The Senate Committee on Indian Affairs. Photo: SCIA

Senate Committee on Indian Affairs sets schedule for a busy week

Hundreds of tribal leaders and advocates are heading to nation's capital and the Senate Committee on Indian Affairs is preparing to host them during a particularly busy week.

The committee has scheduled two listening sessions and a hearing in conjunction with the winter session of the National Congress of American Indians, which takes place Monday through Thursday in Washington, D.C.

The first listening session, on Monday afternoon, will focus on gaps in protections and services for Native women. The committee and its members have been trying to close those gaps with bills like S.1870, the Securing Urgent Resources Vital to Indian Victim Empowerment Act.

The measure, also known as the SURVIVE Act, sets aside 5 percent of the Crime Victims Fund for Indian Country. Currently, tribes must go through state programs if they want to help victims of crime in their territories.

As a result, few dollars actually make it to American Indians and Alaska Natives, even though federal data shows they are victimized at higher rates than the rest of the population. S.1870, if it becomes law, would direct $150 million a year for tribal efforts.

The committee approved the bill at a business meeting on December 6, 2017, but it has not yet come up for consideration in the Senate.

"There's just so much we can do with this kind of money," Carmen O'Leary, a citizen of the Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe who serves as the director of the Native Women's Society of the Great Plains, said during an hearing last October on the measure. "We can create that safe space, we can provide more counseling, we will have burial help."

Also next week, the committee is hosting an oversight hearing on Wednesday to discuss the upcoming 2020 Census. The goal is to ensure that Indian Country is accurately represented because the figures impact federal funding and the drawing of Congressional districts.

Historically, American Indians and Alaska Natives have been undercounted. For the 2010 Census, the last undertaking, the U.S. Census Bureau missed on average 4.9 percent of tribal people on reservations, compared to a slight overcount for the rest of the population.

The committee's second listening session takes place on Thursday. It will focus on higher education priorities in Indian Country.

Those interested in submitting testimony to the committee can send it to Written testimony can also be mailed to:

Senate Committee on Indian Affairs
Attn: Avis Dubose, Clerk
838 Hart Senate Office Building
Washington, DC 20510

The record will remain open for two weeks following each listening session for those interested in submitting testimony.

Senate Committee on Indian Affairs Notice:
A Listening Session on "Addressing Gaps in Protections and Services for Native Women" (February 12, 2018)
Oversight Hearing on “Making Indian Country Count: Native Americans and the 2020 Census” (February 14, 2018)
A Listening Session on "Tribal Higher Education Priorities" (February 15, 2018)

Join the Conversation

Related Stories
San Manuel Band awards large grant to Tribal Supreme Court Project (January 24, 2018)
National Congress of American Indians lines up speakers for big meeting in D.C. (January 24, 2018)
National Congress of American Indians welcomes Secretary Zinke again (January 17, 2018)