WASHINGTON – Senator John Hoeven (R-ND), chairman of the Senate Committee on Indian Affairs (SCIA), today delivered the following remarks at a committee legislative hearing to receive testimony on S. 943, the Johnson-O’Malley Supplemental Indian Education Program Modernization Act; S. 1223, the Klamath Tribe Judgment Fund Repeal Act; and S. 1285, the Oregon Tribal Economic Development Act.
The hearing featured testimony from Mr. Tony Dearman, director of the Bureau of Indian Education at the U.S. Department of the Interior; the Honorable Warren Brainard, chief of the Confederated Tribes of Coos, Lower Umpqua and Siuslaw Indians; Mr. Don Wharton, senior attorney for the Native American Rights Fund; and Ms. Carla Mann, president of the National Johnson-O’Malley Association.
For more information on their testimonies click here.
Senator Hoeven’s remarks:
“Good afternoon. Today the committee will examine three bills: S. 943, the Johnson-O'Malley Supplemental Indian Education Program Modernization Act; S. 1223, the Klamath Tribe Judgment Fund Repeal Act; and S. 1285, the Oregon Tribal Economic Development Act.
“On April 26, 2017, Senator Heitkamp, along with Senators Daines and Lankford, introduced S. 943, the Johnson-O'Malley Supplemental Indian Education Program Modernization Act.
“Pursuant to the Johnson-O’Malley Act, the Bureau of Indian Education assists the Indian children enrolled in public schools – where more than 90 percent of them attend. In my home state of North Dakota, during the 2016-17 school year, 10,262 Native children – or 83.6 percent of the Native children in grades K-12 – attend North Dakota public schools.
“The types of services include dropout prevention, culturally relevant instruction assistance, and academic assistance such as tutorial services and school supplies. In some cases, the Johnson-O’Malley program may be the only means of academic assistance for even basic items such as school supplies.
“However, to date, the Bureau of Indian Education has not conducted an accurate or verifiable student count for program funding and distribution since 1995 – more than twenty years ago. It is estimated that up to two-thirds of the Indian children may not be receiving assistance due to the lack of a current official student count.
“Since this program may be a lifeline for some Indian children, Congress and the administration need to do everything we can to support and improve it.
“The bill, S. 943, amends the Johnson-O’Malley Act to direct the Secretary of the Interior to provide for the full participation of all qualified Indian students eligible for this program.
“This bill would require the Secretary of the Interior to provide a more accurate student count of Indian students.
“The bill would further require the Government Accountability Office to provide a review and report on the implementation of this act.
“It would also mandate the Department of the Interior to engage in negotiated rulemaking regarding the funding formula and eligibility definitions. I will note that North Dakota’s Superintendent of Public Instruction, Ms. Kirsten Baesler, has sent in a letter of support, and I will make that letter part of the record.
“On May 25, 2017, Senator Merkley introduced S. 1285, The Oregon Tribal Economic Development Act. It is co-sponsored by Senator Wyden.
“This legislation will allow five Indian tribes in Oregon to purchase, sell, lease, or otherwise convey fee land, without further Congressional approval or oversight.
“In addition, S. 1285 provides that none of its provisions apply to land held in trust by the United States for the benefit of these tribes.
“The third bill the committee will examine is S. 1223, the Klamath Tribe Judgment Fund Repeal Act.
“This legislation was introduced on May 24, 2017 by Senator Merkley, and is co-sponsored by Senator Wyden.
“S. 1223 repeals the Klamath Tribe Judgment Fund Act, which set forth a claim settlement distribution process for the Klamath Tribe.
“The bill is intended to allow distributions of claim settlements against the United States for the Klamath Tribe to proceed under the less cumbersome process in the Indian Tribal Judgment Funds Use or Distribution Act.”