WASHINGTON, D.C.— Today, Senate Committee on Indian Affairs Chairman John Barrasso (R-WY) delivered the following remarks at the first Committee hearing of the year on Indian Country Priorities for the 114th Congress.
The hearing also featured testimony from Indian organizations representing Indian tribes and tribal communities, businesses, advocates and programs regarding issues and priorities for the 114th Congress. Click here for more information on their testimony and to watch video of the entire hearing.
Excerpts of Senator Barrasso’s remarks:
“I called this hearing to start this Congress because it is Indian Country that we must engage when evaluating Federal Indian policy and legislation.
“As Chairman, I am committed to following in the footsteps of my predecessors, three of whom still serve on this Committee: Senator McCain, Senator Cantwell, and Vice Chairman Tester.
“They were part of a long line of great Chairmen who were committed to improving the lives of Indian people.
“There are two tribes in my home state of Wyoming: the Eastern Shoshone Tribe and the Northern Arapaho Tribe.
“They share the goals of other tribes: safe communities, good health, and a prosperous life for their families, including good jobs.
“These goals are often stymied by Federal bureaucracy. The Federal Government has important responsibilities to Indian tribes and people.
“That responsibility should not create a confusing or complex web of rules which limit the prosperity of tribes and their members.
“Last week, I had the privilege to provide the Congressional response to the National Congress of American Indians’ State on Indian Nations address.
“One resounding theme of that Address was to find innovative solutions and reduce bureaucracy.
“We have already started down that path.
“Last week, Senator Tester and I introduced the Indian Tribal Energy Development and Self-Determination Act Amendments of 2015.
“Tribes have the potential to contribute to our nation’s energy security. This bill will tap into that potential.
“This legislation will cut the bureaucratic red-tape and let tribes develop their energy resources – putting their destiny back into their hands and not the Federal Government.
“Today, I’ve also introduced the ‘Department of the Interior Tribal Self-Governance Act of 2015’.
“This bill has been around in some form or another since at least the 108th Congress.
“It is intended to improve the process for negotiating, reviewing, and approving tribal compacts with the Bureau of Indian Affairs.
“These compacts are key mechanisms for tribal administration of Indian programs.
“This bill would reduce Federal bureaucracy and promote local control and accountability.
“Significant work on these measures has been done over the years. I urge this Committee and Indian Country to join me in getting these measures signed into law this year.
“I intend to continue advancing legislation and oversight that serve similar purposes and improve the lives of Indian people.
“As Chairman, my top priorities are jobs, energy and natural resource development, healthcare, education, juvenile justice, and tribal self-governance.
“The more progress we can make on these issues, the more progress we can make in helping families.
“I cannot do that without the bipartisan work of this Committee and the Vice Chairman, in particular.
“So I want to reiterate my appreciation for Senator Tester’s leadership and the collaborative spirit that he continues to bring to this Committee.”