Sen. John Hoeven (R-North Dakota), the chairman of the Senate Committee on Indian Affairs, addresses the executive council winter session of the National Congress of American Indians in Washington, D.C., on February 12, 2019. Photo by Indianz.Com (CC BY-NC-SA 4.0)

Senate Committee on Indian Affairs focuses on public safety at field hearing

By Acee Agoyo

The Senate Committee on Indian Affairs is hosting its first field hearing of the 116th Congress, focusing on public safety in tribal communities.

Tribal, federal and state officials are at the United Tribes Technical College in Bismarck, North Dakota, on Wednesday morning for the hearing. North Dakota is the home state of Sen. John Hoeven (R-North Dakota), the committee's leader.

“As chairman of the Indian Affairs Committee, I’m committed to improving public safety in our tribal communities,” Hoeven said earlier this year of his law and order priorities.

Those efforts include the S.211, the Securing Urgent Resources Vital to Indian Victim Empowerment (SURVIVE) Act. The bill requires 5 percent of the national Crime Victims Fund to go to Indian Country.

Currently, very little of the funds make it to tribal communities despite high rates of victimization of American Indians and Alaska Natives. Last year, a temporary set-aside of $110 million was provided by Congress but the SURVIVE Act would make it permanent.

Another priority is S.210, the Tribal Law and Order Reauthorization and Amendments Act of 2017. Based on recommendations from Indian Country, the bill makes critical updates to the Tribal Law and Order Act of 2010, the law that paved the way for the landmark tribal jurisdiction provisions in the Violence Against Women Act of 2013.

“For too long, critical public safety resources have dried up before making it to Indian Country," Sen. Jon Tester (D-Montana), a co-sponsor of the SURVIVE Act, said when the committee approved both measures at a business meeting on January 29. "These bills will give Native American communities the resources they need to crack down on crime and help survivors heal.”

The hearing is Bismarck is not being webcast but the testimony will be made available for the record. The witness list follows:
The Honorable Douglas James Bergum
State of North Dakota, Bismarck, ND

The Honorable Wayne Stenehjem
Attorney General
State of North Dakota, Bismarck, ND

Ms. Jill Sanborn
Special Agent in Charge, Federal Bureau of Investigations
U.S. Department of Justice, Minneapolis, MN

Mr. Richard Salter
Special Agent in Charge, Drug Enforcement Administration
U.S. Department of Justice, Omaha, NE

Mr. Charles Addington
Deputy Bureau Director, Office of Justice Services, Bureau of Indian Affairs
U.S. Department of the Interior, Washington, DC

The Honorable Jamie Azure
Turtle Mountain Band of Chippewa Indians, Belcourt, ND

The Honorable Mike Faith
Standing Rock Sioux Tribe, Fort Yates, ND

The Honorable Myra Pearson
Spirit Lake Nation, Fort Totten, ND

The Honorable Ella Robertson
Sisseton Wapheton Oyate Nation, Agency Village, SD

Senate Committee on Indian Affairs Notice
"To Protect and Serve: Joint Law Enforcement Efforts in Building Safe Tribal Communities and Stopping Dangerous Drugs from Entering Indian Country" (March 20, 2019)

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