WASHINGTON — Wednesday, December 6, at 12:30 p.m. MT / 2:30 p.m. ET, U.S. Senator Tom Udall, vice chairman of the Senate Committee on Indian Affairs, will join Committee Chairman John Hoeven (R-N.D.) in leading a legislative hearing to review two bills that would resolve decades-old Indian water rights disputes. The legislation would authorize settlements to the claims being pursued by the Navajo Nation and Hualapai Nation, which are based on years of extensive negotiations between many parties, including Tribal, local, state and federal parties. Since 1978, the federal government has entered into 36 water rights settlements with 40 individual Tribes. Indian water settlements are critically important – not only to fulfilling the United States’ fiduciary obligations to Tribes, but also for the long-term economic vitality of surrounding communities.
The committee will hear testimony from several witnesses, including from the Navajo Nation President Russell Begaye, and the Bureau of Reclamation Deputy Commissioner Alan Mikkelsen. Udall will press the administration on its priorities when it comes to Indian water settlements and seek clarity on any potential impacts to New Mexico.
Immediately before the legislative hearing, the committee will vote on S. 1870, Securing Urgent Resources Vital to Indian Victim Empowerment Act (SURVIVE Act). The SURVIVE Act, cosponsored by Udall, amends the Victims of Crime Act (VOCA) to authorize a 5 percent Tribal set-aside for victim assistance programs. Last Congress, the Bureau of Indian Affairs’ Office of Justice Services testified that Native women experience the highest rates of domestic violence and sexual assault in the nation and Native youth experience serious violent crimes or simple assault at rates higher than their non-Native peers. If enacted, this bill would provide Tribes with more equitable access to federal victim assistance supports.
Alan Mikkelsen, Deputy Commissioner, Bureau of Reclamation, U.S. Department of the Interior, Washington, D.C.
Russell Begaye, President, Navajo Nation, Window Rock, Tulsa, Ariz.
Damon Clarke, Chairman, Hualapai Nation, Peach Springs, Ariz.
Spencer J. Cox, Lieutenant Governor, State of Utah, Salt Lake City, Utah
Thomas Buschatzke, Director, Arizona Department of Water Resources, Phoeniz, Ariz.
During the legislative hearing, the committee will hear testimony on the following bills:
S. 664, Navajo Utah Water Rights Settlement Act of 2017
S. 1770, Hualapai Tribe Water Rights Settlement Act of 2017
Immediately before the legislative hearing, the committee will vote on the following bill:
S. 1870, Securing Urgent Resources Vital to Indian Victim Empowerment Act (SURVIVE Act)
Wednesday, December 6, 2017
WHAT: Udall to preside as vice chairman at Senate Committee on Indian Affairs business meeting and legislative hearing
TIME: Approximately 12:30 p.m. MT / 2:30 p.m. ET
WHERE: 628 Dirksen Senate Office Building. Watch live here.