Sault Tribe Chairperson Aaron Payment Testifies on Indian Child Act

North Dakota Senator Heidi Heitkamp wtih Sault Tribe Chairperson Aaron Payment

North Dakota Senator Heidi Heitkamp wtih Sault Tribe Chairperson
Aaron Payment

Published May 19, 2016

WASHINGTON — Chairperson Aaron Payment of the Sault Ste. Marie Tribe of Chippewa Indians and an Executive Officer of the NationalCongress of American Indians (NCAI), testified before the House Subcommittee May 18 on Indian, Insular and Alaska Native Affairs at a Legislative Hearing on S 246 also known as the “Indian Child Act.”

The legislation, strongly supported by Payment, already passed by
unanimous consent by the U.S. Senate, would establish the Commission on Native Children and be comprised of individuals appointed by the President and Congress with significant experience and expertise in health care issues facing Native American children, Indian education, juvenile justice and social service programs that serve Native children.

The Commission would conduct a comprehensive study of federal, state, local and tribal programs that serve Native children, and use the results to:

  • Develop recommendations for goals and plans for federal policy
    relating to Native children informed by the development of accurate
    child well-being measures;
  • Recommend modifications and improvements to programs that serve Native children;
  • Recommend improvements to the collection of data regarding Native children and the programs that serve them; and
  • Identify models of successful federal, state, and tribal programs
    in the areas studied by the Commission.

The legislation would have the commission submit a report to the
President, Congress and the White House Council on Native American Affairs on its findings, conclusions and recommendations for legislative and administrative action.

It is critical to future generations of American Indians that this
legislation passes. “Teen suicide is a crisis of epidemic proportions
in Indian Country,” Payment said. “We face challenges associated
with historical trauma, boarding schools, forced assimilation and
genocidal tactics.”

Payment also serves on the NCAI Education Subcommittee, as a national of the Secretary of Education to the Every Student Succeeds
Act (ESSA) of 2015 Negotiated Rule Making Team, as the Vice Chair of the HHS Secretary Tribal Advisory and as a Presidential Appointee to the National Advisory Council on Indian Education.

In the 1969 Kennedy Report, Senator Ted Kennedy said, “The Nation’s first kids had become last in terms of education opportunity.”

In addition, Payment said, “When we ceded millions of acres of land in exchange for the perpetual treaty and trust obligation of health,
education and social welfare, our first kids should not be last in terms
of opportunity.”

Payment added, “The good news is we have seen phenomenal results with reviving our culture and languages as a way to build resiliency so our Indian children have full and enriched lives. This legislation will provide powerful tools to help us in this endeavor.”

On Thursday, Payment will be serving on a panel at the U.S. Department of Interior to orient the Bureau of Indian Education’s 12
instructional leaders for the country on the need for educational reform in Indian Country with a focus on the BIE reform he was instrumental in passing, the needs of Indian students in public schools, the need for accurate, valid and reliable data on Native student retention and his role and recommendations as a National negotiator for the ESSA of 2015.

A broad spectrum approach is needed as 8 percent of Indian children
attend BIE schools while 92 percent attend public schools.

Payment holds Master’s degrees in Public Administration and Education Administration and is at the dissertation phase toward a doctorate degree in Educational Leadership. As a high school dropout, Payment is proof that with the right opportunity all Native students can achieve their goals.

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