Monday, July 30, 2007

Native American Community Shocked

Sent: Saturday, July 28, 2007 4:14 PM
Subject: Native American Community Shocked


Contact: Adam McMullin at 202-466-7767 or

Kraynal Alfred at 202-466-7767 or

Native American Community Shocked by Senate Republican Steering Committee Commitment to Fight All Bills Helping Native People

WASHINGTON-July 27, 2007-Blow after blow, the U.S. Senate Republican Steering Committee continues to block all legislation that benefits Indian people. The Senate Republican Steering Committee is a small group of Senators who have been working together to put secret "holds" on all legislation benefiting Indian tribes and Indian people.

Indian Country has had strong ties to the Republican Party through the Indian Self-Determination Policy and respect for the U.S. Constitution, which explicitly recognizes the treaty rights, tribal sovereignty, religious freedom, and the shared values of federalism that encourage local decision-making. Tribal leaders and the Republican Party share strong interests in law enforcement, economic development, energy, the military, veterans, and many other issues.

"At first we thought that it was coincidence that so many bills on Native issues were being blocked by members of the Republican Steering Committee," said National Congress of American Indians (NCAI) President Joe A. Garcia. "But it is clear now that it is not. NCAI is a non-partisan organization that has built successful relationships on both sides of the aisle for many decades. It is a very small number of Republican Senators, but we must address this obstructionism that stops all legislation no matter how bi-partisan and non-controversial."

Most recently, the Senate Republican Steering Committee, lead by Senator James DeMint (R-SC) and including Senators John Kyl (R-AZ), John Cornyn (R-TX), and Jeff Sessions (R-AL), killed non-controversial, bi-partisan piece of legislation that would have helped tribes in combating sexual predators on tribal lands. The Adam Walsh Child Protection Act of 2006 requires tribes to comply with its provisions by July 27, 2007. The legislation in question would have given tribes another year to make important decisions on how they want to work with the systems registry that is being created by the U.S. Department of Justice. "This legislation has a real human impact," said Garcia. "This kind of responsibility should be handled by those who know their communities best-tribal leaders, not a few Senators far off in Washington."

In February the U.S. House of Representatives unanimously passed the Native American Methamphetamine Enforcement and Treatment Act (H.R. 545) to make Indian tribes eligible to apply for certain grants to fight methamphetamine abuse and trafficking in Indian Country. Senator Kyl has a hold on the bill and is preventing its passage in the belief that a grant program could somehow confer jurisdiction to tribes over drug offenses committed in Indian Country. Tribes need these grants for prevention, treatment and enforcement against drug traffickers, and Kyl's obstructionism is endangering public safety for reservations and their neighbors.

The Republican Steering Committee has also fought the Indian Health Care Improvement Act, legislation that would modernize the health care system for reservations and at the end of last session held up all bills affecting Native Americans. "We had a similar situation in the mid-1990's with Senator Slade Gorton - but tribes overcame that obstructionism," said Garcia. "The Constitution requires respect for tribal governments. We want to work together in a productive way. It's time for the Senate Republican Steering Committee to do its part and allow tribes to take responsibility for issues affecting them. The Committee just doesn't seem to be well informed on Indian Country issues."

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