Power Brokers, Part I: The Senate Committee on Indian Affairs

ICTMN Staff
7/14/13

 

The United States Senate handles a high volume of work across a multitude of platforms. In order for the Senate to carry out this complex work the Senate is split into 20 committees, 68 subcommittees, and four joint. One of the 20 committees is the Senate Committee on Indian Affairs (SCIA).

A brief look at the history of the SCIA dates back to the early 19th century when the SCIA began. According to the SCIA website, “The Committee has jurisdiction to study the unique problems of American Indians, Native Hawaiian, and Alaska Native peoples and to propose legislation to alleviate these difficulties.”

In 1945 Harry S. Truman began his service as the 33rd President of the United States. One year into his term began two decades of dark times for American Indians known as the ‘Termination Era.” Twenty-years of federal Indian policy adopted by Congress that’s main goal was to terminate federal obligations to tribes, according to University of Alaska Fairbanks.

The Era started to decline in the 1960s and essentially ended in the ’70s with the Menominee Restoration Act of 1973 according to SCIA. Sen. James Abourezk introduced a Senate Joint Resolution to establish a federal commission to review all aspects of policy, law, and administration relating to United States-tribal affairs in 1973, which was adopted in 1975 by both the House and Senate. Throughout the work of this commission it became apparent a full Senate committee to handle Indian affairs was needed. In 1984 the Select Committee on Indian Affairs became a permanent committee of the Senate again, later to be re-designated as the Committee on Indian Affairs in 1993.

Throughout the years of the committee, the number of Senators serving has expanded. During the 95th Congress there were five members, in 2013 there are 14 members. In between there were times the committee had a high of 18 members. The 2013 SCIA is the first with a female senator as chairwoman.

Below are the 14 members of the 2013 SCIA and a little bit about them.

 

Sen. Maria Cantwell, Chairwoman (D-WA)

Years as Senator: 2001-Present

Other state and federal service: Washington House of Representatives 1987-1993; U.S. House of Representatives 1993 – 1995

Committees besides SCIA: Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation; Committee on Energy and Natural Resources; Committee on Finance; and Committee on Small Business and Entrepreneurship

Key tribal bills sponsored or co-sponsored: 39 resolutions directly tied to American Indian issues while serving on the Senate. Four of which became law: A bill to amend the Act of August 9, 1955, to modify a provision relating to leases involving certain Indian tribes; A bill to require the Secretary of the Interior to accept the conveyance of land, to be held in trust for the benefit of the Puyallup Indian Tribe; the Native American Housing Assistance and Self-Determination Reauthorization Act of 2002; and the Tribal Law; Order Act of 2010; Hoh Indian Tribe Safe Homelands Act;

Federally recognized tribes in state: 30

 

Sen. John Barrasso, Vice Chairman (R-WY)

Years as Senator: 2008-Present

Other state and federal service: State Senate 2003-2007

Committees besides SCIA: Committee on Energy and Natural Resources (Energy); Committee on Environment and Public Works; and Committee on Foreign Relations

Key tribal bills sponsored or co-sponsored: Indian Tribal Energy Development and Self-Determination Act Amendments; Helping Expedite and Advance Responsible Tribal Homeownership Act of 2011; Native American Veterans’ Memorial Amendments Act; Department of the Interior Tribal Self-Governance Act; Code Talkers Recognition Act; Pigford and Individual Indian Money Account Litigation Settlement Act; Tribal Law and Order Act

Federally recognized tribes in state: 2

 

Sen. Tim Johnson (D-SD)

Years as Senator: 1997-Present

Other state and federal service: state House of Representatives 1979-1983; state Senate 1983-1987; 10 years in the U.S. House of Representatives

Committees besides SCIA: Senate Appropriations Committee; Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs Committee; Energy and Natural Resources Committee

Key bills sponsored or co-sponsored: Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe Equitable Compensation Amendments Act; Lake Traverse Reservation; Native American Small Business Development Act; Medicaid for American Indians and State Act; Native American Housing Enhancement Act; Code Talkers Recognition Act; Indian Youth Telemental Health Demonstration Project Act; Native American Languages Act; Native American Veterans Cemetery Act; Native American Methamphetamine Enforcement and Treatment Act; Medicaid Indian Health Act; Indian Health Care Improvement Act; Tribal Parity Act; American Indian Elderly and Disabled Access to Health Care Act; Indian and Alaska Native Foster Care and Adoption Services Amendments; Oglala Sioux Tribe Angostura Irrigation Project Modernization and Development Act; Indian School Construction Act; Native American Small Business Development Act; Tribal Law and Order Act; Tribal Water Resources Innovative Financing Act; American Indian Veteran Health Care Improvement Act; Tribal Government Tax-Exempt Bond Parity Act; Native American Heritage Day Act; National Women's History Museum Act; Indian Child Protection and Family Violence Prevention Act; Tribal Colleges and Universities Faculty Loan Forgiveness Act; A bill to reauthorize appropriations for certain Native American programs; Pick-Sloan Tribal Commission Act; Indian Energy Parity Act; HEARTH Act; Native American Employment Act; Indian Health Care Improvement Reauthorization and Extension Act; SAVE Native Women Act; Native Culture, Language, and Access for Success in Schools Act; Mni Wiconi Project Act Amendments

Federally recognized tribes in state: 8

 

Sen. John McCain (R-AZ)

Years as Senator: 1987-Present

Other state and federal service: House of Representatives from 1983 -1987

Committees besides SCIA: Ranking Member of the Senate Committee on Armed Services; Member of the Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs; Member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.

Key tribal bills sponsored or co-sponsored: Indian Health Care Improvement Act Amendments; Fort McDowell Indian Community Water Rights Settlement Act; Indian Land Consolidation Act Amendments; Indian Child Protection and Family Violence Prevention Act Amendments; Navajo-Hopi Land Settlement Amendments; Indian Tribes Methamphetamine Reduction Grants Act; Indian Land Probate Reform Technical Corrections Act; National Indian Gaming Commission Accountability Act; Indian Health Care Improvement Act Amendments; Indian Arts and Crafts Amendments Act; Indian Trust Reform Act; American Indian Elderly and Disabled Access to Health Care Act; Restoring Safety to Indian Women Act; Native American Omnibus Act;

Federally recognized tribes in state: 20

 

Sen. John Tester (D-MT)

Years as Senator: 2007-Present

Other state and federal service: state Senate 1999-2007

Committees besides SCIA: Senate Appropriations Committee; Committee on Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs; Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs; Committee on Veterans’ Affairs

Key tribal bills sponsored or co-sponsored: Little Shell Tribe of Chippewa Indians Restoration Act; Gros Ventre and Assiniboine Tribes of the Fort Belknap Indian Community Water Rights Settlement Act; Native American Veterans’ Memorial Amendments Act; Department of the Interior Tribal Self-Governance Act; Blackfeet Water Rights Settlement; Violence Against Women Reauthorization Act; Northern Cheyenne Land Consolidation Act; SAVE Native Women Act; HEARTH Act; Crow Tribe Water Rights Settlement Act; Indian Energy Parity Act; Native American Employment Act; Indian Health Care Improvement Reauthorization and Extension Act; Tribal Law and Order Act; Indian Development Finance Corporation Act; Crow Tribe Land Restoration Act; Tribal Water Resources Innovative Financing Act; Tribal Government Tax-Exempt Bond Parity Act; Tribal Colleges and Universities Faculty Loan Forgiveness Act; Native American Methamphetamine Enforcement and Treatment Act

Federally recognized tribes in state: 7

 

Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-AK)

Years as Senator: 2002-Present

Other state and federal service: Alaska House of Representatives 1998-2002 (two separate districts)

Committees besides SCIA: Committee on Energy and Natural Resources; Committee on Appropriations; and Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions

Key tribal bills sponsored or co-sponsored: Code Talkers Recognition Act; Indian Health Care Improvement Act; TLOA; Indian Veterans Housing Opportunity Act; Native Hawaiian Government Reorganization Act; Southeast Alaska Native Land Conveyance Act; Southeast Alaska Native Land Entitlement Finalization and Jobs Protection Act; Alaska Native Tribal Health Consortium Land Transfer Act; Huna Tlingit Traditional Heritage and Opportunities Act; Huna Tlingit Traditional Gull Egg Use Act; Native Hawaiian Education Act; Violence Against Women Reauthorization Act; Native American Challenge Demonstration Project Act; Alaska Native Tribal Health Consortium Land Transfer Act; SAVE Native Women Act; Native American Economic Advisory Council Act; Native American Economic Advisory Council Act; Indian Veterans Housing Opportunity Act;

Federally recognized tribes in state: 200-plus

 

Sen. Tom Udall (D-NM)

Years as Senator: 2009-Present

Other state and federal service: N.M. Attorney General 1991-1999; U.S. House of Representatives 1999-2009

Committees besides SCIA: Committee on Appropriations; Committee on Foreign Relations; Committee on Environment and Public Works; and Committee on Rules and Administration

Key tribal bills sponsored or co-sponsored: VAWA; Sandia Pueblo Settlement Technical Amendment Act; SAVE Native Women Act; Building upon Unique Indian Learning and Development Act; Native Culture, Language, and Access for Success in Schools Act; Indian School Bus Route Safety Reauthorization Act; HEARTH Act; Indian Energy Parity Act; Indian Health Care Improvement Reauthorization and Extension Act; A bill to grant federal charter to the National American Indian Veterans, Inc.; Taos Pueblo Indina Water Rights Settlement Act; TLOA; Tribal Health Promotion and Tribal Colleges and Universities Advancement Act

Federally recognized tribes in state: 21

 

Sen. John Hoeven (R-ND)

Years as Senator: 2011-Present

Other state and federal service: Gov. of North Dakota 2000-2010

Committees besides SCIA: Committee on Appropriations; Committee on Energy and Natural Resources; and Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition, and Forestry

Key tribal bills sponsored or co-sponsored: Indian Tribal Energy Development and Self-Determination Act

Federally recognized tribes in state: 4

 

Sen. Al Franken (D-MN)

Years as Senator: 2009-Present

Other state and federal service: N/A

Committees besides SCIA: Committee on Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions; Committee on the Judiciary; and Committee on Energy and Natural Resources

Key tribal bills sponsored or co-sponsored: Native American Indian Education Act; Mille Lacs Lake Freedom to Fish Act; VAWA; SAVE Native Women Act; Indian Energy Parity Act; TLOA;

Federally recognized tribes in state: 12

 

Sen. Michael Crapo (R-ID)

Years as Senator: 1999-Present

Other state and federal service: Idaho State Senator 1984-1982; President pro tempore of the Idaho Senate 1988-1992; U.S. House of Representatives 1993-1999

Committees besides SCIA: Committee on Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs; Budget Committee; Committee on Environment and Public Works; and Committee on Finance

Key tribal bills sponsored or co-sponsored: Indian Trust Asset Reform Act; Department of Interior Tribal Self-Governance Act; Blackfoot River Land Settlement Act; VAWA; SAVE Native Women Act; TLOA; Code Talkers Recognition Act; Shoshone-Paiute Tribes of Duck Valley Water Rights Settlement Act; Indian Child Protection and Family Violence Prevention Act;

Federally recognized tribes in state: 4

 

Sen. Mark Begich (D-AK)

Years as Senator: 2009-Present

Other state and federal service: Member of Anchorage Assembly 1988-1998; Mayor of Anchorage 2003-2009

Committees besides SCIA: Committee on Veterans’ Affairs; Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation; Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs, and Committee on Appropriations

Key tribal bills sponsored or co-sponsored: Native Hawaiian Education Act; Native American Veterans’ Memorial Amendments Act; Huna Tlingit Traditional Gull Egg Use Act; Native American Indian Education Act; VAWA; Southeast Alaska Native Land Conveyance Act; Alaska Native Tribal Health Consortium Land Transfer Act; SAVE Native Women Act; Native American Economic Advisory Council Act; Alaska Native Conservation Parity Act; Native American Challenge Demonstration Project Act; Native American Employment Act; Indian Health Care Improvement Reauthorization and Extension Act; TLOA;

Federally recognized tribes in state: 200-plus

 

Sen. Deb Fischer (R-NE)

Years as Senator: 2013

Other state and federal service: Nebraska Legislature 2005-2013

Committees besides SCIA: Committee on Armed Services; Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation; Committee on Environment and Public Works; and Committee on Small Business and Entrepreneurship

Key tribal bills sponsored or co-sponsored: N/A

Federally recognized tribes in state: 4

 

Sen. Brian Schatz (D-HI)

Years as Senator: 2012-Present (replaced the late Daniel Inouye)

Other state and federal service: Hawaii House of Representatives 1998-2006 (Two different districts); Democratic Party of Hawaii Chair 2008-2010; Lieutenant Gov. of Hawaii 2010-2012

Committees besides SCIA: Committee on Energy and Natural Resources; and Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation

Key tribal bills sponsored or co-sponsored: Native American Veterans’ Memorial Amendments Act; Native Hawaiian Education Act; VAWA;

Federally recognized tribes in state: 0

 

Sen. Heidi Heitkamp (D-ND)

Years as Senator: 2013

Other state and federal service: N.D. Tax Commissioner 1986-1992; N.D. Attorney General 1992-2000

Committees besides SCIA: Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition, and Forestry; Committee on Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs; Committee on Homeland Security, and Governmental Affairs; and Committee on Small Business and Entrepreneurship

Key tribal bills sponsored or co-sponsored: VAWA

Federally recognized tribes in state: 4

 

Bill information compiled from opensecrets.org.

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