Talking Points: Sen. Heitkamp Discusses Native Issues
U.S. Senator Heidi Heitkamp is the first female elected from North Dakota. Since taking the oath of office on January 3, 2013, Heitkamp has shown herself to be a strong advocate fighting for the needs of Indian country as she has been since her role as state Attorney General beginning in 1990.
As a member on the Senate Committee on Indian Affairs, Heitkamp has pledged to stand for Native American families and has worked to ensure the U.S. government lives up to treaty and trust responsibilities.
Last October, Heitkamp introduced a bill to improve the lives of Native American children that has received bipartisan support as well as another bill with Republican Senator Moran that would end the IRS’ practice of taxing crucial programs and services that aim to support the health and safety of Native families. Additionally she is an advocate for the Violence Against Women Act and better transportation and infrastructure on reservations.
In a conversation with ICTMN, Heitkamp shared her stance on the importance of working for the betterment of Indian country and why we should all fight for the needs of our children.
Can you tell us about your bill regarding the Commission on Native Children?
I don't think there's any aspect of Indian country that would be left untouched as we talk about children. It really comes to me from the words of Sitting Bull, who said "Let us now sit down and decide what kind of life we can make for our children," I am paraphrasing, but if we stay focused on kids and our children we will make good choices and we will hopefully get better attention to the challenges for Native American families.
The important part of this commission is that we need to be looking at it from a holistic standpoint. You see people talk about Indian education or protection of our children or health care for our children or making sure that we have good transportation so that our kids can get to school. All of these things have a direct effect, but we worry about the programs and not about the outcomes.
For instance, I feel that Native languages are a huge component of the child bill because I think it is a way that we begin to grasp that cultural connection to heal families to provide the pride to move forward.
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