Consolidated Appropriations Act, directs the Department of Justice to "support" the Alyce Spotted Bear and Walter Soboleff Commission on Native Children. An exact amount isn't specified but a champion of the effort took the language as a sign of progress.

“Now that this commission will have the funding it needs to begin its crucial work, we need to get the rest of the members of the commission on board so they can get started on providing lasting solutions designed to improve outcomes for Native children,” Sen. Heidi Heitkamp (D-North Dakota), the sponsor of S.246, the Alyce Spotted Bear and Walter Soboleff Commission on Native Children Act, said in a press release on Monday.

S.246 calls for 11 members on the commission. Before he left office, former president Barack Obama named Anita Fineday, a citizen of the White Earth Nation, and Russ McDonald, a citizen of the Spirit Lake Nation, to the panel.


A report accompanying H.R.244, the Consolidated Appropriations Act, directs the Department of Justice to "support" the Alyce Spotted Bear and Walter Soboleff Commission on Native Children. Source: Division B

Heitkamp announced a third member on Monday. Tami DeCoteau, a citizen of the Mandan, Hidatsa and Arikara Nation, was chosen by Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-New York), the Democratic leader in the Senate.

“When a Native child is able to walk into a classroom or a foster home and be understood, it can mean the world of difference on what they are able to achieve,” said DeCoteau, a psychologist who is is an expert in the treatment of traumatic disorders . “Senator Heitkamp’s Commission on Native Children would work to comprehensively address the complex challenges Native young people face – like experiencing something traumatic like abuse, extreme poverty or crime – and making sure they are supported by the trauma-informed care, and appropriate resources they need to succeed.”

The remaining 8 members have yet to be publicly announced. One is to be named by President Donald Trump and the 7 others are to be named by leaders of the House and the Senate.

Congress is expected to clear H.R.244, the appropriations bill for fiscal year 2017, by the end of the week. The White House has said Trump intends on signing it into law.

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