UPDATE: Time ran out before this bill could be passed last year, but it can pass in 2015! It was reintroduced by Sen. Heitcamp.
On April 2, 2014 the U.S. Senate held a hearing to discuss a bill focused on improving the lives of Native children.
The bill, the Ayice Spotted Bear and Walter Soboleff Commission on Native Children Act, would create a commission on Native Children, which would consult with Native advisors and Native youth advisors, and study programs that serve Native children.
The Commission would then use the results of the study to develop plans and provide recommendations for how the federal govenerment can improve programs serving Native children.
The Commission would address many issues important for Native youth, including:
- early education
- foster care
- juvenille justice
- mental and physical health
- the lack of reliable data related to Native youth
The bill calls for the Commission to report to the President, Congress, and the White House Council on Native American Affairs within 3 years about these issues.
This bill was introduced by Senator Heidi Heitkamp, a member of the Senate Indian Affairs Committee.
At the hearing, Heitkamp spoke about why the bill is important.
“I’m working to make sure Native children aren’t left behind because when they’re given an opportunity to really thrive, they are able to make tremendous achievements for themselves, their families, and communities,” she said, according to Indian Country Today Media Network.
The bill, which Republican Senator Lisa Murkowski helped to introduce, has bipartisan support from 15 additional cosponsors.
Assistant Secretary Kevin Washburn, Head of the Bureau of Indian Affairs, said the Obama administration supports the bill.
“There’s no area that needs greater attention than this,” Washburn said, according to Indianz.com, where audio from the hearing is available.
Call or write to your U.S. Senators and tell them you support the Alyce Spotted Bear and Walter Soboleff Commission on Native Children Act. Find contact information for your senators here.
Read about the reintroduction of this bill in 2015.