Bill to aid Native American children goes to House

U.S. Sen. Heidi Heitkamp’s (D-ND) bipartisan bill to better the lives of Native American children recently was introduced in the House of Representatives by Reps. Betty McCollum (D-MN) and Tom Cole ( R-OK).

“For decades, the federal government has failed to stand up for the needs of Native youth, but working together across the aisle and in both the Senate and House, we’re working to change that,” Heitkamp said.

Joining Cole and McCollum in introducing the bill in the Senate were Reps. Jeff Denham (R-CA) and Mark Takai (D-HI).

The bill would create a Commission on Native Children to recognize the complex challenges facing Native American children in North Dakota and across the United States by conducting an exhaustive study on issues such as high rates of poverty, unemployment, child abuse, domestic violence, crime, substance abuse and grim economic opportunities.

After the study, the commission would give recommendations to better protect Native American children, and ensure they have the economic and educational tools to succeed.

“As a member of the Chickasaw Nation of Oklahoma, I was raised to appreciate, remember and embrace my Native American heritage,” Cole said. “Throughout my life, I have carried that with me and sought to provide a voice for tribes as a lawmaker in the House. … Through formation of a commission that studies the needs of Native children and federal benefits currently received or lacking, the House companion to Sen. Heidi Heitkamp’s bill rightly seeks to improve the livelihood of Native American children and helps the federal government keep its trust responsibility.”