Update From Senate Committee on Indian Affairs Hear Priorities for the 2015 Congressional Term from Native American Leaders

By: Rachel Giubilato | Law Clerk
Theodore J. Griswold | Partner | ted.griswold@procopio.com

On January 28, 2015, the Senate Committee on Indian Affairs (“Committee”) heard testimony from prominent members of the Native American community in an effort to prioritize the Native American agenda for the 114th Congress. Witnesses included: Honorable Aaron Payment and Gary Davis from the National Congress of American Indians, Melvin Monette from the National Indian Education Association, Stacy Bohlen from the National Indian Health Board, and Vance Homegun from the Center for Native American Youth. Each witness spoke to their organization’s specific expectations of the 114th Congress; however, a common theme prevailed—the need for protection of tribal self-determination through robust local consultation procedures. To that point, Vance Homegun delivered an emotional request that the Committee include Native youth in their consultation procedures for the purpose of promoting inter-generational tribal ties. Ms. Bohlen added that self-determination could be better facilitated by Congress through advanced appropriations for providing Indian Health program, allowing predictable and more efficient expenditures and better financial planning.

Senator John Barrasso from Wyoming was elected Chairman of the Committee and stated his commitment to push Native American legislation he sponsored for the term. Senator Barrasso is particularly interested in Senate Bill 209, named the Indian Tribal Energy Development and Self-Determination Act Amendments of 2015, which proposes to allow tribes more autonomy in energy source development. The Bill was introduced on Jan. 21, 2015 and has been referred to the Committee for further review. [The text of the Bill may be found at http://www.barrasso.senate.gov/public/index.cfm/sponsored-legislation.]

Full video of the hearing is available online at http://www.indian.senate.gov/hearing/oversight-hearing-indian-country-priorities-114th-congress-january-28-2015-205-pm-est.

Ted is head of the Native American Law practice group and primary editor for the Blogging Circle. Connect with Ted at ted.griswold@procopio.com and 619.515.3277.