February 5, 2009

Senate Committee on Indian Affairs Elects Leadership, Sets Priorities or 111th Congress

The Senate Committee on Indian Affairs, Thursday, elected its leadership for the 111th Congress, returning Senator Byron Dorgan (D-ND) for another term as Chair, and choosing Senator John Barrasso (R-WY) to succeed Senator Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) as Vice Chair. Murkowski stepped down from the Vice Chair post but will remain a member of the Committee.
New members of the Committee are Senators Tom Udall (D-NM) and Mike Johanns (R-NE). Senator Mike Crapo (R-ID) returns to the Committee after a brief hiatus.
Following the election of Chairman and Vice Chairman, Chairman Dorgan outlined the Committee’s priorities for the coming Congress. Those priorities include Indian health care, law enforcement, tribal recognition reform, housing, education and prevention of Indian youth suicides.
“Too often, the First Americans find themselves getting second class health care, housing, education and other services,” Dorgan said. “We intend to change that.”
After the organizing meeting, the Committee conducted a hearing on “Advancing Indian Health Care.” It heard testimony from Tribal leaders, Indian health experts, and advocates who presented ideas on how to develop a plan to improve access to, and the quality of, Indian health care.
Witnesses included: Rachel Joseph, Tribal Co-Chair, National Steering Committee for Reauthorization of the Indian Health Care Improvement Act; H. Sally Smith; Alaska Representative, Board of Directors, National Indian Health Board; Ron His Horse is Thunder, Chairman, Aberdeen Area Tribal Chairman’s Health Board and Standing Rock Tribe; David Rambeau, President, National Council of Urban Indian Health; Mickey Peercy, Executive Director of Health Services, Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma; Andy Joseph; Chair Northwest Portland Area Indian Health Board.