The Santa Fe Indian School is a Bureau of Indian Education institution in Santa Fe, New Mexico. Photo: Enrique A Sanabria

Senate Committee on Indian Affairs looks at 'high risk' Indian programs

The Senate Committee on Indian Affairs has added another hearing to its schedule this month.

On May 17, the committee will review a recent report that labeled Indian programs at the Bureau of Indian Affairs and the Indian Health Service as "high risk." The Government Accountability Office singled out education, health care and energy development as areas of concern.

"It is critical that Congress maintain its focus on improving the effectiveness with which federal agencies meet their responsibilities to serve tribes and their members," the GAO said.

"Since 2013, we testified at 6 hearings to address significant weaknesses we found in the federal management of programs that serve tribes and their members," the GAO continued. "Sustained congressional attention to these issues will highlight the challenges discussed here and could facilitate federal actions to improve Indian education and health care programs and the development of Indian energy resources."

Secretary Ryan Zinke, the new leader of the Department of the Interior, said he read the report. He called the findings regarding the Bureau of Indian Education "disheartening and devastating."

"Words cannot capture how terrible it is that children in schools overseen by Bureau of Indian Education are so poorly served," Zinke told the committee last month. "Each of them deserves a high-quality education that prepares them for the future."

Senate Committee on Indian Affairs:
Oversight Hearing on "High Risk, No Reward: GAO's High Risk list for Indian Programs." (May 17, 2017)

Government Accountability Office Report:
Improving Federal Management of Programs that Serve Tribes and Their Members (February 15, 2017)

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