North Dakota U.S. Senator Heidi Heitkamp
WASHINGTON – U.S. Senator Heidi Heitkamp announced Thursday that 10 of her colleagues in the Senate have already co-sponsored the first bill she introduced as a Senator, a comprehensive plan to find solutions to the complex challenges facing Native American children.
Heitkamp’s legislation also has the support of all five North Dakota tribes, as well as the National Congress of American Indians, National Indian Education Association, National Indian Child Welfare Association and the American Indian Higher Education Consortium.
“To have 10 Senators – Republicans and Democrats – sign on to my bill right away shows there is a strong desire for folks to work together and address the challenges facing Native children in this country,” said Heitkamp, a member of the Senate Committee on Indian Affairs. “As we continue to educate other Members of Congress about the serious safety, health, and education disparities in Indian Country, I’ll keeping fighting to get this bill signed into law so the Commission can begin its important work. We need to stand up for all of our children – including those in Indian Country – but for too long we have allowed Native children to fall behind. But this bill would put a long overdue spotlight on those children and seek real solutions to help them.”
In addition to Senator Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska), who helped introduce the legislation, the bill also now has the support of Senators John Hoeven (R-North Dakota), Mark Begich (D-Alaska), Dianne Feinstein (D-California), Al Franken (D-Minnesota), Mazie Hirono (D-Hawaii), Tim Johnson (D-South Dakota), Amy Klobuchar (D-Minnesota), Brian Schatz (D- Hawaii), Jon Tester (D-Montana), and Tom Udall (D-New Mexico).
The 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.
Since working as Attorney General in the 1990s, Heitkamp has fought for Native families. She pledged that once she was in a position to make real changes to help improve the lives of Native families, she would. Therefore, it’s only appropriate that her first bill in the Senate works find real solutions to address the challenges facing Native children.
Click here to read a summary of the Alyce Spotted Bear and Walter Soboleff Commission on Native Children, which was named for the former Chairwoman of Mandan, Hidatsa & Arikara Nation in North Dakota, and Alaska Native Elder and statesman, respectively.