Senators seek millions for Indian projectsWASHINGTON — South Dakota Sens. Tim Johnson and John Thune are among the 22 Senate signatories to a letter asking President Obama to include $667 million for American Indian projects in his fiscal year 2011 budget request.
By: Staff reports, The Daily Republic
WASHINGTON — South Dakota Sens. Tim Johnson and John Thune are among the 22 Senate signatories to a letter asking President Obama to include $667 million for American Indian projects in his fiscal year 2011 budget request.
According to the letter, which was sent this week, Congress authorized $2 billion for law enforcement, health services and water-supply
projects in Indian Country as part of last year’s Tom Lantos and Henry J. Hyde United States Global Leadership Against HIV/AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria Reauthorization Act.
The letter says the money for Indian projects was authorized to be spent over a five-year period. The letter requests that $667 million be allocated in fiscal year 2011. Obama’s budget request is due in February.
“Based on the U.S. Constitution, treaties with Indian tribes and federal statutes, the United States has assumed a trust responsibility for the provision of public safety and health care to Indian people,” the letter says. “The Native American population, however, is facing a public safety and health crisis due, in large part, to a lack of federal funding.”
The letter goes on to outline some of the problems facing Indian people. It says Indians experience violent crime at a rate more than twice the national average, suffer from a greater incidence of illness and higher mortality rates than the general U.S. population, and lack adequate watersupply and waste-disposal facilities in approximately 11 percent of their homes.
Thune, in a written statement, said Congress was right to include money for Indian needs in last year’s “Global Leadership” bill.
“The conditions on many of our reservations across this country are unacceptable, and this funding would go toward critical safety, health, and water needs,” Thune said. “Money from the international aid bill has already gone to address needs in other countries; it is time we follow through by addressing the responsibilities we have and by prioritizing needs here at home.”
In a related matter, Johnson joined with Sen. Byron Dorgan, D-N.D., to introduce the Indian Health Care Improvement Act on Thursday.
According to a news release from Johnson’s office, the act would permanently reauthorize Indian health-care programs. The legislation was originally authorized in 1976 and was last reauthorized in 1992.
“The grave reality is that the six counties in the nation with the lowest life expectancy are tribal counties in South Dakota,” Johnson said in his release. “As the national debate focuses on health care, we should take this time to also spotlight the need to improve native health care. We not only have a treaty responsibility, but a moral duty to improve the lives of all American Indians in our country, and this bill will help us live up to these commitments.”
The last IHCIA expired at the end of fiscal year 2001, the release said. While the government has still appropriated money for Indian health programs since the previous law expired, the new legislation aims to apply standards to ensure the modernization and improvement of health care in Indian Country.