Ted Wheeler, Courthouse News, August 16, 2109
Ahead of a forum Monday focused on issues facing Native American communities, 2020 presidential hopeful Sen. Elizabeth Warren promised structural reform to government programs to address the many issues facing Native Americans.
Under the banner of “Honoring and Empowering Tribal Nations and Indigenous Peoples,” the proposal focuses on increased funding for tribal programs, fulfilling treaty obligations, ensuring tribe sovereignty and improving communication between indigenous communities and the federal government.
Warren is developing legislation with Rep. Deb Haaland, a Democrat from New Mexico who is a member of the Laguna Pueblo tribe and, along with Rep. Sharice Davids, was the first Native American woman elected to Congress. Called the “Honoring Promises to Native Nations Act” the bill would remove programs from the general appropriations process as a means of ensuring stability, protection from sequestration and inflation, and give mandatory access to Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid programs.
Health care, with a focus on mental health and opioid abuse, is also a focus, as 20% of Native Americans are uninsured.
To underpin these funding priorities, Warren would make structural changes if she wins in 2020. She promises to revitalize a cabinet-level council on Native American affairs that has stagnated under the Trump administration by appointing a cabinet-level chairperson to oversee its work; establish an Office of Tribal Affairs within the White House Office of Management and Budget; create deputy secretary positions in the departments of Interior and State; and explore ways to empower indigenous nations to expand their self-governance.
Warren also proposes a nationwide “Missing Indigenous Woman Alert System” that would be modeled after the Amber Alert System. Missing indigenous women is the key topic of next week’s forum in Sioux City.