Native American: Priorities on the Hill
The beginning of a new congressional term brings a new list of priorities and promises for American Indians. FCNL is listening closely to what members of Congress and the administration are saying and is working with our partners and colleagues to ensure that U.S. leaders consider these priorities. On February 5, Sen. Byron Dorgan (ND) and the other members of the Senate Committee on Indian Affairs held their first business meeting of the year and stated that health care, tribal law and safety, education, tribal recognition, housing, and the prevention of Indian youth suicides are the committee’s top concerns for this session of Congress. The committee followed the business meeting with an oversight hearing to discuss the best ways to move forward on Indian health care.
Michelle Obama visited the Department of the Interior on February 9 and addressed the employees in the building. “For those of you focused on meeting the federal government’s obligations to the Native Americans,” she said, “understand that you have a wonderful partner in the White House right now. Barack has pledged to honor the unique government-to-government relationship between tribes and the federal government. And he’ll soon appoint a policy advisor to his senior White House staff to work with tribes and across the government on these issues such as sovereignty, health care, education — all central to the well-being of Native American families and the prosperity of tribes all across this country.” Watch or read Michelle Obama’s speech at the Department of the Interior.
Interior Secretary Ken Salazar was the focus of an oversight hearing on February 12. His list of priorities for Native Americans included economic opportunity, energy development and climate change, education, and law enforcement. The Senate Committee on Indian Affairs discussed other issues with Salazar, including the overbearing bureaucracy of the Bureau of Indian Affairs, trust litigation, water settlements, tribal recognition process, and health care.