Indianz.Com > News > ‘He believed in getting stuff done’: Native land bill set to advance in honor of Don Young
Indianz.Com Video: House Committee on Natural Resources – Tributes to Congressman Don Young, Republican of Alaska (1933-2022) – April 6, 2022
‘He believed in getting stuff done’
Alaska Native land bill set to advance in honor of late Don Young
Monday, April 25, 2022

WASHINGTON, D.C. — The U.S. House of Representatives is set to approve legislation to honor the legacy of the late Congressman Don Young (R-Alaska), who was known as a champion of Alaska Native issues as the longest-serving member of the chamber.

On Tuesday, the House will meet to advance three of Young’s legislative priorities. One of the bills is H.R.441, which has been re-titled as the Don Young Alaska Native Health Care Land Transfers Act.

H.R.441 authorizes the transfer of federal lands to the Alaska Native Tribal Health Consortium, the Southeast Alaska Regional Health Consortium and the Tanana Tribal Council. The lands will be used by the tribes and tribal organizations to expand health care for Alaska Natives, one of the issues Young championed during his 49 years of service on Capitol Hill.

“On the Natural Resources Committee, Don was a fierce champion of Alaska Natives and all indigenous peoples,” Rep. Raúl Grijalva (D-Arizona), the Democratic chairman of the legislative panel with jurisdiction over Indian issues, said earlier this month.

“He fought to combat the epidemic of missing and murdered indigenous women and girls, bolster tribal sovereignty and expand economic opportunity and access to health care for tribal communities,” Grijalva said as members of the House Committee on Natural Resources paid bipartisan tributes to their former colleague on April 6.

Don Young
The late Rep. Don Young (R-Alaska) is seen at the National Congress of American Indians winter session in Washington, D.C., in February 2018. Photo: National Congress of American Indians

Young, who passed away on March 18 at the age of 88, introduced H.R.441 on January 21, 2021. It was one of the first bills he filed in the 117th Congress.

As introduced, H.R.441 authorizes the Indian Health Service to convey property to the Tanana Tribal Council. The land will be used to expand health care for Native people in Tanana, a rural area west of Fairbanks that is typically accessible only via air.

Following Young’s passing, H.R.441 has been expanded to include similar transfers of federal property to the Southeast Alaska Regional Health Consortium in Sitka, which is accessible only by air and by sea, and to the Alaska Native Tribal Health Consortium in Anchorage, the largest city in Alaska. The latter bills, H.R.442 and H.R.443, respectively, were also among the first Young introduced in the 117th Congress.

“One of the things that really is clear is that he worked on such a bipartisan basis,” said Rep. Teresa Leger Fernandez (D-New Mexico), a new member of Congress who go to know Young through their work on the House Subcommittee for Indigenous Peoples of the United States.

“I ended up co-leading bills with him. He co-lead my bills,” said Fernandez, who chairs the subcommittee. Young served as ranking member of the panel, meaning he was the highest-ranking Republican.

“But he also cared about the bills that were coming out of the Subcommittee on Indigenous Peoples,” Fernandez added. “And I know he fought hard for a package of bills that was bipartisan, that was Republicans and Democrats. He believed in getting stuff done.”

H.R.441 will be considered on Tuesday under a suspension of the rules, according to the House Majority Leader’s calendar. The process is used for bills that are considered non-controversial and those with widespread bipartisan support.

Two more of Young’s legislative priorities are also scheduled to be approved on Tuesday. They are H.R.6651, the Alaska Salmon Research Task Force Act, and S.497, the American Fisheries Advisory Committee Act.

The latter bill already passed the U.S. Senate so passage in the House is all that’s needed in order to send it to President Joe Biden for his signature. Young introduced H.R.3128, the companion version of S.497, last November.

H.R.441 would still have to be taken up by the Senate before it can be signed into law. Lawmakers have until December to complete work on legislation during the 117th Congress.