January 29, 2015 –
Washington, DC – The National Congress of American Indians was pleased to give testimony during the Senate Committee on Indian Affair’s first oversight hearing on Indian Country’s priorities for the 114th Congress. The bi-partisan nature of the Senate Committee on Indian Affairs was evident as Committee members voted for Senator Barrasso (R-WY) as Chair and Senator Tester (D-MT) was voted to be Vice-Chair. The Chairman and Vice Chairman committed to work closely together to improve the lives of Native Americans throughout the Country.
NCAI’s testimony strongly focused on restoring tribal homelands and asked for swift action on Carcieri fix legislation, trust modernization, tribal infrastructure, and juvenile justice.
NCAI Area Vice President Aaron Payment stressed that, “The trust relationship [between tribes and the federal government]is one that we have inherited. As tribal leaders, we are elected to uphold the trust relationship, and as Senators, it is one that you agree to uphold when you take the oath of office.”
Chairman Payment also asked that the committee include NCAI’s FY 2016 budget requestto Congress entitled “Promoting Self-Determination, Modernizing the Trust Relationship” into the hearing record stressing that “funding decisions made by Congress are an explicit expression of the trust relationship between our governments.” Payment, requested that the members of the Indian Affairs Committee, eight of whom are also on the Appropriations Committee, use their voice on that Committee to represent the interests of tribal governments and tribal citizens.
Other panelists included the National Indian Health Board, National Indian Education Association, National Center for American Indian Enterprise Development and Vance Homegun from the Center for Native American Youth who laid out education, health care, economic development, and youth priorities.
NCAI is also encouraged that the Committee is going to take up four bills at a Business Meeting scheduled for Wednesday, February 4, 2015, including:
- S 184 — Native American Children’s Safety Act
- S 209 — A bill to amend the Indian Tribal Energy Development and Self-Determination Act of 2005, and for other purposes.
- S 246 — A bill to establish the Alyce Spotted Bear and Walter Soboleff Commission on Native Children, and for other purposes.
- Draft Bill — A bill to amend the Indian Self-Determination and Education Assistance Act to provide further self-governance by Indian tribes, and for other purposes
NCAI strongly supported Chairman Barrasso’s energy bill during today’s hearing, and is pleased that Committee is taking up issues impacting Native Youth so early in this session. NCAI has also supported movement on bills to improve the self-governance program for tribes in ways that make it easier for tribes to carry out programs and make decisions on how those federal programs can best meet the needs of their members.
NCAI looks forward to working with the Committee on these bills and in this session of Congress.