Hoeven Opening Statement at Hearing on Indian Health Service, Cultural Patrimony Legislation

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Nov 09, 2017

WASHINGTON – Senator John Hoeven (R-ND), chairman of the Senate Committee on Indian Affairs, today held a legislative hearing to receive testimony on S. 465, the Independent Outside Audit of the Indian Health Service Act of 2017, and S. 1400, the Safeguarding Tribal Objects of Patrimony Act of 2017.

During the hearing, Hoeven stressed his commitment to improving the quality and delivery of tribal health care by the Indian Health Service (IHS).   

“Indian patients have suffered from inefficiency and mismanagement at various levels of the IHS for too long,” said Hoeven. “The poor decision making by the IHS has even led the Government Accountability Office to place the agency on their High Risk List. I have chaired two committee hearings on these problems this year alone, and I intend to hold another one next spring to ensure that the IHS comes off the High Risk List.”

The hearing featured testimony from Mr. John Tahsuda III, principal deputy assistant secretary for Indian Affairs at the U.S. Department of the Interior; Ms. Elizabeth A. Fowler, deputy director of management operations at the Indian Health Service, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services; the Honorable Dave Flute, chairman of the Sisseton Wahpeton Oyate of the Lake Traverse Reservation; and the Honorable Kurt Riley, governor of the Pueblo of Acoma.

Click here for complete testimony and video of the hearing.

Hoeven’s full remarks as prepared for delivery are below.

“Today the committee will examine two bills: S. 465, Independent Outside Audit of the Indian Health Service Act of 2017; and S. 1400, Safeguarding Tribal Objects of Patrimony Act of 2017.

“On February 28, 2017, Senator Rounds introduced S. 465, the Independent Outside Audit of the Indian Health Service Act of 2017. Senators Lankford and McCain are co-sponsors. At this time, there is no House companion bill.

“The bill would mandate a reputable private entity to conduct an independent assessment of the health care delivery systems and financial management processes of the Indian Health Service within the Department of Health and Human Services.

“The assessment is intended to lead to recommendations on how the IHS, tribes, and other stakeholders can improve health care delivery and services provided by the IHS.

“Indian patients have suffered from inefficiency and mismanagement at various levels of the IHS for too long. The poor decision making by the IHS has even led the Government Accountability Office to place the agency on their High Risk List.

“I have chaired two committee hearings on these problems this year alone, and I intend to hold another one next spring to ensure that the IHS comes off the High Risk List.

“In a moment, I will turn to Senator Rounds, so he can speak more on his bill, S. 465. I know that Senator Rounds and his staff have already made improvements to this bill.

“I appreciate his efforts here as well as the Indian Health Service for providing technical drafting edits, and I look forward to hearing from the administration on those.  

“On June 21, 2017, Senator Heinrich introduced S. 1400, the Safeguard Tribal Objects of Patrimony Act of 2017. Senators Udall, Daines, Flake, McCain, Murkowski, Schatz and Tester are all original co-sponsors. Senators Lankford and Crapo were recently added. There is a House companion bill, H.R. 3211, sponsored by Representative Lujan.

“This legislation is centered on providing additional legal protection to Native American tribal artifacts and sacred objects by amending the Archaeological Resources Protection Act of 1979 (ARPA), the Native American Grave Protection and Repatriation Act (NAGPRA), and other federal laws which serve to protect and preserve Native cultural heritage.

“Among other things, S. 1400 provides increased criminal penalties for repeat traffickers of Native American human remains or cultural items. It bans the export of illegally obtained Native American cultural objects and sets penalties for violations of this ban.

“To incentivize repatriation, the bill allows immunity from prosecution if an individual voluntarily surrenders to the appropriate tribe all Native American cultural objects in possession, no later than two years after enactment of this bill.

“In addition, the bill would require the Government Accountability Office (GAO) report on the number of Native American cultural objects illegally trafficked, and the extent to which the Department of Justice has prosecuted cases of trafficking.

“The GAO must also recommend actions to eliminate such trafficking and to secure the repatriation of Native American cultural objects.

“Lastly, the Department of the Interior is directed to convene a Tribal Working Group to contribute information to the GAO report and advise on how best to implement the GAO’s recommendations.”

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