House Natural Resources Committee Holds Hearing on ICWA

At a U.S. House Natural Resources Committee virtual roundtable on the Indian Child Welfare Act (ICWA) on Tuesday, lawmakers heard from experts about the dark legacy of the U.S. government removing Native children from their homes as well as personal anecdotes about the impact of growing up as a Native child in a non-Native community.

Read the full article at Native News Online.

U.S. Representatives Chu and Bacon introduce bipartisan Indian child welfare legislation

This week, Representative Judy Chu (CA-27) and Representative Don Bacon (NE-02) introduced the bipartisan Strengthening Tribal Families Act, legislation designed to assist state and local child welfare agencies with implementing the Indian Child Welfare Act (ICWA). ICWA, which sets federal standards for abuse or neglect custody proceedings involving native children, lessens the trauma of removal by promoting placement with family and community.

Read the full article at the Indian Country Today website.

Follow H.R.8954 – Strengthening Tribal Families Act of 2022 at Congress.gov.

Barrasso: Empowering Indian Country in the New Republican Majority

It has been eight years since a Republican Majority was elected to lead the United States Senate. No matter which party is in charge, the American people want action and solutions, not dysfunction.
As Chairman of the Committee on Indian Affairs, I am committed to a results-driven agenda focusing on enhancing tribal self-determination and self-governance. I think former President Reagan said it b…

Read the full article at the Bloomberg BNA website.

Senate Committee Passes Bipartisan Bill to Stand Up for Native American Children

Sen. Heidi Heitkamp
Sen. Heidi Heitkamp

May 21, 2014:

During a Senate Committee vote today, U.S. Senator Heidi Heitkamp’s bipartisan bill to create a Commission on Native Children overwhelmingly passed – the final step before the bill goes to the full Senate.

Since the bill was introduced a few months ago, Heitkamp has worked to build strong support for it. The bill now has 27 cosponsors, bringing together conservative, moderate, and liberal Senators looking to stand up for Native children and make sure they have every opportunity to succeed. In October, Heitkamp introduced the bill with Republican Senator Lisa Murkowski, and today it passed in the Senate Committee on Indian Affairs.

Specifically, the bill would improve the lives of Native American children by examining and addressing high poverty rates, unemployment, child abuse, domestic violence, substance abuse, and few economic opportunities – and make tangible recommendations on how to make sure they are protected and supported.

Read the full press release and watch a video of the Senator’s statement at Senator Heitkamp’s website.

Read a June 21 letter in support of the bill from Senators Heidi Heitkamp and Lisa Murkowski at the Grand Forks Herald website.

New U.S. Legislation Introduced to Help Native American Children

From a 10/30/13 press release:



Summary of the Bill and Quotes from North Dakota Tribal Leaders Below

WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Senator Heidi Heitkamp today introduced her first bill since joining the U.S. Senate, a comprehensive plan to find solutions to the complex challenges facing Native American children in North Dakota and throughout Indian Country.

Heitkamp’s bipartisan bill would create a national Commission on Native American Children to conduct an intensive study into issues facing Native children – such as high rates of poverty, staggering unemployment, child abuse, domestic violence, crime, substance abuse, and few economic opportunities – and make recommendations on how to make sure Native children are better taken care of and given the opportunities to thrive.  Republican Senator Lisa Murkowski of Alaska joined Heitkamp in introducing the legislation.

“We have all heard stories or seen first-hand the struggles that too many Native children and their families face from extreme poverty to child abuse to suicide.  Since I’ve been in public office, I’ve worked to address many of these challenges, and I’m proud my first bill as a U.S. Senator will take a serious look at finding solutions to better protect Native children and give them the opportunities they deserve,” said Heitkamp, a member of the Senate Committee on Indian Affairs. “Tragically, for children in our nation’s tribal communities, the barriers to success are high and they are the most at-risk population in the country, facing serious disparities in safety, health, and education.

“We need to strive for a day when Native children no longer live in third-world conditions; when they don’t face the threat of abuse on a daily basis; when they receive the good health care and education to help them grow and succeed. However, we don’t just have a moral obligation to fix this, we have treaty and trust responsibilities to do so. The federal government pledged long ago to protect Native families and children. We haven’t lived up to that promise. But we can change that.”

The Alyce Spotted Bear and Walter Soboleff Commission on Native Children, named for the former Chairwoman of Mandan, Hidatsa & Arikara Nation in North Dakota, and Alaska Native Elder and statesman, respectively, is already being praised by a cross-section of individuals from North Dakota and around the country. All five North Dakota tribes have endorsed the bill (quotes from tribal leaders about the bill are below).

Conditions for young people in Indian Country are tragic. For example:
•    37 percent of Native children live in poverty;
•    Suicide rates for Native children ages 15-24 years old are 2.5 times the national average;
•    High school graduation rate for Native students is around 50 percent, compared to more than 75 percent for white students; and
•    While the overall rate of child mortality in the U.S. has decreased since 2000, the rate for Native children has increased 15 percent.
Tribal governments face numerous obstacles in responding to the needs of Native children. Existing program rules and the volume of resources required to access grant opportunities stymie efforts of tribes to tackle these issues.  At the same time, federal agencies lack clear guidance about the direction that should be taken to best address the needs of Native children in order to fulfill our trust responsibility to tribal nations.

To help reverse these impacts, the Commission on Native Children would conduct a comprehensive study on the programs, grants, and supports available for Native children, both at government agencies and on the ground in Native communities, with the goal of developing a sustainable system that delivers wrap-around services to Native children.  Then, the 11 member Commission would issue a report to address a series of challenges currently facing Native children.  A Native Children Subcommittee would also provide advice to the Commission.  The Commission’s report would address how to achieve:

•    Better Use of Existing Resources – The Commission will identify ways to streamline current federal, state, and local programs to be more effective and give tribes greater flexibility to devise programs for their communities in the spirit of self-determination and allow government agencies to redirect resources to the areas of most need.
•    Increased Coordination – The Commission will seek to improve coordination of existing programs benefitting Native children.  The federal government houses programs across numerous different agencies, yet these programs too often do not work together.
•    Measurable Outcomes – The Commission will recommend measures to determine the wellbeing of Native children, and use these measurements to propose short-term, mid-term, and long-term national policy goals.
•    Stronger Data – The Commission will seek to develop better data collection methods.  Too often Native children are left out of the conversation because existing data collection, reporting, and analysis practices exclude them.
•    Stronger Private Sector Partnerships – The Commission will seek to identify obstacles to public-private partnerships in Native communities.
•    Implementation of Best Practices – The Commission will identify and highlight successful models that can   be adopted in Native communities.

For a summary of the bill, click here. For quotations from the five Native American tribes in North Dakota, as well as Senator Byron Dorgan, strongly supporting the bill, click here.