Sen. Jon Tester, Vice Chair of the US Senate Committee on Indian Affairs
WASHINGTON – This past Wednesday, the U.S. Committee on Indian Affairs passed four bills with bipartisan support that seek to improve to American Indian and Alaska Native lives.
Senator Jon Tester (Montana-D), who serves as Vice Chairman of the Senate Indian Affairs Committee, said the bills are designed to improve tribal self-determination and protect Native children.
“America has a trust responsibility to our tribes, and we must do a better job living up to our commitments to this generation and future generations,” Tester said. “These bipartisan bills will ensure folks in Indian Country have a brighter, safer future.”
The bills are:
Indian Self-Determination and Education Assistance Act
This bill allows tribes to tailor federal Indian programs to the specific needs of their communities, giving tribes more self-governance authority. The bill also streamlines tribes’ negotiations of compacts with the Interior Secretary and clarifies the criteria the Secretary must use when deciding to approve or deny those contracts.
Tribal Energy Development and Self-Determination Act
The bill clarifies and streamlines the Department of Interior process that tribes must undergo to develop energy projects by establishing deadlines and approval criteria that the Interior Secretary must follow. The bill would also provide greater federal technical assistance to tribes for developing their energy resources.
Alyce Spotted Bear and Walter Sobolef Commission on Native Children Act
The bill would create a commission to study the challenges Native children face and would develop recommendations for improving services to tribes and Native communities. Native American children are more at-risk for suicide, depression, drop-outs, victims of crime, and health challenges than their peers across the country.
Native American Child Safety Act
The bill would increase protections for Native American children by requiring tribal agencies to expand background checks for all adults living in foster care homes, not just the foster parents.