September 9, 2009

Senate Indian Affairs Committee to Consider Six Bills, Hold Hearing on Native American Youth Suicide Bill

U.S. Senator Byron Dorgan (D-ND), Chairman of the Senate Indian Affairs Committee, announced Wednesday the committee will conduct a business meeting and a legislative hearing, beginning at 2:15 PM, Thursday, September 10, in Room 628 Dirksen Senate Office Building.
At the business meeting, the committee will consider and vote on six bills pending before the committee, including S. 797, the Tribal Law and Order Act of 2009. The bill, sponsored by Dorgan, is a major update of tribal law enforcement and justice laws. It seeks to better meet the government’s obligation to provide for public safety on Indian lands. The bill encourages greater law enforcement cooperation between tribal, state and local governments, provide additional tools for tribal governments to combat crime locally, and reauthorizes programs designed to strengthen tribal police, courts and detention systems.
Four water rights bills, and legislation regarding compensation for water from the Grand Coulee Dam will also be considered. The specific legislation the committee will consider includes:
S. 797 – Tribal Law and Order Act of 2009
S. 1105 – Aamodt Litigation Settlement Act
S. 965 – Taos Pueblo Indian Water Rights Settlement Act
S. 375 – Crow Tribe Water Rights Settlement Act of 2009
S. 313 – White Mountain Apache Tribe Water Rights Quantification Act of 2009
S. 1388 – Spokane Tribe of Indians of the Spokane Reservation Grand Coulee Dam Equitable Compensation Settlement Act 
Following the business meeting, the committee will conduct a legislative hearing on S. 1635, the 7th Generation Promise: Indian Youth Suicide Prevention Act of 2009. The bill was introduced in August, by lead sponsors Senators Byron Dorgan (D-ND) and Mike Johanns (R-NE).
Witnesses will include:
Dr. Yvette Roubideaux, Director, Indian Health Service (IHS)
Eric Broderick, DDS, MPH, Acting Administrator, Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), Department of Health and Human Services.
Dr. Dolores Subia Bigfoot, Associate Professor, Child Clinical Psychology, University of Oklahoma Health Sciences Center, Oklahoma City, Oklahoma.
Over the years, Native American youth suicide on the nation’s Indian reservations has reached epidemic levels. Native American youths between the ages of 15-24 have a suicide rate 3.5 times higher than their peers of other races, and the highest rate of suicide of any population group in the United States. It is the second leading cause of death among Native youth.
Efforts to respond to this crisis are made more difficult by the fact that many reservations are located far from population centers, and by chronic understaffing of health professionals at IHS facilities. S.1635 seeks to increase access to mental health professionals and services for Native American youth through new communications technologies, enhancing access to federal funding and creating innovative recruitment tools.