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September 23rd, 2020
Chair Grijalva Applauds House Passage of Bills to Strengthen Indian Country, Combat Crisis of Murdered and Indigenous Women

Washington D.C. – Yesterday the House of Representatives passed six bipartisan Natural Resources Committee bills under suspension of the rules, including two bills to combat the crisis of Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women (MMIW). Of those six, five have now been approved by both the House and Senate and are set to become law. 

“This Committee is working to strengthen Indian Country at every opportunity,” said Natural Resources Chair Raúl M. Grijalva. “Since the beginning of this Congress we’ve made a point of hearing directly from Native women and Tribal leaders on how to reduce violence against Indigenous women. I’m proud of the work that Democratic members are doing to solve pressing issues in Tribal communities. These bipartisan bills represent the tireless work of many people across Indian Country, and yesterday’s votes show us that persistence really does pay off.”

The Natural Resources bills passed by the House also include three bills to strengthen Tribal self-governance and uphold Tribal sovereignty:

  • S.209  – PROGRESS for Indian Tribes Act, which makes changes to Tribal self-governance programs at the Department of the Interior and the Indian Health Service (within the Department of Health and Human Services) to create greater flexibility to tailor, consolidate and administer federal programs for Tribal communities. This bill is the culmination of almost two decades of bipartisan, bicameral negotiations and is widely supported by Tribal leaders in Indian Country.
  • S.294 – Native American Business Incubators Program Act, which will establish a business incubators program within the Department of the Interior to promote entrepreneurship and economic development on Indian reservations. These incubators will provide essential services, such as a workspace, a collaborative environment, comprehensive business skills training, and opportunities to build professional networks, giving Native entrepreneurs tools to develop businesses and create jobs in reservation communities.
  • S.832 will nullify the Supplemental Treaty of 1865 between the United States government and the Confederated Tribes and Bands of Indians of Middle Oregon. Both the Indians of the Warm Springs Reservation and the federal government have long recognized this treaty as fraudulent, and both have consistently ignored its provisions. Enactment of this legislation will finally take this supplemental treaty off the books.

Yesterday, the House also passed two bills to address the Murdered and Missing Indigenous Women crisis:

  • S.227 – Savanna’s Act, which requires the federal government to account for the numbers of missing and murdered Native Americans. 
  • S.982 – Not Invisible Act, which establishes an advisory commission of survivors and family members to address missing and murdered Native Americans. 

The Natural Resource Committee’s Subcommittee for Indigenous Peoples of the United States held two oversight hearings on the MMIW crisis during the 116th Congress to provide exposure to the issue and to demonstrate how the Trump administration has failed to adequately address it. Rep. Deb Haaland (D-N.M.), vice chair of the full Committee and one of the first Native American women in Congress, provided remarks on the House floor emphasizing the importance of these bills.

The House also passed the following bills and sent them to the Senate for approval:

  • H.R. 3160 – Blackwater Trading Post Land Transfer Act bill places 55.3 acres of land, commonly referred to as the Blackwater Trading Post, into trust for the benefit of the Gila River Indian Community in Arizona. This land is surrounded on three sides by the Community’s reservation. This bill will ensure that the land is preserved as an important piece of the Community’s history. 
  • H.R. 4957 – Native Child Protection Act updates the Indian Child Protection and Family Violence Prevention Act to help tribes and the federal government address child abuse in Indian Country following reports of widespread victimization. This increases funding to improve coordination of child abuse, neglect prevention, investigation and treatment services.
  • H.R. 895 – Tribal School Federal Insurance Parity Act provides employees of tribes operating Tribally-controlled schools the ability to participate in the Federal Employee Health Benefit (FEHB) program. At a time when health care is the forefront of policy changes, this bill will fix the problem employees have with federal health and life insurance programs.

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