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U.S. senators from North Dakota and Alaska introduced a bill Wednesday that would establish a commission to study the challenges facing Native American children and propose ways of improving their welfare.
Sen. Heidi Heitkamp,
D-N.D., said more needs to be done to offer a better future for the children of Native Americans, who face high rates of poverty, unemployment, child abuse, domestic violence, crime and substance abuse, as well as a lack of opportunity.
“We just cannot live in a society where we allow these statistics to just go without a name and go without a solution,” Heitkamp said during a teleconference Wednesday.
The legislation is the first bill she introduced as a U.S. senator. The topic, Native American children, is an issue she has worked on since the early 1990s when she became North Dakota’s attorney general.
Heitkamp, who is a member of the Senate Committee on Indian Affairs, introduced the bill with Republican Sen. Lisa Murkowski of Alaska. It would be funded with up to $2 million to establish an 11-member commission, which would deliver its recommendations within three years and then disband, leaving it up to federal, state and tribal leaders to follow through on the proposals.
Researchers have studied many of the issues facing Native American children individually, but Heitkamp said a comprehensive app-roach is needed to put them on the path to success.
The study would also examine the effects of extreme poverty on reservations in North Dakota and South Dakota.