Heitkamp Bill to Stand up for Native Children Introduced in U.S. House
Washington, D.C. – Building on the strong support for her Commission on Native Children bill, U.S. Senator Heidi Heitkamp, a member of the Senate Committee on Indian Affairs, today announced that Republican Congressman Tom Cole from Oklahoma introduced her bill in the U.S. House of Representatives.
The Commission would address the challenges facing Native American children by examining issues – such as high poverty rates, unemployment, child abuse, domestic violence, substance abuse, and few economic opportunities – and making concrete recommendations to protect Native children and provide them with opportunities to excel and thrive. Last month, the Senate Committee on Indian Affairs overwhelmingly passed Heitkamp's bill, the final step before it advances to the full Senate. The bill now has 32 bipartisan cosponsors in the Senate.
“Congressman Cole has a strong history of working for Native families both as a Congressman and as a member of the Chickasaw Nation in Oklahoma. I greatly appreciate that he introduced my bill in the House of Representatives, and look forward to working with him to get it passed,” said Heitkamp. “While it has been heartbreaking to hear some of the stories and challenges facing Native children through my years of public service in North Dakota, I’m incredibly encouraged by the bipartisan progress we have made for this bill in the halls of Congress. We have an important responsibility to honor our commitments to Native children and my bill will help make that possible.”
"I am pleased to introduce the House-version of Senator Heidi Heitkamp’s bill that seeks to improve the livelihood of Native American children,” said Cole. “Through formation of a commission that studies the needs of our Native children and the current federal benefits received or lack thereof, I believe that this legislation can help the federal government keep its trust responsibility. Certainly, this legislation will help ensure that generations of Native children are given the opportunity to thrive.”
Since her time as North Dakota’s Attorney General in the 1990s, Heitkamp has worked to stand up for Native families and children. After introducing her Commission on Native Children bill in October 2013 with Republican Senator Lisa Murkowski from Alaska, Heitkamp has worked to build strong support for it. Heitkamp and Murkowski recently penned an op-ed about the importance of their bill to supporting Native children and the need to fulfill the federal government’s broken promises to Native kids and families.
The Senate bill’s 32 cosponsors include conservative, moderate, and liberal Senators looking to stand up for Native children and make sure they have every opportunity to succeed. Heitkamp’s bill also has the strong support of all five tribes in North Dakota and many national Native American organizations.
Heitkamp’s Alyce Spotted Bear and Walter Soboleff 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, increased coordination, measurable outcomes, stronger data, stronger private sector partnerships, and implementation of best practices.