Cecilia Fire Thunder, the president of the Oglala Lakota Nation Education Coalition, testifies at a hearing of the Senate Committee on Indian Affairs in Washington, D.C., on May 1, 2019. Photo: SCIA

Senate Committee on Indian Affairs set to advance three bills at meeting

The Senate Committee on Indian Affairs is holding a business meeting on Wednesday to consider pending legislation.

Three bills are on the agenda for the meeting. They are:

S.279, the Tribal School Federal Insurance Parity Act. The bipartisan bill provides employees of tribal grant schools with the ability to participate in federal health and life insurance programs. A hearing took place on May 1, with the Oglala Lakota Nation Education Coalition calling for passage in order to help tribal grant schools recruit and retain teachers in their communities.

“We have trouble recruiting staff due to the cost of their benefits, which is a really important component of a school’s ability to bring in highly-qualified teachers,” said Cecilia Fire Thunder, the president of the coalition.

S.832, A bill to nullify the supplemental treaty between the United States and Confederated Tribes and Bands of Indian of Middle Oregon, concluded on November 15, 1865. A hearing took place on May 1, with the Warm Springs Tribes calling for the repeal of the "fraudulent" agreement, which purports to restrict the rights of his people.

"My tribe has never recognized it and the federal government has never sought to enforce it," Warm Springs council member Ron Suppah said of the disputed treaty.

S.1207, the Navajo Utah Water Rights Settlement Act. The bill ratifies a water rights agreement between the Navajo Nation, the state of Utah and the federal government. A hearing hasn't taken place in the 116th Congress but a prior version was advanced by the committee during the last session.

"Many of our people still lack running water and this settlement will bring much-needed water infrastructure to build our communities and economy," Navajo Nation President Jonathan Nez said of the settlement.

Approval of the bills at the business meeting clears the way for the legislation to be considered by the full Senate.

The business meeting takes place at 2:30pm Eastern on Wednesday. It will be immediately followed by an oversight hearing and legislative hearing.

Senate Committee on Indian Affairs Notice
Business Meeting to consider S. 279, S. 832 & S. 1207 (May 15, 2019)

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